Steve DeFoe

Public Art!

The 13 Electricals is a free to the public outdoor art exhibit in Little Elm Park featuring 13 electric boxes hand-painted by Steve DeFoe.

Steve DeFoe

Hand Painted Public Art


Notes From Steve DeFoe

When we started this project, a considerable focus was on creating positive messages for the community. Little Elm wanted to instill a sense of personal responsibility to keep their parks and neighborhoods. As a result, we went with a playful message from Big Foot himself to get our public art campaign started.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

For this side of our very first box, this concept came to me quickly and easily for two reasons. First, I really loved the fact that there was a tree behind the box. I love when muralists get the opportunity to incorporate the natural landscapes into their art, so I knew immediately that I wanted to paint a surreal interpretation of the tree into my design. This side is also near and faces into one of the park’s main playgrounds. Knowing this side would be seen by many children and families, I also knew I wanted something fun and family-focused. Just as I did with The Lakefront, I tried to do non-traditional skin tones for the subject matter of the depicted people to promote racial equality and positive mental health.



Notes From Steve DeFoe


Little Elm knew what they wanted from the get-go for the box nearest their boat docks and fishing scene. They said, “We want a bass jumping out of the water and some kind of play on words.” I can’t quite remember the original pitch on the wordplay, but I came up with “REEL” good time, and they loved it. This was one of the first times I ever had to try to depict water splashing, so I used a rough sponge, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. This box also had a couple of weird little exhaust vent things coming out the sides, so I knew I wanted some tiny little graphics to go there and fill it out, so fishing lures seemed the obvious fit.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

This is my favorite piece out of the entire exhibit because it is 100 percent me and my imagination. Unlike the side facing the boat docks, the Town didn’t really have any direction they wanted to go with for the other side of Box #2, so this was my opportunity to shine.


I knew that almost every box going forward was going to be subjected to specific goals and wishes, but for this, I had a clean slate to try to push the envelope with what could be “safe, town-funded art.” I loved that from this straight-on perspective, you had land, water, and sky behind this box. It was a dream come true for a fantasy piece, and with this piece having low visibility unless you walk right up on it, it is the gem of the whole exhibit, for me anyway.


I called it “Elements” because I was able to not only incorporate all of the backgrounds into the design (water, air, earth), I bring in a kite (wind), color soundbars (music), a fantastical submarine and a helicopter (science and innovation), and even small windows in the mole-like earth lodge the girl is standing on to allude that there could be a small lantern or furnace inside (fire). On a personal level, this piece is one of my favorite accomplishments ever as an artist.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Right beside “Reel Good Time” and “Elements” is “One Fish, Two Fish.” The Town thought it would be very clever to turn this box into a fish ruler to help people measure their fish! So I played off the Dr. Seuss classic and hand drew these little guys.



Notes From Steve DeFoe


I remember it was freezing outside and how many layers I had to put on to start working out in the park around sunrise in the mornings. So cold, lol. We broke ground on Box #4 humorously enough on “National Squirrel Day.”


I thought those odds were quirky but endearing. I remember not being incredibly confident about how to paint a box into a tree trunk, but you just have to loosen up and have fun with it. So I painted a little heart symbol (not pictured) as if carved into the side of “the tree” and placed my squirrel buddy in the middle of this hollowed trunk.


I like that this little bit of nature faces the public parking lot. It brings a little earth and life to the lot and can be seen from a distance. I couldn’t decide what to call it, but every time I would point it out or talk about it, I would find myself gesturing that way and going, “and that’s my little squirrel buddy over there,” so its name became easy.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Cody is the first install you see if you pull into Little Elm Park from the entrance at Eldorado Parkway. Its placement in the park made it the ideal location for town and park branding imagery, but I also needed it to be bright, warm, and engaging.


I am a huge fan of bees, so the result of a giant bee and flowers laying under The Lakefront sun logo is a beautiful balance of a location-specific message and reflects a presence of wide-open nature.


As I finished this piece, I learned of a friend’s passing. After finishing my last brushstrokes, they had his memorial service in the park. So I got the family blessing to name this piece in honor of him.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

For Box #5, we go across the park, past the playground, Little Elm’s campground, and one of the park’s picnic areas.

Centralized in the middle is a small, unassuming little box they said I could theme as “Space.”


Space is the last frontier, and having children myself, I wanted this to be visually as if from the intense imagination and wonder of a child.



Notes From Steve DeFoe


By far, the largest box in this project sits front and center in the middle of Little Elm Park near the entrance to Little Elm Beach.


We needed the side welcoming visitors to be all about the beach, the park, and The Lakefront. This design was fun and played on perspectives a bit. Depending on how you walk around it, it vibed a safe, fun feeling that was as warm as the subject matter.


Humbling note- I named this piece “There Will Be Sunny Days” to sit with the duality of what was happening in our country at the time. This is the exact moment COVID-19 came to America, and in this 8-foot painting, the very tip of the umbrella is left unfinished to mark the moment when everything stopped, and all our lives were put on hold for two years.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

You might miss this little guy if you aren’t looking for him. George was painted to represent the nearby park life and is named after the late George Floyd as a way to honor the lives of our black community.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

On the other side of the largest box is a multi-perspective painting of visuals from within the lake. I have the background hit the foreground as if the canvas is a giant aquarium so you can see the shoreline, and then it hits and cuts down to the life below. This came out pretty visually stunning by way of vibrant color play. A funny blooper story with this one that came to my attention via a park employee was that a fish portrayed bottom left is a saltwater fish and so would not be native to the freshwaters of our Lake Lewisville. I can’t take full responsibility for this one as I was given a group of images they told me they would love to see, and of course, I agreed! I mean, look at it, that’s a beautiful fish right there! Ha ha. I apologize to all my fish fanatics for my part in what ends up being a pretty funny little Easter egg.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Families often come to Little Elm Park to celebrate and cook out, camp, or picnic. So for this box, the Town wanted to turn this huge box into a fun photo opportunity with each side being a picnic or grilling-related backdrop, creating a “selfie station.”


