Meet Toby Armstrong, the UMass spray paint magician

If you haven’t seen this kid’s art work on the Central graffiti wall, you need to

Toby Armstrong is the man behind the mural, and he can make magic with a spray paint can.

Toby’s first ever public spray mural on campus, which took him 2 1/2 hours to complete. “It’s a person’s head coming apart and dissolving into it’s surroundings. I love exploring surrealism and seeing how the human body connects a lot to the natural world.”

Toby is a junior at UMass, with both a passion for the environment and making spray paint art.

“I’m doing a BDIC for Sustainable Environmental Policy. I’m really interested in the intersection between environmental science, political science and the economy. I like looking at the big picture and thinking. I want to work with systems,” he said.

What does he do?

Toby makes art: all by hand, all from scratch, and it takes him no time at all.

“Art has been very personal for me,” he said. “I like to visualize abstract concepts, and make them into something amazing.”

“Like, you can be a realist and make a tree look like a tree, but a river in space? That’s something I can always try to build and create something new. It’s out of this world and becomes dreamlike.”

When Toby’s home and not being eaten by essays, he makes a painting a night. It takes him about 15 minutes to complete one.

Hard to believe, right?

How does he do it?

“With spray paint, you layer the paint and can kinda just move it and manipulate it. You make the paint work for you,” said Toby.

“You can press a piece of cardboard on the wet paint and move it around to make it look like waves. And I can add a ton of texture; it gets addicting.”

Watch Toby make a dope painting in 5 minutes:


Why does he do it? How’d he get into this?

Until recently, art was never a profession for Toby.

“I’ve never been conscious of my talent until I came to college, to be honest. I just did it for fun.”

Toby said that his mom really inspired his artistic natureĀ at a young age. He did a lot of pencil and pen sketching from about age two to 16.

“I started drawing just like typical adolescent boy shit – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. Like epic battle scene things. Then I saw a YouTube video of some guy making spray paint art in 30 seconds. I needed to try doing that,” he said.

“I got some paint and went in my basement to try doing what Brandon McConnell did. It sucked. Then a month later I tried again, then again, then watched more videos to improve and learn, then tried again. And I’ve been making spray space painting’s for 3 years now.”

The magician doing his thing

Toby is really, really good at what he does. And in impressively little time.

“I think it’s just because I do it legit ALL the time. Like I doodle like no other. I gain a ton of practice.”

What does he do with it all?

You can find Toby doing public street performances around campus, at local festivals, and our favorite educational gathering, Extravaganja.

“Last year at Extravaganja I was making some girl a painting and she turns to her friend and whispers, ‘OMG do you think he’s autistic?’ By far the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. She was super baked, but hey, she thought my art was that crazy good that I must’ve been handicapped in other areas.”

Toby sells his art when making it on the street, and he can whip one up in about 10 minutes.

“It’s been my prime source of income for the past few years. I do pretty well, its surprising.”

Toby street performing at a local festival

And they’re made personally.

“My first time I did public painting I was making them on Davis Square in Cambridge, and the cops shut me down because of the fumes. Now I get away with it. I’m from Lexington so I do it a lot there.”

Toby teaches Paint Night in Arlington, touching on spray paint methods and techniques.

He is also at your service. He’s painting someone’s basement next week, and he’s down to do yours (but make sure to give this man some dough).

Anything else?

Toby is incredibly friendly, and you can check out his work on Facebook or on campus. You might witness him live and in person at work.

“Take a try at art,” says Toby. “You aren’t ‘born with it’. That just justifies not trying. You should’t be afraid to practice and try something you might love”.

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