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Artist transforms the patterns in Vancouver’s streets into beautiful artwork

Often finding beauty in street patterns, the artist translates that beauty onto paper
Devon Harlos art
Devon Harlos creates art out of patterns she finds in the streets of Vancouver neighbourhoods like New Westminister, Kitsilano, and Strathcona.

A Vancouver artist has been creating watercolour shadow boxes highlighting the beauty of the sprawling patterns of Vancouver's roads and streets.

Devon Harlos works in urban planning so she's always thinking about street patterns and how they differ across neighbourhoods and cities. That fascination, coupled with a healthy dose of pandemic boredom, led Harlos to experiment with how to represent those patterns in early 2020. In January of 2021, Harlos landed on shadowboxes as the best way to showcase her art.

Harlos starts a piece by first choosing a neighbourhood and figuring out where she thinks the heart of that neighbourhood is. Harlos centres the piece on that spot then uses Google Maps to help cut a paper overlay. The overlay sits atop a watercolour underlay, the colours for which depend on the neighbourhood. 

“When I think of the West End I think of the beach and how colourful Davie Street is, so I use a lot of blues, yellows, and pinks,” Harlos said. “Every piece is unique because the watercolours flow a bit differently every time.”

So far she has created 12 shadow boxes for Vancouver neighbourhoods but she has received requests for custom maps from Summerland, B.C., and Madrid, Spain.

Harlos says the response to the shadowboxes has been very positive which she says is due to people’s natural pride in where they live.

“They like to see a part of their identity expressed in art. I also noticed that my art often generates a debate about whether a grid pattern or a suburban pattern is better. From a purely artistic viewpoint, I think they both create beautiful pieces of art!” Harlos told Vancouver Is Awesome.

Harlos does take commissions but she has already amassed a variety of pieces for sale on her Etsy page DevilleDesignStore. Harlos’ pieces can also be found at The Nooks in Gastown. For updates on her artwork check out her Harlos’ Instagram page @deville.abstract.