Nick Burns first tried his hand at graffiti art when he was 18 years old. Watching Bob Ross on “The Joy of Painting” inspired him, and with few resources at his disposal, spray paint was easy to come by.
Now 10 years later, he’s been named one of three 2019-20 Brandon Fellows by the Greenville Center for Creative Arts — a program designed to help local artists ages 21-30 develop within the arts community.
Although Burns stopped painting for a while to focus on practicing and teaching dance, he picked it back up a few years ago.
“Abstract graffiti would probably be one of my main mediums,” Burns said. “I try to experiment with everything — I use oil, acrylics, spray paint. I’ve even found old junk, and I’ll paint on it.”
In his continual search to try something new, Burns has started combining graffiti with dance to serve as a therapeutic art form.
“I really just have always been a student. I feel like I’ve been a student since high school,” Burns said. “I’m always trying to learn and figure out what I can do.”
Burns, whose artist tag is Ninja Picasso, said graffiti art is about learning and expanding on your own style, starting with basic lines and shapes. He wants to change the narrative about graffiti art and art in general.
“I feel like it’s really blocked — or very small — and there’s so many different forms of art, so many different styles of culture,” Burns said. “You hear that word [graffiti] and it’s like, ‘Am I going to join a gang?’ No.”
Burns wants to help students discover art like he did — students who don’t know their talent because they don’t have the resources to buy art supplies.
“Everybody knows a spray can, and every student wants to touch a can,” Burns said. “So being able to manipulate that tool and show that you can make something with it and not feel like, ‘Oh, I’m going to mess up this wall.'”
Burns said using spray paint cans facilitates the idea that you can tag anything — that anything can be made into art in a constructive way.
“And using spray cans are actually gateway tools to other mediums of art,” Burns said. “Because I knew nothing about oil or different things until I ran out of cans.”
Lately, Burns has been working with students at West Greenville School — a middle and high school serving at-risk students in the county.
“I’ve got a lot of opportunities working with students who are having difficulties dealing with trauma, and even behavioral challenges, as well,” Burns said. “I get a lot of stone-faced [students] who are now smiling coming to class.”