The Daily Vertical Sojourn of Josh Cochran
Every form of media has its strengths, but if you really want to grab attention you need to challenge those strengths. Reinterpreting the medium and how it’s used changes viewers’ interaction with what the piece is communicating. That’s exactly what the US Open and illustrator Josh Cochran are doing for their #StoryoftheOpen Billboard in New York City.
Sitting a hundred feet above NYC’s Midtown Tunnel is a billboard that welcomes travelers into the borough of Queens that is hosting the US Open. Since day one Josh has been making daily trips up to the billboard to paint the highlights of competition. That means every day the piece changes along with what’s actually happening during the games. Keeping work that dynamic and flexible presents a challenge. The piece is always fluid. “I’ll do a painting one day and it’s going to affect the next day’s painting,” explains Josh. “The space is going to change and the over all color scheme is going to change.” It’s constantly in flux. The piece cannot be planned, since it’s all about telling the story of what’s actually happening at the Open. It’s honest and in line with fans’ experiences.
To chose the moments that Josh highlights is a positive process of impressions. The team behind the US Open pays attention to what moments are significant within the competition, then they watch social media to see what fans are reacting to, and finally, says Josh, “one of those moments is chosen and I interpret that and put it up on the billboard.” That means every day he’s receiving a new assignment, translating it into his style and then journeying up that 100 feet to paint it onto one of the most viewed surfaces in the world.
Josh has been doing this every day since the beginning and still has some time to go. The final matches aren’t until Monday. “I feel pretty good. Definitely tired, but I’m feeling good,” he says. But he’s saving the most challenging part of the painting for the end. “I’m planning on painting the winners, but really big, like 20 ft tall,” he explains.
It’s a lot of work, and a lot of pressure, but it’s paying off. “It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. On the other hand I’d also say it’s been one of the most rewarding because I’m up there painting huge figures and it’s super fun,” he says. “I’m in the field, I’m painting, it’s very Zen. I don’t really think about anything, just the work. And it’s great.”