Words Kelsy Norman Photos Aaron Ellard
David Brunning, a man known by many an alias, has made his mark on the people of the City of Calgary and abroad. David, prolifically known as TheKidBelo, is one of Calgary’s finest graffiti/street artists not only in the world of his peers and tale-telling youth, but now more so in the world of fine art collectors and critics alike. We sit down with TheKidBelo and ask some good questions to which his responses seem to come naturally. We may just be catching Calgary’s Kid in the glory of his sold out show, Procession, but as you will see his success does not come easily or without cost.
Why is Calgary awesome?
Calgary is awesome because of the people. I love the mountains in the winter and the summers are beautiful, but it’s the people, for the most part, that are rad.
As a visual artist whose roots are planted in graffiti, how does Calgary’s graffiti/street art scene compare to some of the other major cities in Canada?
Calgary’s scene is small. It’s redundant. Calgary is clean and so is Vancouver (thanks Goodbye Graffiti), whereas Montreal and Toronto are much more crushed and full of murals and street art. It’s interesting to see what has happened to graffiti since the internet blew up and blogs/forums were created. Just like fashion, trends in graffiti are all over the place now and kids that are in it for a minute are thinking themselves more in the game due to the five minutes of fame they get in a dead city than those who actually built up the culture. Trends man, trends; yuck.
Do you still get up in Calgary, or is that just not possible as an artist of your popularity in this city without getting caught?
I would be noticed even under a different alias, you’re right. I don’t get up mainly because it’s been done. I’m 30 now and the spots are old. The mentality of bombers and vandals is different than mine. I’m technical. I’m precise. I piece. I took a different route early in the game. When I’m out of the country or in another city, I consider it and step it up sometimes, though destroying property ain’t my thing anymore.
A lot of people will recognize you as the giant portrait on the side of Art Central. What is that all about and why did you choose to paint that?
I didn’t paint that in fact. My brother Matthew rocked my face on that wall. I did everything else around it. It’s interesting, because back then my name was known to many, but not like today’s count. Matthew has painted me quite a bit. That piece went up after the show at AGC, which was a thorn in my side and a blessing as well. Art Central and Axis were great with us both and with the mural. We need more art on walls here.
You were voted Best Visual Artist for 2008 by FFWD Weekly. How have you benefited from that, and was there any backlash from the street art/graffiti community?
I have benefited quite a bit in regards to publicity and ability to voice myself, but with publicity and exposure come accessibility. Ultimately, jealousy and gossip from the community at large seem to come about and lay a film over the greatness of sharing this gift I have with the public. I look to what good has come from it, but since Calgary is quite a small town, many have their opinions on me and what I do. I just want to continue making art, teaching youth and making an impact while I’m here.
Who is your all time favourite Calgary artist and why?
Favourites are abundant. I love seeing the work of my brother Matthew Brunning, Carl White, Cody Swinkels, Darcy Obokata and many others. A lot of the guys I brought up are making great impressions now, like Jaryd Adair and Steve Meldrum, as well as Kai Boettcher and the boys at L&S.
I always see you out and about, so you must have some favourite restaurants, stores, and coffee shops in this city. Any recommendations?
I recommend getting on your feet Calgary and out of the suburbs! The community down here in the Beltline is great and so I see Caffe Beano daily as well as the The Source on 17th to say what’s up to the crew there. I’m at the store, The Gallery, everyday with Aaron and the crew and pop into many places along the way. You’re right, Kelsy, I am out and about a lot. Eat at The Coup and Golden Bell for sure!
When you are not painting and creating, what are you up to?
Pure YOGA! No, actually, I am helping out at The Gallery or networking in some way while not creating. I tend to dream and lot and also love to be thinking of new things all the time. Truth be told, Call of Duty 4 is rad to play and films are great to watch. In the summer, it’s the weather and a few road trips that keep me busy and in the winter, it’s snowboarding a the Shine and dreaming of Cali that keep my hours clocked.
What’s going on with you and your art lately, and where can people check out some of your stuff?
My show, Procession, is up until June 24th at The Gallery on 17th Ave. Go see this stuff in person! Also, people can always view my work via thekidbelo.com as well as check out The Ginger Group Hair Salon for pieces up there. I tend to like the people there and the brick walls so I often have work up in the salon!
There are never any final words until we pass on, then it’s too late to say anything! I am just glad to do what I do and be who I am. Thank you for the support and the love and the hate, as it all adds to my experience and my life. Thanks for the interview bro, appreciated! I am hoping for a great showcase during The Calgary Stampede with some of my younger homies helping me out and of course my show with Tim Okamura in Toronto this October 9th and Show & Tell Gallery. CIA baby! CIA.