Bryan Deese, 44, got into graffiti through some kids in a summer school class at Hillsboro High School when he was 16. He had goofed off a little bit with spray paint in the garage on some skateboard ramps, but that summer he went out by himself to prove to these other kids that he could.
And he did, painting a Cap’n Crunch head near Nolensville Pike, near the zoo.
“Coming from Nashville, I had always been influenced early on by artists like Red Grooms and Myles Maillie and Norris Hall,” Deese says. “They painted really big and kind of cartoonish and fun, with bright colors and a black outline. So I’d already been attracted to that. And graffiti was a youth art movement. It had all those same elements, with a little bit of fun and adventure along with it, out in the streets. And as a young kid, that’s what you’re looking to do, just go exploring and have fun.”
His mom found out about his after-school art habit when someone from Davis-Kidd Booksellers called the house to let him know a book about graffiti he had ordered arrived, and she answered the phone. Then a camera store displayed photos of a retaining wall he painted by the high school to show off five types of film you could use.
“My mom saw that and got a kick out of that,” he says. “She was always pretty supportive of whatever I got into.”
Deese had always associated the word “starving” with artist, so he went down the graphic design route — though he never stopped painting murals with spray paint. But the demand for what he does on a business level picked up and about five years ago, and he transitioned to art full time.