The students identify with him, says MaeLin Levine, who owns the graphic design firm Visual Asylum and has worked with López on community and commercial projects. "The AIGA LINK and folks like Rafael have positively influenced many kids and saved some from getting involved in drugs and gangs," she says.
Charles Glaubitz, 37, a former student of López's who now creates commercial art installations in Europe, says the artist "has a true voice that helps to inspire young artists to pursue their dreams."
Beyond mentoring and creating stamps, López has illustrated several award-winning children's books and spends time painting murals — often as a community service. He and Candice, a college art professor, conceived San Diego's Urban Art Trail project. For this massive community beautification effort, López developed a bold, graphic style of murals that allowed the public to fill in the empty spaces as if using an enormous paint-by-numbers kit.
Levine says that through the Urban Art Trail, Candice and Rafael López have become the "graphic voice throughout East Village in San Diego," creating a community-wide project that includes paintings on utility boxes and buildings. Rafael's project paintings have become signature pieces, and his Urban Art Trail concept has been copied in neighborhoods throughout San Diego, Levine says.
The Latin Music Legends stamp project will have an even broader reach. The prominence of the five musicians appearing on the stamps, López says, has given him the opportunity to teach Americans more about them and imprint their faces forever in our memory.
"The Latin Music Legends stamps honor incomparable musicians and performers of the Latin sound whose contributions continue to impact the public," he says. "I wanted people to see the stamp images and hear their music."
The celebrities in López's new series join other Latinos whose faces have graced U.S. postage stamps, including Roberto Clemente, Cesar E. Chavez and Desi Arnaz.