While reminiscing about his childhood, Pablo Picasso once recalled the encouraging words of his mother. Prior to his taking art up as a serious pursuit, she confidently told her son, if he became a soldier, he would rise to the rank of general; join the priesthood, and she was positive he would be ordained pope.
As if to prove his mother correct, the great artist mused, “Instead I became a painter and I wound up as Picasso.”
Maternal encouragement can go a long way in ensuring an artist’s success. All the better if you’re the creative type whose mother happens to be a successful commercial artist herself.
Though he first picked up an aerosol can in 1992, veteran graff writer Sight attributes his early immersion into the arts to his mother, a commercial artist who worked from a home studio during his childhood.
Reflecting on those days, he recalls, “I was always drawing from an early age and loved comic books and drew cartoons.”
Having a talented, supportive parent only goes so far in explaining Sight’s abilities with a Krylon can—he identifies skateboarding as a “ gateway drug,” which further encouraged him into graffiti. But Sight would be remiss if he failed to give props to the fellow writers who were influential to him as he was developing his skills. Extolling the virtue of peer support, he believes like-minded writers, “shaped my approach and mentality [to the craft].”
Then there was a book he nicked from his art teacher’s desk. It wasn’t just any book, either. While still an impressionable junior high student, Sight stole a copy of Spraycan Art, the seminal text on graffiti of the day.
Its contents proved mesmerizing. “My mind was blown. I ended up copying stuff until I felt I could do pieces of my own.”
Upon graduation, Sight applied to art college. As often is the experience of graff writers, even with his talent, entry was denied. According to the admissions department, his portfolio was too thin. At the time, he admits his studio work was sparse.
Consider his predicament: Sight did actually have a trove of works. It’s just that they were displayed in back alleys and under bridges; fitting any of them into a 32×50-inch leather portfolio would prove impossible.
“I was rejected flat out.”
How many graffiti artists have been denied a post secondary education on account of traditional requirements such as these? Perhaps a walking tour of the city should be mandated for art school admissions staff.
The sting of rejection redoubled his passion for graffiti, fueling an intense, “fuck them” attitude. Disappointment was short lived, however, and Sight set out on his own creative path.
“I never looked back and have no regrets to this day.”
This positive outlook reaped rewards; Sight’s pieces have earned him a global reputation. They’ve also garnered him a diverse following. Sight says, “I love the crazy friends I’ve made [through] graffiti. [They range] from scumbags to family men.”
Today, Sight earns a stable income through commissioned graffiti art. A bonus of being hired to put up legal murals is that extra materials are his to use for personal works. Samples of his pieces can be seen around Kensington Market, in Queen Street West alleyways, along various GO routes, and on hundreds of freights throughout North America.
Sight concedes that the younger version of himself was a vandal. Where he once relished in the rush accompanying the “riskier and crazier placement” of his pieces, now in his mid-thirties, that’s changed.
“Not to say that everything I do [presently] is legitimate and sanctioned, but I like to relax stress free when I paint. I channel more of the artist than the destroyer these days.”
A tactile individual, Sight’s artistic repertoire continues to expand. Working with acrylics on canvas, he dabbles in oils and soon plans to venture into sculpting.
Half a lifetime has passed since Sight’s boyhood days, spent spread out on the floor of his mother’s studio, sketching, colouring, and drawing—now he ranks tops in the graff community, no diploma required.
Torontoist is profiling the city’s graffiti artists, uncovering their best work and finding out what makes them tick. Are you a graff artist or do you know one who’s interested in being profiled? Email us.