Sonny Rollins Bridge Project

This story accompanies an earlier one about Sonny Rollins.

With assertive purples, blues, pinks, reds and oranges, illustrator Gaurab Thakali interprets cultural figures and societal issues. Some of his illustrations catch the collective attention of social media.

One has exploded into iconic status.

A modest, shy artist, the UK’s Gaurab Thakali has re-imagined Sonny Rollins on the bridge that may be re-named after him. The “Sonny Rollins Bridge Project” is an initiative that seeks to change the nomenclature of the Williamsburg Bridge to that of the world-famous tenor. A bit hard to reach, Gaurab gave a few pearls of insight into his illustration.

Why did you create this?

The artwork was a commissioned piece by the New Yorker for the Williamsburg Bridge story they featured on their site.

How did you learn about the movement to rename the bridge after Sonny Rollins?

I only found out about it through the commission when the art director sent me the article.

How did you choose the colors?

I normally work in bright contrasting colors and thought it would be a good fit for a bright story like this one of Sonny Rollins, whom I have a huge admiration for.

Is this digital art or a painting?

It’s a mix of drawing on paper, and then colored in digitally.

Do you sell this in postcard or other size prints?

Yes, I can sell it as a postcard or print. If anyone is interested, they can reach me at gaurab.thakali@gmail.com.

Did the picture get a lot of attention?

Yes, I suppose, as it was part of a bigger story to name the Williamsburg Bridge after Sonny Rollins. It was used on various media platforms.

Were you expecting such an overwhelming response?

Maybe not like this, but again it partly happened because of the larger effort to name the bridge after Sonny. It was a great pleasure to be part of.

What do you want the illustration to convey?

Sonny is one of the greatest saxophonists to grace the planet and I wanted the image to sort of convey that, as well as respond to the request by the New Yorker to have him playing the way he did, on that bridge.

Photo courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

(c) Debbie Burke 2017