On a canvas stapled to a six-foot plywood barricade outside Malvern Collegiate, Mediah, a.k.a. Toronto street artist Evond Blake, “cuts” a thin black line.
After 18 years of handling aerosols, Mediah can make spray paint look sharp as brush strokes. Pressing the canvas flat with his free hand, he overlaps the edge of the black paint with strokes of grey, sharpening it layer by layer.
On a canvas nearby, students Keelan McManus and Colin Laplante say they are learning just how hard that is to do.
Both take a senior art class, but the Groove & Graffiti workshop held at Malvern last Wednesday was the first time either had tried aerosols.
“It’s a tricky medium to work with, no doubt about it,” says Dragan Grubesic, a Danforth and OCAD graduate who co-founded the annual workshop 10 years ago.
“Kids see stuff on the street and go, ‘Whoah, that’s cool,’” he said. “But when you hold a can in your hand and try and do it you realize there’s a whole lot of technique and experience that goes into creating something like this.”
Inspired by his experience of organizing and painting graffiti murals in the hallways at Danforth, Grubesic started the workshop to link students with professionals whose commissioned works and quality street graffiti shows what a positive, public art form it can be.
Sponsored by the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, the workshop carries through to a June 29 exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square, where some of the students’ best works will be shown alongside pieces by Mediah and other pros.
“We’ve become a staple in a lot of the art departments, and the kids are always interested so it’s been a really positive thing,” said Grubesic.
Speaking over hip hop beats from a DJ booth set up on site and the hiss and rattle of a dozen aerosol cans, Grubesic pauses at less familiar and more threatening sound—thunder.
“We’ve got five minutes before it rains,” said Mediah.
But before he can pack up, a student comes by with a question: “What’s the thinnest possible cap you can use?”
Forgetting the rain a minute, Mediah leaves his canvas to teach some of aersol painting’s finest points.