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Not a lot of professional artists have the chops to paint a gallery-ready piece on the afternoon before it is hung, but such is the medium of street art.

Gallery One Visual Arts Center put up its current exhibit, “The Writings on the Wall,” just in time for the First Friday Art Walk earlier in the month. Curator and fellow street artist Jason Clifton put out the call to Northwest artists he wanted to feature in the downtown Ellensburg gallery, including a call over to the Yakama Reservation.

He happened to catch Trevor Braden, who paints under the street name TABS, between projects.

“I’d known Jason from a previous show. He said he wanted to use my work on the mezzanine in a premium spot. I told him I didn’t have anything ready. He said he had a sheet of plywood at his house,” said the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal member, who graduated from Toppenish High School in 2005.

“I came over and painted it that afternoon at Jason’s house. That’s the beauty of street art, it’s made to come together fast.”

The 4x8-foot spray paint piece of a turkey looks down over the gallery displaying various artists known by street names like Voxx Romana, Charmswon or CCStencil.

“These are all street artists from around the Northwest,” said Clifton, who paints under the name Heed the Pale Raven. “These are people I know from my own street art work.

“Everything on display is spray-paint oriented. A portion is on the stenciling side. The graffiti art is all done free hand. It’s considered new contemporary art and a legitimate art form. It’s cool people are actually making a living off of it.”

Braden’s been honing his craft 24 years now, picking up the spray can when he was 10. He learned a bit from his sister Klarissa Sherwood, who’s five years older. But for the most part, his inspiration comes from the street artists in New York or Los Angeles, he said.

“I started seeing more art in hip hop magazines that showed a lot more intricate work than what I’ve seen around here. They had a lot more character work, portraits and detail,” TABS said. “I’d look in ‘The Source’ magazine and took influence from that.”

He had a board in his backyard that he painted on, developing his technique. He said he doesn’t have any one particular style or favorite subject matter. He’s painted anything from tribal visions to cartoon characters to Kobe Bryant, who’s become more in demand since his passing.

The now 34-year-old still has a day job, but people have hired him to paint bedrooms, business fronts, mural work around Toppenish. One of his featured works is on the Yakamart in Toppenish.

But having a prominent piece featured in the Gallery One Visual Art Center gives a certain credibility to the medium.

“The piece in the Gallery One is a turkey that I visualized and did free hand,” TABS said. “I think it’s important to have work there, to reach a different audiences, people looking for something different.

“It broadens the graffiti medium. There is a skill to it. There are different types of graffiti from stencil work to free hand. I think Jason wants to define the art in the area, which is what I’m trying to do in my area. I’ve done quite a bit of murals here and now have the piece in the gallery in Ellensburg.”

He doesn’t stay with any one style for any length of time, ever evolving, ever changing it up to find different ways to take it to the next level. What he painted as a 10 year old, changed throughout high school. Now as a young man pushing 35, he has an even broader understanding.

Nothing changes if nothing changes and the shapes of things to come are riding on the wind. His work goes far beyond the wall and the search for something better continues daily.

The spray can is taking him places he never dreamed possible, like the Gallery One Visual Center in historical downtown Ellensburg.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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