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An Interview with Artist Kyle Brooks

Oakland Museum Store manager Tim Wright interviewed Kyle Brooks, a.k.a. Black Cat Tips via email about his inspiration and influences. Here’s what Kyle had to say.

Want more Black Cat Tips? Join us online Saturday, February 20 at 3 p.m. for a free, fun and informative chat with local artist Kyle Brooks, a.k.a. Black Cat Tips, as he discusses his first book, Smile A While. Register here.

Black Cat Tips is well-known and loved here in Atlanta. As a working artist, what do you most appreciate about our city and the metro area?

I have grown up here all my life near the city … in and out of the city … and I never saw it as a place to make art until about 15 years ago … and then my perspective changed. Atlanta has been very welcoming to me … and where I lived in east Atlanta was an area where I could do my thing and experiment with my art and the public. See what worked. See what did not do as well. See how people reacted. Somehow I carved out a name for myself and I have created a little following of people that support me and tell others about what I do. I can’t complain about that too much can I?

Given the narrative aspects of many of your paintings, what does storytelling mean to you?

A lot of times when I start a painting I don’t know exactly where I’m going. I have a little plan that very often times I quickly lose and go off in a new direction. I like to try to show multiple lines of thought within a painting … such as a scene within a scene. I often refer to it as looking at dreams. Dreams and memories and stories we recall later. I’m always am having a story in my brain or an idea I wanna tell about … something I saw that was funny. I like to retell those in my way. I think anything you do is translating a story. A story through your art or images or your words … or all three. A story retold through your persona and your outlook on life around you. Sharing ideas from your brain to other people’s thoughts.

As a self-described “street folk artist,” what or who has influenced your work?

The term street folk art came to me because people said my art was like folk art, but then I was putting art out on telephone poles and trees and old signs. I was putting art out in the streets … creating art on the streets. So I saw it as a mix between folk art and street art. I wasn’t the tough guy with spray paint doing street art, nor was I a pure folk artist either. The ideas I had in the neighborhoods that I was living in lent themselves to street folk art. Reused. Recycled. Not refined. Not always asked for. I think the grungy neighborhoods with building materials by the road … doors and strips of wood. Old tires and kitchen sinks. Areas that weren’t kept up so nice allowed me to find places and materials to create art out of … or to leave art installations for other people to encounter. I kind of looked for opportunities in the gray areas, as I was told it was called … all the places that people might not expect to find something funny or happy or odd. Some of the things that inspire my street folk art are old quirky hand-painted signs, yard sale signs, mom and pop shop signs, and handmade signs in rundown areas. And then classic folky art made by untrained beautiful souls with brushes and paint and a lack of self criticism.

Kyle’s bio: A BlackCatTips is a painter and muralist. A BlackCatTips is a poet and a thinker— a teller of tales. A BlackCatTips is Kyle Brooks, a streetfolk artist from way down in the American South. In addition to his studio and mural work, Brooks creates street poems and whimsical roadside art installations. With his brush, bright colors and a few found materials, he paints the world happy. Brooks lives in Arabia Mountain, Georgia with his nice lady wife and two little babies. He also has a pet chicken and enjoys growing orchids. One day he hopes to live in a biscuit house.

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