Doing spray paint art can open doors of perception into higher states of consciousness. However knowing how to spray paint isn’t everything you need to have this experience. Art, a friend told me, is in the way you interpret life. It’s a very different perspective from the mind-set of the every day grind. A true spray paint artist follows the way of the heart. They are authentic! This has nothing to do with your skill level.
I remember one time that I was painting on a sidewalk outside a university. I was sitting Indian style, surrounded by curious onlookers that were trying to get a better view. The audience was so thick that there wasn’t much space for the people to get inside my circle. While I put down the first colors of my painting, I saw one of the people in front of me was barefoot. For some reason they hadn’t put any shoes on that day. I looked at him and it occurred to me to surprise him by using his foot in my painting. In that moment, I just grabbed his bare foot and put it directly into my fresh paint! Fortunately it was funny for the audience and the man accepted my crazy idea in a good way.
This kind of spontaneous creativity is what I think really feeds the technique of spray paint art, or aerosolgrafia. I love the expressive moments, the times that we get out of our own way and let the great spirit paint through us. To me being in the moment is more important than knowing how to spray paint perfectly.
It is necessary to cultivate this sense of the now, and at the same time, it’s also essential to learn to be very practical. We must, as the boy scouts say, “be prepared.” One way to prepare is to be sure to carry the materials and tools that you will need, but no extra stuff to weigh you down.
When I go out to perform in a fair or in a nearby plaza, I bring a few important things with me. I carry a sturdy portfolio into which all my paintings and paper go. I bring my newspaper, already torn and prepared for painting. I carry a thin piece of wood to paint on top of. I put my spray painting cans into a backpack that I can easily carry, only bringing the colors that I plan to use. I can put my palette knives, plates, brushes and small music playing device into that same backpack. The music is important because it helps the crowd be engaged while I am working and creates fun moments of fascination for everyone. We can all forget the everyday and enter into the magic of spray paint art together. I bring a lamp with me if I will be doing my show in the evening. It’s also possible to figure out how to spray paint underneath a street lamp if it’s bright enough and you have chosen your street lamp carefully, preferably the night before. I carry a large piece of red cloth with me to spread out on the sidewalk and display my spray paintings. If the space is small, I may fold the cloth and display some of the paintings up against a nearby wall.
I have done a lot of traveling across Mexico, United States, Europe and more, believing that it is possible to be self employed as an artist and to be the boss of my own life and time. This was my basic motivation when I started discovering how to spray paint, to be free! However, my personal goal was not to become a rich person, so I have always sold my paintings at a price that the “man or woman in the street” could easily afford. In fact, if a person did not have enough money to purchase a painting, I would often accept whatever they were able to pay in exchange for my spray paint art. For me this wasn’t a problem.
There were many times I painted where my sales were so amazing that I ran out of materials before I finished my show. There were also places where no matter what I tried, I wasn’t allowed to sell my work and I had to figure out how to perform first and then sell my artwork in another area at another time to the interested members of the audience.
One of the first times I went to paint in the Zona Rosa, a tourist spot in Mexico City. I was a bit nervous and I had doubts that something positive would happen. I arrived and got set up. In a few minutes I was painting and it was a great night, full of life and sales. There was also a person who took the time to tell me that he was so surprised by what I was able to do with a spray can. He congratulated me in a way that deeply touched my heart. He told me that there was something truly valuable in me that he felt communicated much more than just artwork. In his eyes, I was interesting and spiritual. I did not feel that way inside, especially on that day! But he helped me feel more secure in my spray painting performance work. It was just what I needed to keep going on my path.
Only two or three days later, I was again painting with a large audience on the same street. I was in the middle of a picture, but I never got to finish it. A police inspector appeared and asked me if I had a permit. I did not have one, or even know that I needed one. He stopped my work and I had to stand up to talk to him. The audience was insistent that I finish the painting I was doing and began to chant “let him finish” at the police man. This was a huge surprise to me!
Even though the people defended me, the inspectors did not change their opinion. They did not leave me any other option. I was so mad that I kicked my cans and they actually took me down to the station.
Fortunately that’s all that happened. It did take me some time to figure out what to do next and find a new spot to work. This was a bitter experience for me. Pushing the limits of street permits has taught me so much about our social system and the restrictions that it imposes on our freedom.
So many things have happened to me while spray painting on the streets. I have had wonderful experiences of connection with strangers. I have met every kind of person from rich to poor and crazy to genius. I have learned to be a warrior and to confront a society lost in the day to day grind and materialism. It hasn’t been an easy path.
I have had to deal with envious people who hated me for my success. I have also had to deal with police, inspectors and other authorities who try to stop me from spray painting in certain places and sometimes from earning my living in an honorable way. I have learned to identify the bad apples who carry a grudge and to become invisible to them. I have learned that there are so many good people in the world, but often that’s not enough to live a graceful life. I’ve traveled so much and seen places that I never would have seen without learning how to spray paint. This path has been a path of the heart for me and I’m so glad I got out there and did it!