Local street artist a success on scale that matters to him

Local artist Travis Bruner shows one of his pieces, created with cans of spray paint, to (from left) Brayden Clabaugh, Nate Bowman and Zachary McGuire at Pathfinder Kids Kampus. Photo provided.

Originally published Aug. 30, 2012.

Travis Bruner isn't rich, and he never expects to be.

But he's happy.

"I just want to be an artist," he says.

His works hang from the walls of his tiny Huntington apartment; more pieces are stored in the back rooms.
His creations, he says, sell as fast as he finishes them.

Bruner isn't what you'd consider a conventional artist.
He calls himself a street artist. He travels the country, setting up at concerts and festivals; he displays his talents at private parties; he produces works on commission.

And he says he's living proof that anyone with a dream of becoming an artist should pursue that dream.

"I do a number of different kinds of art," explains the 33-year-old Bruner. "Acrylic, oil, spray painting, legal graffiti art. I also blow glass, and I'm also a professional musician."

He's worked as a body piercer for 10 years and moved into the tattooing field about five years ago.

"I do just about any form of artwork you can do," Bruner says. "You're selling yourself short if you don't do it all.

"I just have to have a project going every single day."

Bruner says his first foray into the world of art came at age 6, when he started playing the guitar. His dad played in a band in the '70s, he said, adding, "As soon as I figured out I could make money on stage, I got in a band."

As a student at Huntington North High School, he says, "I took every art class I could."

He left high school without a diploma but says he might consider some college classes in the future.

"Right now, I'm just too busy for college," he says.

He travels around the country to peddle his art - "Where there's more people, there's more money," he says - and expands his skills as he goes.

He picked up spray painting from a fellow tattoo artist in Wisconsin about two years ago, he says.

The paintings made with cans of spray paint are far from the wide swaths of colors you'd expect. They're finely detailed renderings, often of imagined scenes from space.

"I make it look incredibly easy, but it takes a lot of practice," Bruner says. "I ruined 40 or 50 before I got my first good one. And you have to do it fast; it dries too fast."

It takes two to five minutes to complete a spray painting, he says.

The spray painting procedure draws a lot of attention at concerts and festivals, he says. "There's fire involved, and spray paint. I move quick, and there's loud music," he says.

A crowd guarantees quick sales.

"Sometimes I don't get it off the table before it's sold," he says.

Even outside the concerts, his spray painted pieces are incredibly popular.

"I can spray 40 pieces today, and they'd all be sold," he says.

Last month, he spent a week at the Gathering of the Juggalos in southern Illinois, an annual music and art festival founded by Insane Clown Posse; a Phish concert was also on his agenda.

Some of Bruner's most popular pieces are Star Wars scenes; paintings of political figures and rock stars - Bob Marley, Mr. T, Johnny Cash, Ron Paul, Edgar Allen Poe, Cheech and Chong.

"Hunter S. Thompson is a big seller; I can't keep enough of him," Bruner says.

Bruner encourages his 4-year-old twin daughters to express their creativity.

"They paint every single day," he says. "They paint with me when I paint."

When Bruner demonstrated his art at Pathfinder Kids Kampus, where his daughters attend classes, he wanted to show the kids that being an artist is a real profession.

"I would go anywhere and tell anybody, it doesn't have to be just a hobby," he says. "You can make a living at this.

"A lot of artists give up. You're going to live broke for years, but eventually you can make a living at it."

Complete caption: Local artist Travis Bruner shows one of his pieces, created with cans of spray paint, to (from left) Brayden Clabaugh, Nate Bowman and Zachary McGuire at Pathfinder Kids Kampus. Bruner visited the child care facility to show the children how he creates the paintings and helped them make their own paintings — minus the spray paint — to encourage them to get involved in the art world.