From the series Portraits of Westlake © Dominic Bodden

In Portraits of Westlake, New York illustrator Dominic Bodden paints a charming picture of his former neighbourhood in Los Angeles where gentrification is having an impact on the local community.

Riding high on the back of his recent New Talent win at the World Illustration Awards, Dominic describes himself as a visual storyteller, inspired by narratives of transformation and growth. His work focuses on family and community while his process of image-making is based on layers. “I work with chalk pastel and paper collage and often incorporate found objects and printmaking techniques into my compositions,” he tells Creative Boom.

His most recent project, Portraits of Westlake, hones in on the neighbourhood where he used to live in Los Angeles and looks at how local families and businesses are adapting to the many changes in the community as a result of gentrification. “I was able to do a lot of research for this project which included interviewing my old neighbours and local small business owners,” he says. The portrait of The Market Butcher, for example, was inspired by an interview with the local butcher who was struggling to compete with larger supermarkets. “I used to shop there frequently. I was inspired by the innovative changes that he made to his market to entice new customers and his efforts to preserve the traditional foods and culture that meant so much to his family.”

Dominic grew up in New York and graduated high school in the summer of 2001. After the tragic events of 11 September, he decided to move to the West Coast. “I immediately loved California. Everything seemed a little brighter in Los Angeles and I loved the atmosphere of Silverlake, Echo Park, and Hollywood. I was also lucky to have found a community of artists early on that helped me feel supported and inspired,” he says.

From the series Portraits of Westlake © Dominic Bodden

Looking back on those days and reflecting on what’s changed over two decades, Dominic says the landscape has changed, especially the architecture. “Buildings started going up so fast that the skyline of areas like Marina Del Rey, The Miracle Mile, and Hollywood started changing and grew to become much more metropolitan,” he says. “In my neighbourhood of Westlake, I noticed giant apartment complexes replace small bungalow apartments and the mom-and-pop thrift stores and antique stores started being replaced by Starbucks and yoga studios. Many people in Westlake started to pay more attention to strategies on how to persevere the culture of the neighbourhood as the community changed.”

After 20 years in Los Angeles, Dominic recently moved back to New York. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make but I am happy to be back on the East Coast. After returning to school to get my degree in Illustration, I felt ready for a change. New York was calling me back. I’m in the process of relearning the city and I am in love with it all over again. There is an energy to New York that is distinctly different to Los Angeles. It’s a pulse that makes people want to move, explore, and engage in all the events and activities that goes on in the city.”

Interestingly, Dominic wasn’t always an illustrator. His career began as an assistant to fashion stylists and costume designers in LA back in 2007. Early on, he was mentored by stylist Lenna Boord and worked with her on The Spice Girls World Tour. “It was a fun and crazy roller coaster of an adventure that led into a ten-year career in the fashion industry,” he says. “Along the way, I was able to incorporate my skills in art and design in the form of fashion illustrations for various projects which rekindled a love for drawing and illustration. I started to become aware that there was more that I could do in design and after taking a tour of ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, my mind was made up that illustration was the path for me.”

From the series Portraits of Westlake © Dominic Bodden

From the series Portraits of Westlake © Dominic Bodden

Creative Boom