The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

After eight years of constant partying and struggling with addiction, local graffiti artist David Brunning is taking his art to new heights working as an artist full-time. 

Brunning was born in Saskatchewan in the early 1980’s and moved to Edmonton to join the skateboard and hip-hop scene. Brunning’s past looked more like the life of a rock star then a struggling artist filling his time with parties, alcohol and drugs.

“When I was high, it was insane... I was just different,” recounts Brunning. “It was just nights in here [his art studio], you know. Alcohol and drugs and cigarettes; loud music, four in the morning, seven in the morning, crazy paintings and prepping for shows and doing all sorts of things. You're just wired.”

This lifestyle would later catch up to him and provide Brunning with the life-changing realization that not only saved his career as an artist, but his life.

In December of 2010, he woke up and realized partying was one of his main hobbies — one he was very good at. Realizing this could lead him into trouble he decided he needed to get clean, reconnect with himself and began to invest in new hobbies such as his artwork.

“It was like this moment of grace where I literally was just like, God just tapping me on the shoulder and being like, ‘Dude!’ And I'm like, ‘What? I'm listening.’ And he's like, ‘You're done!’ I was like, ‘Okay, what do I do? What do I gotta do?’”

Brunning started out 12 years ago with traditional graffiti-tagging and evolved his art to more contemporary canvas-graffiti work. He took various retail and management jobs to get by, and to keep up with his artwork.

After realizing art was his calling, Brunning threw everything he had into it, but he didn't see success right away.

Brunning’s career creating art professionally has had its hardships and successes. He says it would be harmful to tell anyone there aren’t any “lows” when it comes to creating art as a full time profession. Brunning attributes his success through his hard times to both his friendships and current sobriety.

“I just think he got more confident and kind of grounded in who he was as an artist,” said Nii Gyamfi, a long time friend and fellow patron on Brunning’s art. “You know, when you decided to make a go of it, it's definitely bold but I would say that he's always got a gift.”

“I’ve seen his artwork change from classic graphic art to more like, paintings and stuff,  eventually changing into this expression abstract graffiti,” said Arron Ellard, another long-time friend of Brunning’s and art exhibitor.

BrunningDavid Brunning marveling at the possibilities of a blank canvas.  Photo by Isaiah Lindo.

Brunning has seen so much success that one of his larger paintings can sell for $8,000 or more. Along with these successes he has reached the point of rediscovering himself through his art and life experiences.

“I am very blessed to be able to do what I do, 100 per cent. I am rich beyond bills, I am so stacked with a blessed life in the sense that I get to struggle and succeed through something I'm passionate about. That's powerful, that’s rare,”said Brunning.

Now that Brunning has found success, he turns his attention to inspiring and encouraging other artists. He hopes to affect change in other people through the retelling of his life story and the choices he’s made.

“I think the right choice has to happen over and over again. You really need perseverance. You need resilience. There's a lot of curveballs — everything from economies crashing, to your work being hot for a moment and then not, to amazing success where everyone wants a piece of you and then all of a sudden they don’t.”

Looking to the future, Brunning hopes to see more success in not only himself, but the people he surrounds himself with, and hopes his influence can reach people beyond his art.

“I get people that are like: ‘Hey man, do you remember me from so and so?’ Or, ‘Hey, we got you to paint my son's room 16 years ago and now he's an artist.’ Like that to me blows me away,” says Brunning. “Or when you tell your story of getting sober and...you inspire [someone]. That to me is the greater achievement — if I could successfully continue to live by the grace I've been afforded to influence people and to inspire people.”

Editor: Tatianna Ducklow | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.