La Mesa artist looks forward to outdoor exhibition after months of social distance

La Mesa-based artist Tali Lopez

ArtWalk@Liberty Station, San Diego’s first major art show since many 2020 events were postponed, shifted online or canceled entirely beginning in March due to distancing efforts intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 is being held on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.

ArtWalk Director Sandy Cottrell said numerous health precautions have been put in place such as required facial coverings; distanced art booths; extra hand-sanitizing stations; temperature checks for everyone involved with the show, including attendees but it is a symbol of hope for the community.

“This year we are bringing some much-needed color and art into people’s lives with a brand-new layout to allow for proper physical distancing,” Cottrell said.

The in-person exhibition will showcase more than 150 local, national and international artists, including La Mesa-based artist Tali Lopez who said it is exciting to participate in person after so many months at home.

“I was booked with several venues and shows before everything fell apart with the pandemic and obviously, I wasn’t able to do any of them but I had all the pieces lined up for those events. Then, when we got locked down, I had so much time on my hands that I started busting out paintings,” Lopez said.

A self-taught artist, Lopez said he first picked up a paintbrush while serving prison time after a struggle with substance abuse.

“My cellmate happened to be an amazing painter. I started practicing while I was in there. When I got released in 2011, I hit the road running. I mostly paint with acrylics but I use markers and pens, spray paint, household chemicals like rubbing alcohol,” Lopez said.

He said he is optimistic about the future and believes the art created under challenging circumstances can serve as a reminder “the community can get through anything, how strong people are” and it is important to remember there is still a lot of good in this world despite the monthsof recovery ahead as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

Lopez decided to dedicate the many months where art shows could not be held to rebuilding and rebranding his website with the help of an outdoor marketing firm. He took a gallery-style website and reimagined it as an ecommerce site “where people can shop and order through the site but also get an inside look at the fabrication of the wood panel frames I build, dig into the process” and get closer to the artwork while events were non-existent.

Turning over control of the website to a designer left him free to paint, he said.

“So, for the ArtWalk, I’m doing a whole series of tiny paintings, little five-inch squares because not everybody has a huge space on their wall or the budget for a huge painting. This way, all art lovers can walk away with something affordable and accessible. Most will be originals, some will be prints,” Lopez said.

It is a step aside from his usual large-scale works.

“Most of my art pieces are self-reflective. I usually like showing big pieces so I’ll also be featuring a huge heart, four feet by four feet, very bright and it stands out,” Lopez said.

In February, just prior to pandemic-related closures and show cancellations, he donated a painting for a Being Alive fundraiser dedicated to helping people living with HIV and AIDS; the event had about 50 different artists, he said.

“Mayor Faulconer’s wife ended up buying my painting and I was super stoked. The money went to the organization, I got the bragging rights of having it hanging in her living room and it benefits the community,” Lopez said.

He said he never pictured himself working as an artist but would advise anyone considering the path to “have fun, practice,” and remember there are no accidents, only happy mistakes.

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

In addition to Lopez’ booth and the many art displays set up in-person at ArtWalk, an online art guitar auction is also underway with all benefits going toward non-profit ArtReach San Diego, a visual arts program designed to provide free or low-cost workshops to artistically underserved elementary schools.

More information on the event can be found at including details of the auction, which runs through Nov. 8.