an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
Around two years ago I moved to Austin for a new job opportunity with an industrial design firm. It was a little challenging, considering I had no friends and family within this city. Since I had just moved to the area, I had to do some apartment hunting, and I found a realtor who told me to meet at 6th St. and Pedernales in South Austin. I arrived a half an hour early, so I decided to wander around the block and look for a place to grab a drink. As I did, I noticed a building covered with really cool murals. I followed the murals to a place called SprATX, a store that sells spray paint as well as lots of great artwork. When I told the guy at the counter that I was new to the area, he recommended that I should pay attention to SprATX’s events, which I did. That week, at one of SprATX’s parties, I saw a live spray-painting demonstration. I had never seen anything like it. I didn’t even know that it was possible to set up a spray-painting wall in the back patio of a bar! Apparently in Austin, you can do that.
Since then, I’ve paid attention to SprATX on Facebook and kept up with lots of its events. With each one, I’ve been impressed by the skill and talent of the Austin art community. I’ve really admired the artwork at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery on 11th and Baylor, where a lot of the artists that I’ve seen at SprATX events regularly go to paint murals. I like to travel with my sketchbook, so I decided to ride my bike over there and document what I saw. I kept a habit of this for awhile and shared my sketches with some of the artists who painted there, a habit I’ve kept up since.
On another day, I met up with two other spray paint artists and saw how they worked. It was really impressive seeing their process, beginning with just a fresh surface on which they could paint and a loose line sketch. It was really nice seeing how gracefully they applied the lines, and how they worked back and forth between filling in the shapes, shading and then filling in the lines again, to eventually produce a beautiful piece of work. I’m experienced with traditional and digital mediums, but I had never seen anything like this. I had to try this for myself.
The next week, I decided to purchase paint from the local vendor and see what I could do. It was a lot trickier than it looked, but, after a little practice and after receiving some helpful tips from other artists, I felt comfortable doing lines and shading. I’ve attempted a few more times after that, with more complicated shapes and then robots. My first robot wasn’t a success due to poor planning. From that lesson, I’ve learned that you need to be prepared with enough paint to get your idea down. After enough practice, I now feel more comfortable with spray paint and really enjoy doing it.
I spray paint at the HOPE Gallery whenever I can, and I still keep up with what is going on in this community, a community I now feel I am becoming a part of. I can ask questions and get advice on how I can get better at this craft. I like to see what works and what doesn’t. I like to see how my work and my friends’ work eventually blend into its surroundings. The artist community in Austin is talented and welcoming, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve come across this crowd.
Sachin Mistry is an industrial designer working for Axis Design. He creates design solutions for variety of companies like Dell and Snap-On tools. In his free time, he likes to sketch, paint, cook and explore what Austin has to offer. You can check out his work at www.sachinmistry.com and his blog at www.sachinmistry.com/blog.