Stuck at home during the pandemic, Lake Grove resident Jennifer Okubo took to painting murals on her fence, much to the pleasure of her neighbors. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Drive past Jennifer Okubo’s home in Lake Grove and you notice the eye-catching murals covering her fence, including a yellow sunflower and a blue butterfly that have grabbed the attention of neighbors and friends seeking similar designs.

Since connecting with her artistry during the coronavirus pandemic, Okubo has been asked to design murals that have helped cheer up others.

"They could see my happiness come out in the paintings, which is my whole goal, to make people smile," said Okubo, 51.

Okubo, who due to the pandemic works from home as a medical biller for Stony Brook University Hospital, rarely charges a commission because they’re "such a little gesture but it’s huge" for people getting a mural, she said.

Okubo's paintings sometimes consist of colorful flowers, a cardinal, a dragonfly and her signature design: sunflowers. In addition to painting a sunflower on her car, Okubo has painted murals on sheds, fences — even an oil tank.

Okubo’s designs have taken on greater meaning because they commemorate life, she said. They have inspired her to write and illustrate a self-published children's book titled "Sunshine Warrior," about a little girl in a time of sadness, lighting up the neighborhood with love.

A friend of Okubo's, JoAnne Regensburg, recalled getting a phone call out of nowhere from her, asking if she could do something. Regensburg, who lost her husband earlier this year, said Okubo wanted to paint her fence.

"She designed the cardinal, a dragonfly, and a sunflower all significant to me from my recent losses," said Regensburg, 56, of Ridge. "I can look out my kitchen window and see that the dragonfly, the cardinal and the sunflower. It means the world to me because those are the signs from my loss."

It’s not uncommon for Okubo to help friends in need, because she has been the recipient of their care.

After going through a divorce last year, Okubo moved from East Northport into her current home and now has the freedom to create her art. She started with painting her shutters yellow. With the remaining paint, she painted sunflowers along her fence.

Lynn Hydo met Okubo at a community garden in East Northport five years ago. Hydo calls Okubo determined when she puts her mind to it, be it making murals or learning yoga.

"The first time I went into her house, she had all these paintings all over the house," said Hydo, 60. "I asked her to paint me something. She totally rediscovered herself."

Hydo asked Okubo to paint a mural of her dog, Tide, a yellow Labrador retriever, on her shed. Okubo painted the mural over the July 4 weekend this summer.

Tide "had just turned 12 and had a bad leg … I completely trusted Jen," said Hydo, a resident of East Northport. "I knew she wasn’t going to put something I didn’t love."

Along with a mural of Tide, Okubo wrote part of a lyric from the song "Woodstock," which reads "And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden."

The shed, in Hydo’s yard along with a picnic table, has become the place she hangs out with Hawkeye, her black Labrador retriever.

"It makes me smile every day," Hydo said. "It’s helped me get through the hard grief of losing a dog and it cheers me up every day that I see it."

Okubo’s work will be featured in a Dec. 12 community art show in Sayville. She would love to paint full time when she retires and try her hand at welding.

"I’m very grateful that I was given the gift and the time to be able to do it to brighten up somebody’s day and somebody’s life," Okubo said. "I’m very grateful for it all. I thank the universe many, many times a day."

New Gilgo court filings … Ex-Suffolk lawmaker sentenced … Fun fall festivals Credit: Newsday/NewsdayTV

BREAKING: 2 dead in bus crash involving Farmingdale HS ... New Gilgo court filings ... What's up on LI

New Gilgo court filings … Ex-Suffolk lawmaker sentenced … Fun fall festivals Credit: Newsday/NewsdayTV

BREAKING: 2 dead in bus crash involving Farmingdale HS ... New Gilgo court filings ... What's up on LI

Newsday Logo

ONE-DAYSALE5¢ a week for 5 6 months

Get Unlimited Access

Cancel anytime