David Cobb studied illustration at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Houston. He began mural work shortly after completing his degree, and, since becoming a full-time artist, he has painted murals for schools, businesses, and nonprofits. Recently, he was selected to create a mural for the Houston Botanic Garden funded through a civic art grant from TIRZ #8.
When David Cobb‘s work with the Lawndale Art Center brought him to the Houston Botanic Garden as it prepared to open to the public in 2020, he was surprised by the beauty of the urban oasis.
“I was floored. I couldn’t believe that it existed because it’s such a neat place,” recalled Cobb. At the time, he had no way to know that a few years later, he’d be leading a project to make the grounds even more impressive for visitors.
Earlier this year, the Garden sought an artist to paint a mural along the Sims Bayou Greenway beneath the facility’s footbridge. Cobb’s talent, and his refreshing willingness to involve the community in his creations, made him perfect for the job.
For several previous installations, Cobb integrated a paint-by-numbers approach into his design and asked volunteers to help him complete the paintings. Now, he’s done the same at the Garden.
“I really enjoy having people come out and participate so that we can say, ‘We did this,’ as opposed to ‘I did this,'” said Cobb. “Also, getting to paint on a wall is not something we all get to experience. It might have been something you wanted to do as a kid, but I hear from a lot of adults about how meditative and relaxing it is, especially at a location like this.”
After brainstorming designs and working closely with the Garden’s staff to get the vision perfect, a colorful depiction showcasing the diverse ecosystems of Texas emerged. The 300-foot mural features flora and fauna from across the Lone Star State. A prickly pear cactus, bluebonnets, a monarch butterfly and purple passion flower are just a few of the species featured in the artwork, and much of the life in the design can also be found thriving on the grounds of the Houston Botanic Garden.
“The mural showcases plants from West Texas on the left side and works its way to the Piney Woods of East Texas on the other end,” explained Cobb. “The concept evolved as we started to think about its potential as an education tool, and we decided to create a place where students could receive lessons that revolved around the imagery in the mural.”
The mural is nearing completion, thanks to nearly 100 volunteers who have participated in multiple painting sessions that Cobb has hosted since the fall. The goal is to complete the project before the end of the year, depending on the weather and attendance at the remaining volunteer sessions.
“We’ve had kids as young as four, up to high schoolers out here. And, of course, many much older than that, too,” said Cobb. “It’s all very accessible and not a difficult thing to do. You just grab the container, find where you need to be on the wall, and then fill in between the lines.”
In Cobb’s experience, having so many hands involved in the creative process can sometimes make the finished product even better.
“I encourage the volunteers not to stress about it and tell them, ‘You’re not going to mess it up. It’s very fixable,'” Cobb added. “Then it works out in these funny ways when an area doesn’t match up with the original design, and the volunteers painted it how they thought it should be, but it ends up being better than what I had drawn on paper.”
Working on this project for the Garden has also reminded Cobb of why he is drawn to mural work: he loves to have his artwork out in the world for people to enjoy, and seeing first-hand the joy it brings to others.
“As I’m painting, people have been calling out, ‘Great job!’ and giving high-fives, and I’ve gotten to know several of the people in the neighborhood who use that path every day,” said Cobb. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. They’re not only enjoying the mural but also getting to interact with the artist, which, for me, is an awesome experience.”
On your next visit, be sure to stop at the Sims Bayou bridge on your way to the South Gardens to check out the new mural along the Bayou Greenways trail!