They are animals familiar to every Californian: a mountain lion, a coyote, a dolphin, hummingbirds and butterflies, rendered in a way you’ve never seen before. The smiling creatures, eyes glinting, float before a constellation of multicolored dots swimming in a sea of cerulean blue.
The pattern was created by 34-year-old Yukari Sakura, one of several made for The Times by neurodivergent artists like her.
“Butterflies are one of my favorite animals. I like their wings; they make me smile,” said Sakura, who is Japanese American and draws inspiration from anime and Asian folk tales.“ Hummingbirds are so cute too, and these remind me of the one from Disney’s ‘Pocahontas.’”
Each year, the Los Angeles Times partners with indie illustrators who create one-of-a-kind prints and patterns that our readers can use as computer and cellphone backgrounds. Print subscribers and those who purchase a physical copy of The Times at newsstands will get to explore the designs as wrapping-paper prints too.
For this year’s prints, The Times partnered with Creativity Explored, a nonprofit in San Francisco that supports a neurodiverse community of artists with developmental disabilities. The organization was established in 1983 by Florence and Elias Katz, an artist and a psychologist, who at the time were inspired by the nationwide deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities.
Sakura has honed her unique style — a blend of realistic and surrealistic, and influenced by artists such as Georges Seurat, Gustav Klimt, Monet and Picasso — with the support of Creativity Explored over the last 12 years.
“Creativity Explored was founded with the belief that our artists are inherently capable and have something to offer the world that we need to help facilitate,” said Linda Johnson, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Our goal is to both support their artistry and lives as creative people but also help them thrive within a community where they can be who they are.”
Creativity Explored’s mission is deeply personal for Patrick Hruby, an art director at The Times who led the 2023 wrapping paper project. Hruby’s sister, Bee, is autistic.
“She’s one of the most incredible people I know, with an incredibly rich internal life and tastes and preferences and curiosities,” Hruby said. “I am so lucky to have a sister with autism and I want more people to know and love the work of neurodiverse folks.”
“Art is Art,” asserts the title of Creativity Explored’s new coffee table book that showcases its artists’ work. But opportunities for art to be platformed and appreciated aren’t distributed evenly.
“Overall, people with developmental disabilities do struggle with a lack of employment opportunities and lack of opportunities for agency in their own lives,” Hruby said. “Choices big and small — where to live, how to travel, who to spend time with, having money to spend on items beyond basic needs — those are all choices many of us take for granted and are often severely constrained for many disabled people.”
Creativity Explored aims to enrich its artists’ agency by promoting and selling their work. Artists receive half of the proceeds.
I asked Sakura, who is autistic, how it feels to have her work shared in the L.A. Times.
“I feel so proud of myself,” she said. “My art is a perfect way to support people with disabilities.”
We hope you enjoy these artists’ inventive designs as much as we do.
Laron Bickerstaff creates radiant portraiture and stream-of-consciousness text-based artwork. Bickerstaff communicates with American Sign Language and is deeply aware of the visual characteristics of language. For The Times, he rendered a scene of skateboarders in his joyful color-blocked style. See
more of Bickerstaff’s work.
Yukari Sakura is a book of wisdom regarding her favorite subjects. Passionate about protecting endangered animals and the environment, her original painting for The Times focuses on a selection of animals native to L.A., depicted with careful attention to detail. See more of Sakura’s work.
Elana Cooper is primarily known for her striking, large-scale floral silhouettes, drawing from the botanical bounty of California. Cooper paints in bold strokes, the background in one color and the subject in a contrasting color, giving her representational work an abstract quality. Elana Cooper’s first solo exhibition opens Jan. 11, 2024, at Creativity Explored’s gallery. See more of Cooper’s work.
Taneya Lovelace creates dramatic abstract mixed-media works, layering rich colors and organic forms to build complex compositions with much visual movement. Lovelace is a determined and focused artist, painting in meditative stints, usually color by color. See more of Lovelace’s work.
Calvin Snow’s art is reminiscent of the psychedelic album art of the 1960s, or the screens flashing at the Fillmore during a Grateful Dead show. His work has a precise, but fluid geometry, and an intense electricity of color.. See more of Snow’s work.
Irene Rivas is dedicated to a robust and varied art practice. Rivas prefers bright, saturated colors in both her colored pencil work and collage. For her piece in The Times, she placed thousands of confetti-sized squares of paper one by one to form the colorful fill, line work and texture of a field of flowers. See more of Rivas’ work.
Camille Holvoet’s artwork is deceptively sweet. Her autobiographical practice tends to draw on life’s anxieties and forbidden desires. Holvoet’s process is an endless discovery, in which the pressures of the past are relieved by the joy of the creative process. She repeatedly draws her sacred objects in oil pastel: desserts, Ferris wheels and crossed eyes. SFMOMA recently acquired works by Holvoet for their permanent collection. See more of Holvoet’s work.
A true product of his native Shanghai, Andrew Li’s most frequent subjects are cities in motion. Li’s quick-handed and deliberate process mimics how the eye reads the urban environment. It latches onto certain details and summarizes others, making sense of all the dizzying activity on a busy street. See more of Li’s work.