For the side facing into the grill pits section of the park, I went with the idea that we would turn the box into a giant grill. We throw a spatula and a “Kiss the Chef” front and center so that people can have fun taking their pictures and flipping huge burgers with an oversized spatula.


Funny story about this one – During the design phase, I had to have a conversation with town planners about the “phallic” shape of many foods that were being suggested and how we could avoid potentially creating a grill scene that would leave us in a situation with lots of inappropriate pictures being taken. Talk about exposure!



Notes From Steve DeFore

For the other side of our photo opportunity, “Give Your Selfie A Break,” the idea was that people could stretch out and appear as if lying down on a painted picnic scene, being looked down from up above. Throw your arms back behind you, snap a picture, and you can prove to everyone you know how to picnic with the best of them! I apologize I don’t have a straight-on picture of the finished piece currently available. So here we see me finishing this one up.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

Right next to the two gigantic pieces in the middle of the park, “There Will Be Sunny Days” and “Lakefront,” sits a small 3′ box dedicated to two of our favorite lakeside birds local to the park and surrounding areas. This painting is of a blue heron. She needed a name, and I came up with this one pretty quickly because I’m goofy like that.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

On the other side of Charlie Heron sits Betty White. These two lovely ladies hang out close to the park’s sandy beaches all day. It must be nice to be a couple of celebrities on a sunny day.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Box 9 and 10 are almost tricky to find! So we now go back to the boat docks, and these two boxes are just west of that entrance, on the park side of Eldorado, right before you drive over the Little Elm Bridge.


Box 9 is the larger of the two boxes. This is the side that faces into the boat docks, so we wanted to go back to the idea of lake life, venturing into those beach vibes again. Interesting Note- The entire time I was doing this one, I kept getting two songs, in particular, stuck in my head, both of which, oddly enough, were songs by Weezer. I kept getting drawn to “Surf Wax America” and “Island in The Sun” as inspiration to pull its namesake from, and I actually liked the lyrics from “Surf Wax America” more. Still, ultimately I knew that “Island In The Sun” would probably be found to be generally more appealing. But this one was almost called “Surf Wax America,” lol. You can also see I snuck a little Lakefront branding onto the right most surfboard, another nod to Little Elm’s Lakefront District.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

This large canvas acts as a friendly wave to people entering or exiting Lake Lewisville Toll entering Little Elm, and the Town wanted to embrace that. So we came up with this fun painting with a postcard feel. The branded Lakefront sun is front and center, and the Lake Lewisville Toll Bridge can be seen in the left background. I enjoyed the color play on this one and got a lot out of what I was going for with the sunset palette. I wanted to create a vibrant and bold piece with a ton of color, and I feel good about what we did here.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Easy Rider is next to Box #9, located by the boat dock part of the park and off the beaten path next to the Lake Lewisville Toll Bridge. The craziest thing about this piece was it took a lot of planning but only about an hour and a half to paint. In contrast, some paintings in this exhibit would take me two weeks at any given time to complete.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

This particular box was a very important piece; I think for me, the Town’s vision, the overall aesthetic of the park, and the whole community. In a place of very high foot traffic, we have a rather large cluster of boxes by the restrooms and soccer fields, and the Town wanted a piece that vibed “community, teamwork, and sports.” This cluster of boxes will evolve into “the sports boxes” as sports will be an underlying theme here. So there was a lot of appeal to this concept, and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

Interesting note- This is a low-key civil rights piece by me as well. I am all for equal rights and, even more so, equal opportunities, so I made sure the skin tones depicted in this piece were reflective and inclusive of a global community. Familia Siempre means Family Forever and is a piece for the people whose voices might not be heard every day, with the message that we all bring undefinable intangibles that make us so much stronger when we work together.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

Breakpoint was tricky because it is highly inaccessible from a worker’s point of view. This piece is behind many pipes and a smaller fuse panel, so pulling this one off was tricky. I had to use a bit of stencil work to get back in there and get the general shape and linework of the volleyball in, but from then on, it was a myriad of color blending and some very strategic splattering. Even with the splatter amounts deliberately planned and measured, no one could have predicted how this one would turn out, and it came out nice and very balanced.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

Just for Kicks was also slightly inaccessible for me as an artist, as it’s facing into a cluster of many electric boxes, but the concept was easy enough. The Town knew precisely what they wanted here; it was just a matter of some math and stencil work to make this fun pop art come to life.


Notes From Steve DeFoe

So for this one, we are still in the cluster reserved for our sports theme, so we continue with Eyes Up, Heads Up! Again, I wanted to create a feeling of inclusion and diversity. Still, I only had one child for the subject matter, so I thought it would be cool to fractal it all out in hard crossing lines, go with a stained-glass kind of thing, and be able to utilize all the skin tones I could see that way. Personally, this is my least favorite painting in the entire exhibit. The line work gets a little shaky in some spots, and I think this one might have gotten away from me a little bit. Overall though, people have seemed to enjoy it.


I went with “Eyes Up, Heads Up!” as a play on what could be expected to be heard shouted at that moment by an instructor or coach and as a very positive underlying motto for each of us to take with us through our lives every day.



Notes From Steve DeFoe

In finality, and unceremoniously, this is our last box and our last piece. Although there are still some trims and visual aspects in and around these boxes that might not have made this collage of photographs, formally, this is the last painting in #the13electricals. Once again, my “inner dad” couldn’t resist naming this piece Balls In Your Court to play on the pun of both literal translations and having optimistic outlooks.

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