Art for the Expo Line: Ephemeral Views by Ronald Llanos

Ronald Llanos speaks with Saskia Siebrand, Creative & Technical Director, Mosaika Art & Deisgn about his work for Expo/Western Station.

Ronald Llanos describes himself as a visual journalist. “My images are inspired by people and by the places I travel to or frequent,” he says.

Ron collects drawings in a sketchbook while people watching in a café or walking through Los Angeles neighborhoods. He creates thousands of quick sketches of people engaging in city life: talking with friends, walking past businesses carrying shopping bags, pushing a baby carriage or talking on a cell phone. These vignettes become the subject matter for zines – small self-published magazines that tell a story about a particular place at a moment in time. You can see more of Ronald’s images and follow his blog here.

Ronald Llanos shares pages of his sketchbook documenting his urban adventures.

In preparing the artwork designs for the Expo/Western Station, Ronald spent time filling his sketchbook with drawings of people and activities he observed around the station area. He then mapped the art panels at the platforms to unfold like the pages of an open book. A series of 16 watercolor paintings describe scenes from the local neighborhood.

Ronald’s watercolor paintings have a fresh, spontaneous quality to them. The task of translating his translucent washes of color into a hard, permanent material was a challenge. Artisans at Mosaika Art & Design traced Ronald’s designs onto ceramic tile and added thin layers of glaze to preserve the feel of the artist’s hand in the work. Next the work was fired, cut into small pieces and placed within the panels.

Hand glazed art tiles are cut into small pieces then placed within the art panels.

Speaking about the artwork for Expo/Western Station Ronald says, “I feel that if I search within myself for that which I find interesting about the places and people of those areas, I might be able to communicate with people across time.”

Art panels in process at Mosaika's shop.

Art panel depicting neighborhood teens.

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22 replies

  1. Artwork for transit falls under “Nice to have” not “need to have” – in this economic climate “Need to have” is the only thing that should get the green light. Build it first – then figure out later how to put the art up later – when things are more flush. I love art, but I love mass transit more. And if stuff like this puts the funding in a bad light – then it probably needs to be done quietly if at all.


  2. Dan H

    Thank you for pointing out

    Tobias/Renee Gunter
    Amid the budget crisis, people just care of the work. The most important thing is finish the project on time on budget.

    Let’s time forget, MTA is cutting the budget on the bus service. Many people just care about rail and don’t bother without good local connections, how could people get to station without cars.

    Some people (such as MTA and people loike you) just don’t get it


  3. @Dan H:

    I wouldn’t get too worried about the art gobbling up our money. MTA policy dictates that 0.5% of rail construction costs go to art. Not much at all. And for such a small cost, it can go a long way to improve the customer experience.


  4. I think it’s great that this artist has been given an opportunity to contribute to his city! Don’t know about you, but most artist’s I know aren’t living in Penthouses. I’m sure the MTA budgeted modestly to the project, and am just glad to see them choosing to fund someone’s creativity and hard work.


  5. It has been proven that stations with art are generally treated with more respect by the people that use them. Across the country it has been shown that there is less grafitti, less trash, and fewer issues than ones without art. Generally, it is a safer, more healthy, more interesting environment, a good investement indeed.


  6. Thanks to Jarrett Walker for pointing out the funding protocol. Personally, I’m really pleased to be seeing this art. It makes our travel spaces into -human- spaces.


  7. The problem is, the Expo line is SO far over budget and SO far behind schedule, that when you read articles like this, you can’t help but wonder, what the heck is going on here? Where is the sense of urgency. Are the planners completely tone deaf? We have not seen any articles on the delays of the Expo line or the cost overruns- expect in the LA Weekly (can we get a specific date as to when it will open at least?). This article makes Metro look like Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.


  8. Public art such as this can often serve as a communities’ only close experience with fine art. It has been noted that public art can help stimulate and foster thoughtful creativity and create a sense of community pride, in turn creating more conscientious and civic-minded individuals. Public art projects should not be classified as “nice” to have, but necessary indeed.