- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Ballerinas, belly dancers and bears.

Those were among the ideas scribbled out by first-graders with a flurry of crayons at Rozet Elementary School recently.

Gillette native and resident artist Patrick McGirr was conducting the organized chaos. McGirr was at Rozet to help kids create a mural on the gymnasium wall. It was part of his weeklong visit to Campbell County schools.

As soon as he broke out his air brush and started painting their hands, they all ran up and clamored around him.

“I love art, and I love the doors and opportunities it has opened for me. I truly feel it’s my life’s work to teach and spread art to the next generation of creative minds,” he said.

McGirr’s art is primarily done with an air brush. It’s an eclectic mix of everything from portraits to political satire.

The man behind the art is as interesting as the work itself.

McGirr has been an artist since he could hold a crayon, but it wasn’t until his principal told him there was no future in art that he became motivated to take it further.

Like most people, he found a job after high school. He worked as a laborer installing methane pipes under the ground. During down time, McGirr would take out a black marker and draw art on the pipes.

“My boss told me, ‘You’ve got to get out of here,’” McGirr said.

The picturesque pipes probably still are buried there today.

Success is the best revenge and McGirr graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado with a degree in graphic design in 2007. Now he spends his time doing freelance work and more importantly, helping others.

He uses art to connect with the homeless and at-risk youth while volunteering at Sox Place, a nonprofit youth center in Denver.

“I use a lot of what’s going on with gang members and homeless kids. Art is a real way to reach them,” he said.

McGirr is also volunteering to design custom artwork on prosthetics of wounded military service members.

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