From Vandalism to Cash

Despite being punished for acts of vandalism Justin Smith (name has been changed to protect identity) still uses the city as a “giant colouring book: as well as making money of art he creates on a canvas.

Smith is a 19-year-old Calgary, Alts citizen who use to actively spray paint garbage bins, electrical boxes, and sometimes walls. Now he sells his art on canvases.

Smith began doing graffiti about four years ago, when he and his friend had left over spray paint from painting their BMX bikes.

“We didn’t really know what to do with it so we just wrote on some dumpsters,” said Smith “it was sort of like a satisfying feeling making the dumpster look better.”

The two friends would continue on spray-painting mailboxes, fences, or walls that didn’t seem important because it was a fun. The boys never did bad vandalism like destroying things tagging inappropriate things on company buildings.  They would just write their names on things or painted pretty pictures on them.

“Adding colour to the city is fun, instead of leaving it gray and boring,” said Smith “The city is like a giant colouring book, it’s perfect.”

Smith enjoyed making the city a more colourful place.

The boys thought that spray-painting was fun and a way to keep out of trouble.

“It was harmless fun art,” said Smith. “Art is good for the mind so we honestly didn’t think much could come of it,”said Smith

Smith explained that after about three years of spray-painting he was caught tagging an old Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train.

He didn’t face any criminal charges because it was his first warning.

A couple years later he was charged with vandalism for tagging what he thought was an abandoned vehicle.

“It was old with holes, I wanted to make it look better,” explained Smith

After receiving his a ticket for vandalism Smith was sort of stuck. He had no way to pay for it.

He didn’t want to ask his parents for help to pay for it because it was his mistake and felt he should have to pay for it himself. Smith had one year to pay for his ticket

“I had just turned 18 and wanted to take care of my problems alone,” said Smith.

Smith decided to buy some canvases to paint on instead of public walls.

He decided to try and sell his art in order to pay for his vandalism ticket.

“My art is sort of abstract and grungy looking so I thought it might be worth a shot to try and sell,” said Smith.

Smith sold his first canvas to a man looking for a unique household art.

Smith would set up a stand at his family’s garage sale and just ask for a best offer on his art.

The first piece he ever sold was a black and gray canvas with a fork, knife, and spoon on it. He named it the Cutlery Canvas.

“I just laid the cutlery on the canvas and sprayed it,” said Smith “so basically it’s just traced cutlery.”

The man who bought the art offered $25 for the canvas.

“I bought the Cutlery Canvas for my Kitchen,” he said. “It symbolized creativity and I like to think of myself as creative chef, so it just fits.”

Smith has made approximately $500 from selling unique and odd spray painted canvases.

He was able to pay his vandalism ticket from selling his art.

He plans to continue painting weird things and selling them because people seem to like odd things.

“I’ll never put a cat on a canvas and spray trace it, but I will spray trace my own foot because it would be odd and probably sell real quick,” said Smith.

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