Artist Jessica Padilla has been busy. In February, she completed the mini mural of Nobel Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai at T.C. Jester Boulevard and Ella Boulevard. Last month, she finished a mural of the four women who have served on the United States Supreme Court.
Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan are now pictured on a utility box at the end of Heights Boulevard across the street from Hamilton Middle School.
It is an ongoing effort of Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen’s office to feature more women leaders as part of a Women in Government series. In total, Cohen’s office has funded 22 murals, with seven completed so far in the government series. Other mini murals have featured former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Houston City Council member Eleanor Tinsley and former first ladies Barbara Bush and Lady Bird Johnson.
“We haven’t confirmed the final women to be commemorated in this series, but more are coming,” Cohen said.
Padilla said the Supreme Court mural was designed by a different artist. But after that artist became unavailable, UP Art Studio – which coordinated the mural project – gave the job to Padilla.
“I basically followed through with (the artist’s) plan of painting all of the female Supreme Court Justices, seated on a blue couch,” Padilla said. “Because only one side of the box isn’t hidden by the bushes, all of the attention is on the front side.”
While Padilla usually freehands her art, she used a grid process this time because the mini mural contains four different portraits.
“Having a grid on a photograph and on the surface to be painted, takes all of the guess work out of it,” she said. “I’m able to draw the facial features in the accurate place.”
Padilla worked alone and in the afternoons when she got off work. She completed the mural before Tropical Storm Imelda caused flooding in the area.
“I think the box took me a little over a week,” Padilla said. “I didn’t have too many daylight hours left after work, so I had to work quickly.”
Because she worked in such a high-traffic area, Padilla got a lot of attention while the mural was in process.
“I had so many people offer encouragement and kind words,” she said. “I was told it was great to have some artwork to make people’s drive home more interesting. Some of the middle school students enjoyed watching me paint on their walk home, too.”
Other murals Padilla has recently completed are the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra mini mural located at Westheimer Road and Drexel Drive as well as a portrait of Lady Bird Johnson that is located at South Braeswood Boulevard and South Rice Avenue.
“Artist Charlotte Blanford painted the background,” Padilla said. “I also painted the mini mural located at T.C. Jester and West Little York (Road).”
Soon Padilla will begin another mural near White Oak Bayou at Antoine Drive at West Little York, featuring the bayou and bike trails in Houston.
“I’m super grateful for the opportunity UP Art Studio has given me to put more art out there,” Padilla said. “The last time I was interviewed, I had just completed my first mini mural and was still figuring out how to get things done efficiently. I have accomplished so much since then and will be having my first solo art show at the University of Houston Clear Lake on Oct. 17.”