Former Graffiti Vandal Transforms Into Urban Artist

Kyle Boatwright Spent 6 Months In Jail As Punishment For Vandalism

One of Imperial Beach's most notorious graffiti vandals has remade himself into a legitimate -- and legal -- urban artist.

In March, 23-year-old Kyle Boatwright was arrested and charged with 218 counts of vandalism. He had spray painted his moniker "Slow" throughout Imperial Beach. Boatwright was fined $87,000 and sent to jail.

"I just didn't realize how harsh the punishment would be," Boatwright told 10News reporter Joe Little.

Boatwright said he began tagging sidewalks, buildings and fences to escape depression and thoughts of suicide.

"I mean, I just fell in love with it just because of the way it makes me feel and the way I can just escape reality," he said.

Reality came crashing down when he was arrested. While in jail, he continued to express himself through art. Boatwright used a pencil to draw on envelopes and mailed them to friends. His fellow inmates also noticed his talents and paid him for his drawings.

"The first piece of artwork I've ever sold in my life was an envelope that I drew for a guy in there for a Reese's NutRageous candy bar," Boatwright said.

Fellow inmates paid him with bags of chips, soap and full meals -- items considered valuable in jail. Boatwright was released after six months behind bars and decided to grow his business, this time for money.

The former graffiti vandal put his spray paint to canvas and began selling them around San Diego. He has sold several of his urban paintings for several hundred dollars. He will also begin formal art training in 2011 to expand his skills.

"I thought he was talented," said Sheriff's Deputy Zheath Sanchez, who led the investigation that put Boatwright behind bars.

Sanchez tracked "Slow" for 11 months, and his arrest marked the biggest graffiti bust in the county at the time.

"If he's been able to channel his talent into positive means, I think it's fantastic," said Sanchez.

It's also great for taxpayers, as one tag can cost several hundred dollars to remove. Removing the graffiti will also be a problem for several cities in the future. Cash-strapped cities like Chula Vista are downsizing or eliminating graffiti abatement programs to save money.

Boatwright's message to taggers is simple: "If you have talent, make it work for you. Don't make it work against you."

He's also changed his moniker from "Slow" to "Sain" -- a reminder for Boatwright to stay away from his insane past and focus on his sane future.

To see some of Kyle Boatwright's art, go to www.kboatwright.com.