Most mornings, you can find Josh Cochran sitting at a desk in his studio in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, creating illustrations by hand and on a computer. But since August 25 the artist has spent mornings sitting in a basket suspended high above the ground in front of a 60-foot-wide billboard atop the entrance to New York City’s Midtown Tunnel, painting a live mural depicting highlights from the US Open as the tennis tournament unfolds. “I thought I was going to be really freaked out about being up so high, but there is something about having a billboard in front of you. Your mind is sort of tricked into thinking that you’re safe,” Cochran says, noting, “I’m used to it now except for when I come home and close my eyes–I feel the sway of the bucket. It’s kind of like being on a boat.”
The artist, who makes a living doing illustrations for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Time among other publications, was commissioned by agency DDB New York to create the evolving work of art–and he will continue to add to it daily through September 7–as part of a social and digital campaign for the USTA/US Open. You can see Cochran’s progress day-by-day on the US Open Facebook page, which serves as the content hub for the campaign.
DDB New York has been sourcing ideas for elements of the mural from US Open attendees sharing their highlights from the tournament on social media through the hashtag #StoryoftheOPEN. “Everyone who goes, no matter the day, no matter the time, finds something to love and comes back with their own unique story to tell,” says Joe Cianciotto, executive creative director of DDB New York. “It is our goal to share these unexpected stories to broaden the expectations of those that have never attended an Open, and let them in on how much they’re missing.”
So far, Cochran has incorporated everything from Roger Federer and Michael Jordan snapping a selfie to a lady drinking a Honey Deuce (a cocktail created by Grey Goose for the US Open a few years back). He also painted a ball moving at blazing speed in honor of Gael Monfils’s amazing 110-mph forehand, hit while leaping in the air, and after attending a US Open match for the first time ever, Cochran worked in a visual representation of those loud grunts the players are famous for making on the court. “I’ve seen a lot of matches on TV, but there was something different about being there in person. The stadium was totally silent for the most part, and all you could hear were these grunts, so I tried to have fun with that,” Cochran says. “I’m trying to keep the mural light and fun.”
All along the way, Cochran has been sharing daily video updates, letting everyone know what he is going to paint and giving them a sense of what it’s like up in that basket through a helmet-cam he wears while he works. He has also been interacting with people on the street. “There are guys that come out and take a photo every single day to see the progress, and there’s a bagel store around the corner where I get breakfast, and they’ll comment and ask me questions about the process. It’s really cool,” says Cochran, who is used to working on his own. “I think it’s one of the great things about doing a large project like this. It’s so visible, and people want to ask about it. I love that.”
Working on the project has also encouraged the artist, who usually plans out his murals and bigger pieces, to tap into his more spontaneous side. “I’m not second-guessing myself and not overthinking my drawing. I’m just attacking it,” Cochran says, “and it’s really refreshing.”