Definitely Something Beautiful

h1 April 26th, 2016 by jules

“In the heart of a gray city, there lived a girl who loved to doodle, draw, color, and paint. Every time she saw a blank piece of paper, Mira thought to herself, Hmm, maybe . . . And because of this, her room was filled with color and
her heart was filled with joy.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


I’m taking a moment today to share some artwork from F. Isabel Campoy’s and Theresa Howell’s Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2016). The book is illustrated by award-winning artist Rafael López, but he is also the subject of the story. Based on a true story, it’s the tale of a girl, named Mira, who lights up a gray city with color after she shares her art with community members. Handing out art to everyone she passes, her city becomes “less gray—but not much.” But the next day she meets a man with “a pocket full of paintbrushes,” who sees “[m]aybe . . . something beautiful.” Mira joins him to paint murals in the city, and eventually nearly the entire town joins in to help and bring the town to life with color, art, and creativity.

Campoy and Howell write with precision and clarity. (“The shadows scurried away. Sky blue cut through the gloom.”) They reverently pay tribute to López, whose illustrations, rendered via acrylics on wood, photography, and digital art, bring this story to vibrant life. A closing note about the true story this is based on, complete with photographs, explains how López and his wife, Candice, brought people together in the East Village near downtown San Diego “so that their neighborhood could become a better place for all to live.” They held meetings to share plans and discuss reviving the community through art:

Everyone was invited—police officers, graffiti artists, teachers, single parents, children, homeless people, and more. With the help of many, the Urban Art Trail was born, and volunteers of all ages, races, and walks of life committed themselves to a common goal ….

There’s a lot more in this closing note about this wonderful project. I highly recommend finding a copy to read more. It’s a beautiful, spirited book. In their starred review, Kirkus calls it an “inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb.”

Here are some more spreads.

“‘Who are you?’ Mira asked. ‘I’m an artist,’ he said. ‘A muralist. I paint on walls!’
‘I’m an artist too,’ she told him. He handed Mira a brush. ‘THEN COME ON!'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Teachers and papas jumped in. Babies too! Mira and the man handed out brush after brush. Color spread throughout the streets. So did joy.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


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MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL: HOW ART TRANSFORMED A NEIGHBORHOOD. Copyright © 2016 by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. Illustrations © 2016 by Rafael López. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

3 comments to “Definitely Something Beautiful”

  1. Just read & loved this. The art was stunning! I would have loved to have seen more of the original murals 🙂

  2. […] Definitely Something Beautiful […]

  3. You can see more of the Urban Art Trail murals at this link:

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