Hipsters dance atop mural-covered buildings. Stairways climb up steep hills. A blimp hovers over Dodger Stadium and a skateboarder zips past some Victorian homes. Welcome to Echo Park as conceived by a local real estate broker, drawn by a cartoonist working from Stewartsville, New Jersey and, for now, splashed across the billboard hovering over the Magic Gas station at Echo Park and Morton avenues. In this Echo Park, there are no gang bangers or graffiti but plenty of color and commotion. Artist Mike Jasorka of Bombshell Comics loves the idea of people looking up at his depiction of Echo Park while they pump gas in the middle of the neighborhood that inspired the image. “I might have done some more street scenes,” said Jasorka. “But I think my aerial view was the best choice.”
The 25-year-old cartoonist for hire recently moved to Los Angeles and saw his artwork turned billboard for the first time a little more than a week ago (Jaskora’s billboard appeared briefly in the Summer in the same location before reappearing recently). He was a bit disappointed that the colors on the 8-foot-tall by 15-foot-long billboard had faded so quickly but loved the location, which is across the street from Silverwood Properties, which paid for the sign.
How did a cartoonist from New Jersey get commissioned to create a billboard for Echo Park? Jaskorka explains in a Q&A:
Q: Did you come out to Echo Park to make the drawings or were photos sent to you?
A: I was actually visiting Los Angeles at the time when I made the billboard connection with Silverwood Properties. I met in-person at an Echo Park cafe with a representative (Lauren Wells). She shared some photos that she believed to be iconic of the neighborhood and then later sent them via e-mail to use as reference.
Q: How did you decide what images to use?
A: I actually used all of the images she provided in some way… I wanted to leave nothing out and only add more to the fun atmosphere I had felt there … It was just the matter of formulating a composition in which all the images would harmonize — Luckily, I sketched something on the spot at the cafe (this is a pretty rare occurrence) that Lauren liked.
Q: What was the goal of the project?
A: The goal was to capture Echo Park as a more fictional setting in which real “landmarks” of the area were shown. Echo park is a fun neighborhood and really has a beautiful charm to it — we wanted to capture all that within my style.
Q: How long did it take?
A: I think the drawing itself (which starts with a loose pencil stage then inked over) took 8 hours and the coloring another 5 or so, which was done digitally on the computer using Adobe Photoshop, a standard for the cartooning industry. Especially comics.
Q: Were there any buildings or locations that didn’t make the final cut?
A: No, I don’t believe so, but it was hard to capture everything. I think it was a matter of narrowing down which sites Lauren believed to be of more visual impact.
Q: What medium do you use?
A: I hand render in pencil, then use micron pens (ink) in which I then tighten up the work on top with vellum (a see-thru paper) to add detail. Then I scan in the work at a super high resolution (the billboard was drawn at 8 inches x 15 inches) to then be blown up to 8 feet by 15 feet — so the pixel resolution was 900. Which is quite large… Believe me, I had no other programs running on my computer when I was coloring this!!
Q: How big is that billboard?
A: 8 x 15 feet. This was the first drawing in quite some time that I was nervous about because of its size. Drawing so small to only then be blown up was daunting. A little mistake or ambiguity would really show on the billboard!