Former graffiti artist restores city architecture with faux paint technique

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Zack Bird is not anti-graffiti. He is anti-tasteless graffiti.

A lifelong Philadelphia resident, Bird grew up in the art community and formerly tagged graffiti himself. He has since "graduated" from that style of self-expression, using his talents for a greater purpose.

Using faux finishing techniques, he illustrates natural architecture back to life. He first creates a custom mixture of exterior-grade flat paints to match the shade of the surface. Then, he adds complementary hues to shape the texture in a way that mimics the original material.

"Disappears like magic," he said.

Every stroke of his brush effectively "erases" unsightly graffiti tags, which Bird likens more to vandalism in verdant Philadelphia parks.

"It's the one area that we are blessed with that we can step only momentarily out of the city and have a beautiful, bucolic respite from all the city has to offer," he said.

He specifically targets walls, boulders, and bridge abutments along the Wissahickon Creek, Kelly Drive and Martin Luther King Drive to name a few.

"This is the five percent of the city that you don't put graffiti on," he said.

Bird, the head artist of Bird Studio in Philadelphia, started this project about five years ago. However, after the birth of his first child, he put the mission on hiatus. When the COVID-19 outbreak provided him with a little extra time, he geared up and hit the road again.

A graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Bird encourages young graffiti artists to develop their craft with respect instead of hitting spots with historical and recreational value.

"Art is humbly offered to the viewer, not stolen," he said, referring to the intentions behind painting a wall for promotional purposes.

Bird and his team are energetic and looking for support. You can learn more about the "Wissahickon Drives Beautification Project" on GoFundMe.

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