- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

DALLAS (AP) - When Jerod “DTOX” Davies looks at a bare wall in Deep Ellum, the veteran graffiti artist doesn’t see brick and mortar in an aging business district. He sees a blank canvas in an outdoor art gallery, screaming to be filled with mammoth roses, staring eyeballs and star-spangled galaxies.

The 34-year-old self-taught painter travels the country for his art these days, but “part of my heart’s in Deep Ellum,” he said. “I like to express myself. This is a great place to express yourself.”

To help others see the Deep Ellum “spray ground” as he does, Davies has begun offering graffiti tours, explaining the technique and terminology of “aerosol art.”

Through websites such as groupon.com and sidetour.com, clients pay $40 for an 80-minute guided trek to view graffiti art in Deep Ellum, followed by an hour and 40 minutes of stenciling instruction in his studio near Fair Park, where Davies lives.

Davies estimates about 18 large works in the area are his - all legal, he added.

As a kid, growing up in Oak Cliff and DeSoto, Davies was “always that guy drawing low riders and cartoons for extra pizza lunch money. I was that guy drawing instead of doing homework,” he said.

He turned to street art when he was 15, “tagging” buildings with his designs without permission, but “I’ve been a legal artist for over 10 years,” he told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1uAGO8u ).

Still, he can decipher today’s tagger’s messages easily: “The top name is usually the name of the person who’s writing it,” he said, looking at a tag in Deep Ellum. “The bottom name is a shout out.”

A number might indicate a latitude reading to indicate where the tagger is from, while arrows point the viewer back to the artist’s name.

Davies’ most recent outdoor project was commissioned by an event promoter on the side of the Wits End bar.

Joe Cuesta said he hired Davies because “he’s really versatile.”

“For example, where he’s working now, the wall that I got him to paint, he basically made it look like it was four different people that worked on it, but it really was just him. He just switched up the styles and the process.”

When the bar owner asked Cuesta what Davies would paint, the promoter suggested, “Just let him go. You’re going to get the best work out of him when you let him go.”

Officials at the Dallas Museum of Art took the same approach when they hired Davies three years ago to create a backdrop for the prestigious Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit.

“We essentially gave him free rein,” said Joni Wilson-Bigornia, exhibitions manager for the museum. Officials, including Gaultier, were pleased with the result, she said.

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