People who live in Southern California or visit even for a short time can't help but come across the work of Levi Ponce, even if they don't know his name.
Ponce's career as a painter began as a child, when he helped his father paint signs for businesses around Los Angeles.
“I would ruin (dad's) job and clients would tell him, 'Hey, you're going to fix that, right?'” Ponce recalls.
The 33-year-old said that his father gave him paint brushes as a child, and his love of art was born in those brushes.
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“I got used to painting ads with my father, getting on ladders and working with paint,” Ponce said.
The artist added that even as a child, he began to admire the large-scale drawings that decorated the walls around LA, including the graffiti art of local artists like Kent Twitchell.
"And I said to myself, I want to do that," Ponce recalled.
“I studied all the artists, their techniques, then I went to art school and received an animation degree. I then combined everything I learned from my dad and gave it a digital twist,” said Ponce, who graduated from Cal State Northridge.
Last year, the city of LA recognized the Salvadorian muralist for his work "Rushing Waters," located in Van Nuys. The work is considered the largest mural in Los Angeles County in more than 30 years, measuring 10,000 feet.
"The mural represents our roots and native lands, representing our past and future," said Ponce.
The project received great support from the city and, with the help of nine artists, was competed in only 12 days. The artist describes it as a welcoming wall for all who visit the San Fernando Valley, located north of Los Angeles.
“I like to paint people who represent our community, people who have been voices for our community, and people whose voices need to be heard,” Ponce said.
Ponce, who has also worked on projects with Disney in Orlando and Anaheim, said he has done more than a thousand projects. He has taken his work across the nation and across oceans, including to Turkey, Guatemala, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yucatán, Mexico.
Ponce, who was born and raised in Pacoima, is proud to be able to carry his art and message of unity through the walls beyond the San Fernando Valley.
"Artists have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people, communities, and give a voice to the causes that are important to our city and our countries," said Ponce.
The artist has created works honoring popular figures including Selena, Danny Trejo, Jimi Hendrix, Fernando Vargas, Dave Chappelle, Jenni Rivera, Dolores Huerta and Kobe Bryant to name a few.
“Many times I try to paint people that I have known personally and it inspires me, not only celebrities but people who have proven to be good examples in our community,” he said.
“Danny Trejo is a great example in our community," said Ponce, who has now become friends with the actor. "He shows us that anything can be achieved when you work hard and dedicate yourself to your goal.”
Ponce says that his goal is always to draw murals with the purpose of uniting the community.
“I design murals for everyone, so that people of all abilities can participate. If I make a very complex design, I am excluding a lot of people and children, and that is why I try to do something so that everyone can participate and enjoy,” he said.
Ponce is currently working on a mural between Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street that will include 27 diverse and influential people.
"Much of my work is of the defenseless," he said. "In the climate we live in, the chaos, and as artists we must make the positive people who represent our communities shine."
Ponce added, "I've always tried to focus on positive stories, positive causes, and positive people."