Graffiti artist Adam Lewis stands in front of one of his works of art on the wall of the Campbell River Bowling Centre with two samples of his canvas paintings. All three pieces depict his signature work – funky scripts.

It’s not tagging, it’s art

Campbell River's Adam Lewis wants the city to provide a graffiti space, preferably at Nunns Creek Park

Adam Lewis is breaking down barriers and trying to shed some positive light on what is often perceived as a negative.

Lewis is a graffiti artist who stays true to his work. He only paints legally and has even been commissioned by a few local groups to paint the walls of their buildings.

Lewis’ work can be seen on the side of the Campbell River Bowling Centre, on the wall of Swicked Cycles, and on the sidel of the Campbell River Youth Soccer Association’s club house on Merecroft Road.

The soccer association was so impressed with Lewis’ work that they’ve adopted the logo he used on the mural onto the association’s business cards.

“I just want to shed some light that there is a positive side to this type of art,” Lewis said. “I only paint legally, I don’t tag. I’m interested in building myself as an artist and doing legal, paid graffiti.”

Lewis’ repertoire also includes the famous “Nerv” scrawl on the graffiti wall at the Nunns Creek skateboard park. It’s the only spot, other than the skatepark on Quadra Island, that is legal on the North Island for graffiti artists to show their work.

Lewis said it’s unfortunate there are such limited opportunities because he believes if the stigma around graffiti were erased and youth were given a spot to paint, it may deter the work of taggers.

“I do feel if Campbell River erected a legal wall, it would definitely slow down the problems with tagging,” Lewis said. “I think Nunns Creek would be a great place to erect it. It’s central. I think the kids tagging right now are young, they don’t have a car, so I think if it was far away it wouldn’t work as well. It would be a place where everybody is welcome, there’s no hate or racism.”

Lewis, who has been a graffiti artist since the age of 15, credits the skatepark on Quadra Island where he grew up, and a well-know graffiti artist who painted there, as his inspiration.

“I consider myself a semi-professional and I developed my entire skill set at the Quadra skatepark and this tiny wall (at the Nunns Creek skatepark) and I’ve broken down barriers,” Lewis said. “I’ve been able to go off and be commissioned to paint murals for people even though, at this time in Campbell River, it’s still considered a negative art form. I’m trying to make it possible for people. I think if there’s a greater acceptance of that in this town, it will give the youth a more positive outlet to express themselves.”

And while Lewis got his start in graffiti, he also does canvas paintings. Several of his pieces were on display at this year’s River City Arts Festival and he did a live installation with spray paint. His work earned him this year’s People’s Choice Award.

His work is becoming so popular that he receives requests from paying customers for his canvas paintings.

Lately, he has had several orders for prints of his customer’s children’s names.

“I really like fonts and funky script,” Lewis said. “I like to get really colourful.”

When he was a student at Carihi, he was asked to paint a mural in the school’s courtyard and he chose a piece with the word “respect’ scrawled across the wall, with First Nations designs incorporated into the art.

Lewis’ work can also be found at skateparks in Victoria, Parksville and Courtenay – some of the few places where graffiti is legal.

“I can’t stress enough I think they need a legal space (in Campbell River) for graffiti, I think it would slow down the sprawl of taggers,” Lewis said.

In the meantime, he hopes to take his message to the youth who are tagging that there are better ways of getting their art work out to the public.

Lewis is currently in discussions to do an outreach program, speaking to high school students in Comox about graffiti art and his experience with an art form that has given him so much.