SAN ANTONIO – At one point, Colton Valentine got his kicks by using a can of spray paint to make his presence known.
The southern California native admits he once was a tagger, someone who illegally scrawled graffiti all over signs and walls.
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But he says after moving to Texas in 2015, he was convinced that he should use his natural artistic abilities in a different, more legitimate way.
“My father was really good at art and he didn’t do anything with it. So my grandma was, like, ‘Stop wasting your talent,”” he said.
Valentine decided to try his hand at painting murals.
While he still uses spray paint to make his mark all across the city, his work now is much more appreciated.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “You can’t just jump in and, like, think you know what you’re doing.”
While getting everything just right took a lot of practice, he says getting permission to display his work on the walls of businesses took a lot of persistence.
“I would ask them if I could paint murals on their walls and I think I got, like, 29 no’s,” Valentine said. “It’s crazy because now some of those same places that told me no have actually hit me up to do artwork.”
Some of his work is in especially high demand.
What have become iconic paintings of rappers Cardi B and the late Nipsey Hussle on a wall just north of downtown have attracted attention from around the globe.
Thanks to social media, the images on a building on San Pedro Avenue near Interstate 35 have gone viral on social media sites such as Instagram.
“Some people have come through and they’re, like, ‘Yo, I drove four hours just to come see this mural of Nipsy Hussle or Cardi B,’” he said.
The attention has come as a welcome surprise and a boost of confidence for Valentine.
A man who, just a few years ago, had no real plans for his future now can’t stop thinking of ways to make it better and brighter.