You see art come and go under the bridge by the Skatepark on the Atlanta BeltLine. Sometimes, I am fortunate to catch an artist at work.
Now there's a class that teaches you how to be one of those artists, Graffiti Class ATL.
On Saturday, I went out to meet the teacher, Malcolm Turpin, and watch his "students" at work under the John Lewis Freedom Parkway bridge. There was a lot going on around them. It was a nice day, and scores of people walked, jogged, biked and scootered by. Under the bridge, a drummer named Kermit beat out his rhythms, only to be succeeded by a trio of more drummers. In a photo shoot behind the bridge, orange and purple smoke bombs were set off, leaving a strong odor and sending clouds of colored smoke into nearby Inman Park.
The artists were learning in front of an audience, as people stopped to watch or capture it on their phones.
Filip Spiridonov was in town for three days from San Francisco. He had taken a bicycle tour of the BeltLine that morning, and was impressed by the art. He found the graffiti class online and came back to learn.
He picked up a can of yellow spray paint and formed a yellow football. It was only the head of the character taking shape, but people passing by recognized it instantly.
“That’s Stewie,” one person after another remarked. It was in fact Stewie from the show “Family Guy.”
Jen Nguyen and Juan Roach were there on a "surprise date" that she booked. They took turns painting Pickle Rick and Morty from the Adult Swim TV show, glancing at images on their phones for accuracy.
Cori Skinner and Lenor Bromberg left their spouses at home for a “girls’ date.” They tagged the bridge with their initials, Lenor choosing purple, yellow and blue.
She also painted a purple frog from an image on her phone.
“That looks awesome!” Cori told her.
“Purple is my favorite color, and I’m a February birthday,” Lenor says.
As they created more complex drawings, Malcolm gave the class tips for using spray paint. He showed them how to create bold thick lines without the trademark faded edge left by spray paint. “Spray as little as possible as fast as possible,” he told Filip.
To demonstrate how to paint lines, Malcolm replicated a cactus from a drawing he had made.
Malcolm is an encouraging teacher, emphasizing creativity over perfection. He has been teaching this class for nearly a year, and has been spray painting for five years. He has a background in graphic design and got his start painting on walls at parties – walls with art already on them. Outside, he paints mostly in the Krog Street Tunnel, and under the Freedom Parkway bridge, he says.
If you are an artist or aspiring artist, and want to learn how to create street art, I recommend signing up for his class.
While the students created their designs, a few feet away, a graffiti artist was touching up a mural he had painted that morning. Armondo Monoletti (@ape_inc) put up this beautiful painting. "This is me getting my art out there," he says. "This is my therapy."
That night, it was tagged, but he came back the next day and repainted it.
Within a day, Stewie and the other art from the class was mostly painted over.
Such is the nature of street art on the Atlanta BeltLine. See it before it's gone. Create it before it's gone.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: email@example.com. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.
Note: We have paused our tours during the pandemic, but hope to ramp up again in 2021, as soon as it’s safe.