Costa Rica native and Canadian County transplant Carlos Barboza made a name for himself early on. In elementary school, a teacher refused to grade his art homework, accusing his parents of doing it for him.

“My mom went to school and proved that I did it,” says Barboza.

Artistic prowess runs in this 30-year-old’s DNA. Besides his relative Roger Lopez, who was a famous Costa Rican cartoonist, Barboza also names his cousin Mauricio Cremer – an artist, designer and painter in Dallas – as a major influence. Cremer taught Barboza the fundamentals of shading and light.

“I remember looking through his sketch books when I was very young; it set a standard that I wanted to reach,” says Barboza. “My cousin, José Pablo Garcia, is a filmmaker and photographer in Costa Rica, which is establishing its identity in the arts. I am proud to know my family is leading that effort.”

Barboza’s family moved to the U.S. in 1999, as his parents wanted to give their three children more opportunities. Barboza’s father, an electrical engineer, was doing well with an international company in Costa Rica. But at 35 and with no English skills, he had to start from scratch in a new country. 

“Being an immigrant and witnessing the hardships my parents endured informs everything I do,” says Barboza. “I want to make a name for myself. I want it all to have been worth it.”

After high school, Barboza worked a variety of jobs to pay the bills. In his off hours, he was painting and drawing on paper and canvas. In March 2019, life changed: A friend asked him to paint an exterior mural for her Yukon business. Others saw his work and commissioned more, and two months later, the head of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Pam Shelton, contacted him. As a result, the nonprofit Friends of Yukon’s Best hired him to paint a mural in front of the city’s iconic Route 66 flour mill. He went on to create another inside Yukon’s Independence Elementary School. 

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Fast forward, and Barboza is now a full-time artist in Oklahoma City. He still paints and draws, but is focused on mural commissions at the moment.

“The most difficult part is the design process,” he says. “That’s where the wheels of creativity and inspiration spin. I play with ideas. I let myself fail. I have hundreds of awful designs on my iPad … for my eyes only.”

Meticulous in his design process, Barboza considers composition, symmetry and how the eye will move across the wall. He uses “a grid system or projector to draw a raw outline of the design,” he says.

Barboza paints interior and exterior murals, using spray paint and brushes for outside work. It’s not unlike him to paint in freehand style.

“I’ve spent two decades practicing. It’s time to put that to good use,” he says. “It takes consistency and hard work to reap rewards. I always use the quote in the movie Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come.’”