Self-described as an adhesive/aerosol artist — also known as a sticker artist — Tyler Proulx is using his platform of teaching at D’Arcy McGee High School to change the way students think of academics.
Street art — namely, spray-painted graffiti on building walls, train cars, and traffic signs — has been a popular, often rebellious, DIY tradition in urban centers since the 1960s.
The sticker scene, in particular, founded by Obey creator Sheperd Fairey, was mostly ignored by law enforcement and has been nourished by other local taggers, wheat-pasters and sticker bombers. That includes Proulx, known as Trp613, one of Ottawa-Gatineau’s adhesive illustrators.
“A lot of times you don’t notice [the stickers],” said Proulx. “It’s one of those things where they’re around but you don’t necessarily notice it, so it’s kind of like a subversive art form.”
Proulx has always been a graffiti artist — long before he was a teacher, glassblower, or turned to the art form of stickers a few years back. Spray-painting in his younger days is what drew his creative side out.
Where Proulx differs from the traditional graffiti artists, is that he does not wish to make mountains of money if it means having to give up teaching. “Teaching is my dream job,” he said. “I would never really want to make money off of it, don’t get me wrong money is nice, but I love teaching kids more.”
Proulx — when not teaching art, math, science or woodshop — can be found in the studio attached to his sticker bombed classroom, trying to expand his sticker army even further.
While he didn’t graduate high school in a “traditional” way, Proulx has been determined to show his students that despite the pressure from society, you don’t need to give up your creative individuality just because some don’t understand.
He welcomes all to his classroom by giving students a safe space to go. The simple task of playing a movie at lunch, offering Xbox One privileges to those finished their work, and the freedom to create whatever art they want — from spray painting to melting crayons — is what creates a place where students become more encouraged to learn.
Walking through the hallways, there is a vast contrast to the “typical” high-school. By adding even the smallest dab of colour where blank walls usually stand, it adds a vibrant splash of life that makes everything seem brighter.
Although decorating classrooms and school halls are unconventional for most sticker artists, Proulx often contributes to one of the most common forms of collaborations — sharing the space on a sticker and creating a chain of art. For example, someone will draw an original illustration. Then, the next artist will add his work onto the sticker.
Another collaborative aspect of the sticker art world is trading.
“Trading is a big part of the sticker community,” says Proulx. “It’s a way for other people to get your stickers up in a place that you otherwise wouldn’t go. And then, you place some of theirs around and take pictures for them.”
Proulx has traded stickers with artists as far away as Japan, Austraila, and Germany. It’s a way to create worldwide coverage among the niche arts community.
Some people apply them to their cars, while some bars feature them as a form of decoration. The stickers often get ripped or washed away, others remain for months, even years, to be seen by locals and tourists alike.
The unconventional artist will be hosting an art show all of April at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre in Westboro.
“I don’t know if I’ll sell anything, but I don’t care,” said Proulx. Just having the satisfaction of having people see his work is what gives him the motivation he needs to continue his art.