By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd
Whether he’s tagging and painting over pieces at Graffiti Bridge or designing massive, commissioned murals, Patrick (Patty) Quintanilla, 29, can usually be spotted around Pensacola with a can of spray paint in his hand. As a self-taught graffiti artist and muralist, he started out tagging trains and abandoned warehouses in his teens. Once Quintanilla moved to Pensacola four years ago, he started using the Graffiti Bridge as his personal sketch pad, began working as a professional mural artist and joined DVK, a worldwide graffiti group, which encouraged him to improve his craft. His designs combine illustrative realism and abstract contemporary art, often featuring detailed animals and sea creatures. You can check out his work on Instagram @pattysauces or Facebook @pattysart.
Graffiti art has a temporary quality to it as its always being covered up and tagged over. Do you find that temporary canvas inspiring, and if so, what draws you back to painting graffiti pieces?
It depends. If you mention graffiti around here, 98 percent of people think of Graffiti Bridge. And stuff there gets tagged over and covered over, sometimes within hours. But there’s a certain etiquette in the culture of graffiti. There’s an unspoken rule that you don’t go over a piece unless you’re going to do an equally good piece. But legal spots have always been kind of an abnormality to that aspect of graffiti. I feel like whatever you call it—public art, street art, graffiti, mural— it’s one of the most influential forms of art because of its accessibility to individuals who normally wouldn’t be interested in going to galleries or art museums. It’s the community aspect that keeps me coming back.
How do you approach the work you do on Graffiti Bridge versus a commissioned mural?
The work I do at Graffiti Bridge differs from a commission because there isn’t any pressure since I know that whatever I paint will be gone in a day or two. The bridge is essentially the sketch pad I need to experiment and practice my craft, whereas commissions are entirely different, because you’re going in knowing they’re expecting a certain quality of product. So, commissions are where I apply what I’ve learned playing around at the bridge. Commissions are fun because you get to mesh your artistic imagination with the clientele vision, and the result is a collaborative, unique piece of art.
When you’re not tackling a massive wall, you also create and sell acrylic and spray paint canvases. What is it about spray paint that you find appealing even in small applications?
Whenever I paint a mural, it’s so big that when you look at it as a whole, it looks sharp and detailed, but if you get right up to the wall, you’ll see variations in the lines and you’ll notice the splatters and the drips. That’s why I love to apply spray paint to smaller canvases so that splatter is right in your face. It gives the art a certain rawness. Also, spray paint in the fine art world is such a recent thing. It’s always been counterculture and viewed as less important than artwork done with oils or acrylics. I think that’s changing now but, aerosol paint doesn’t have that long traditional history with greats like Michelangelo or Picasso. There are no rules on how to practice it, so it’s freeing for me. Just make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area when spraying your canvas.
Your murals combine bright saturated colors and layers of shading and detail work. What’s that process like for you?
I don’t use projectors to do my murals. As far as a graph goes, I’ll do a squiggle graph occasionally. But apart from that, everything goes on free hand. I prefer the freedom of not following a map of sorts. For commissions, I will provide them with a rough concept sketch. As far as signatures that stand out for me, it’s the detail I put into the textures and the eyes. I usually paint animals because that’s how I started out drawing. Whenever I paint an animal or a person, I always start with the eyes, because I feel like the eyes set the mood for the whole design.
Hidden between murals and graffiti work on your IG are these beautiful abstract inkblot images that you posted in 2020 and captioned as a form of artistic therapy. Can you tell me a little about those?
Those are really personal to me. I had a mural lined up in London and all kind of things scheduled, then COVID-19 derailed everything. I withdrew into a deep depression and needed to manage that negative energy. I went out and bought two sketchbooks, went into my room and started punching and crying, throwing black ink all over these pages. Then the next day and every day after that for a year, I would open that book, look at this messy ink blob and I would use white-out and red spray paint to bring out what I saw in that blob. I created more than 300 of them but deleted most of them off my Instagram. They’re completely different from my usual material, but they really saved me from that despair.