As a native of West Palm Beach, Hector Diaz has been in the arts all his life.
He trained as a graphic artist and did in-house advertising for many years before starting to create street art about 25 years ago.
“I didn’t think of myself as an artist when I began as I was going to tech school and then got a graphic arts degree. The first piece of street art I ever did was terrible but it didn’t discourage me. I really did it for the interaction and I even enjoyed all the interruptions from people watching. That’s a big part of it and I like the whole experience. Kids ask all kinds of funny questions,” he says, sitting in the sophisticated new Habatat Gallery space in Northwood where he is a partner.
“Now I am doing some murals that are up to 50 feet long. It’s challenging work – hot, sweaty and tough on your knees and back but I love the process and the interaction with the crowds. It’s an immediate thing as opposed to making art solo in a studio.”
Diaz has become a specialist in a very tricky genre- making anamorphic art that changes, moves perspective, and morphs when viewed through a cell phone or app. The trick is understanding perspective, taking an image into Photoshop, stretching and elongating it, then managing to paint that flat on a ground surface so that the whole thing comes together when viewed through a camera phone.
His unique art has taken him around the country to various street festivals, networking along the way and occasionally teaming up with others to paint.
Diaz has just completed three of a series of four murals in West Palm Beach parks that have an environmental theme in order to bring awareness to the city’s water sources and wildlife. He got the jobs when he applied through the Art in Public Places call. The theme was “Frame Your Neighborhood” but there were no specific image ideas beyond that.
Next to a Howard Park pond, the sidewalk appears to have cracked open creating a large puddle where a huge, realistic-looking alligator appears sunbathing among the seagrass and lily pads.
“I was going to make the gator more fearsome,” he says. “But decided to have it be more kid-friendly, although there are signs right there warning about gators in the area.”
On a sidewalk next to the South Olive Park fountain two manatees are peeking up through a hole blasted in the concrete, curiously looking up to see what’s above the waterline.
And one last mural at Coleman Park where Diaz originally supposed to tie it into the others with the water theme, but because of the rich baseball history this site has, he felt it was only right to pay tribute to that. “The piece is positioned on the main walkway leading up to the community center with the baseball sculpture garden on either side of it, so it seemed natural to have a glove there to catch the baseballs,” Diaz says.
The project seeks to create public art that encourages artistic exploration, infuses creativity into the City’s diverse neighborhoods.
“When I looked at the locations they were near water so I designed murals that made it look as if the water extended under where you stood next to the pond,” says Diaz. “At first, I was thinking I’d do coral reefs or a beach. It was just some fun ideas to play with and who doesn’t love manatees and gators? I also like that it’s in paint and not chalk this time so it’s permanent and won’t wash away. In the app, there will be augmented reality animation like butterflies flitting around the manatees’ heads. That’s a first for me so excited about that.”
This year marks 100 years since the Negro Baseball League was founded and the area where the Coleman Park is now, used to be where the Negro League Baseball stars would gather for spring training to prepare for the season.
As a street artist, Hector specializes in 2D and 3D anamorphic chalk art and murals and has worked on a multitude of projects throughout the U.S. and Canada. He works on his own, or as part of the award-winning Chalk Guys duo, and also teams up with other talented artists on large scale projects.
He also plays bass in bands in area clubs which is where he met Jay Scott of Habatat Gallery. Jay needed a new partner when the gallery relocated to Northwood from Clematis Street and he asked Diaz to join him about two years ago.
“The gallery has been doing great here both with online sales and walk-ins. It was a good move and this is a much more beautiful space. It gave me more of a reason to stay here in West Palm, I also have two kids that are teenagers so this all keeps me busy! I feel fortunate to be able to give back to the community as I also do master classes for kids, teaching them to draw with the chalk. I hate sitting around!”
You can check out more of his work at his website www.artistdiaz.com