Artistic St. Mark’s Teacher Shifts From Graffiti to Gallery Work

William Atkinson creates contemporary art when he’s not teaching sixth-grade humanities at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

He describes his style as “abstract expressionism with a healthy dose of street art graffiti, some type of reappropriation of imagery, and then possibly text or typography on top of that.”

The Park Cities-based painter started as a graffiti artist under a pseudonym in Los Angeles in 2007 as a counterbalance to his professional life. He later graduated to formal galleries but aims to keep the loud and subversive feeling that street art provided him.

“There’s a lot of reappropriation of imagery or typography or specific words in my pieces (to gather) attention,” Atkinson said. “As I moved into fine art, I wanted to keep some of those visual elements … (and) words and language were a natural element.”

Atkinson also sticks to his street-art roots by making pieces in one creative movement. Once complete, he doesn’t edit it to conserve the original artistic idea.

He leaves his work’s meaning up to the viewer’s interpretation.

“I think it’s more important for that person to have a connection in the moment and have some type of visceral reaction to something that’s real and genuine and maybe a little bit of a transfer of the energy between myself and the painting and them and the painting,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson transitioned from using a pseudonym to his real name, and his work reflects it.

“When I was doing street art, that’s a very external discussion, like speaking outwardly and outward expression,” Atkinson said. “I think the switch to using my name is when it became more of an internal introspection and an inward examination more of my thoughts and feelings.”

Atkinson says he has five- and 10-year plans for his professional life, but his art goals are more fluid. However, he has reached some proud turning points, including a piece on display in the Wichita Falls Museum of Art and artist representation in Dallas and New York.

“These are just milestones that I never thought were attainable,” Atkinson said. “It’s just so humbling that I’ve had the opportunity to achieve them, so now it’s creating a lasting body of work that has impact or sway with the intended audience, and that can change (depending on the exhibit).”

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