Seymour artist Kyle McIntosh finds purpose in a burst of neon-colored paint from a spray can.

The colors that spread out before him as his paintbrush scratches against a canvas bring him comfort.

But McIntosh’s artwork is more than a passing interest. It has brought him a way of understanding the world, led him to Christ and ultimately saved his life, he said.

With a new business in downtown Seymour, Expressive Mind Artistry, he hopes to make a living from his passion too.

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McIntosh specializes in commercial and residential mural art, graffiti and street art, airbrush and mixed media canvas paintings. His work can be seen at Brooklyn Pizza Co., 13th Floor Music and Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, all in Seymour.

He also is using his small studio in the Vehslage building to display and sell other artists’ work, and it will be one of only a few places in the area to purchase professional artist supplies, including graffiti spray paint, he said.

But more important than making money, McIntosh said, he wants to bring hope to others and help create a vibrant downtown rich in art and culture, a place where people want to be.

McIntosh, 28, grew up in Indianapolis and was fascinated by graffiti that he saw spray-painted on buildings, bridges and trains.

It was an art form most people frowned upon because usually it was done illegally. But that didn’t stop McIntosh.

“I was amazed by the graffiti,” he said. “I was 8 years old and remember thinking, ‘I’m going to do that someday.’”

‘Kept practicing’

At first, he tried to copy what he saw by drawing it.

“I kept trying to draw it, and after several failed attempts at drawing, I decided I was going to go out and get a can of spray paint and try it,” he said. “It wasn’t really the best option because it was illegal.”

McIntosh was about 10 at the time.

“I decided this was what I was going to do, and I kept practicing and practicing,” he said.

His work resulted in a few brushes with the law, McIntosh said, and he ended up paying his “debt to society.”

After he turned 17, he realized he could face serious jail time and decided to pursue “legal” street art, he said.

“I wondered if people would let me graffiti on their walls, just for free to do it,” he said.

After he moved south, McIntosh learned an urban clothing store in FairOaks Mall in Columbus was looking for someone to graffiti the walls. It was his first paid mural job.

“I had a great time doing it,” he said.

He also was doing professional tattooing and thought that was the only way he could make money from his art. That is, until he got more requests for murals.

His first Seymour job was for Brooklyn Pizza Co., where he painted a pizza delivery truck and later the Brooklyn, New York, skyline on an interior wall of the business on West Second Street.

Everything he paints is done freehand. Sometimes he creates a stencil first that he draws from what he sees in his head, he said. He added he’s never taken a professional art class.

“It was a pretty big challenge,” McIntosh said of painting the Brooklyn mural. “It took 48 hours and 72 cans of spray paint.”

Following his passion

But it was an opportunity he’s glad he didn’t pass up, he said.

“The biggest thing you can do to get your name out there is to take every small opportunity that comes along,” he said. “Because those small doors are going to open up to huge things in the end.”

Sometimes a job might not be what he wants it to be, he added.

“It might not be what you’re excited about doing, and it may not even pay anything; but if you’re passionate about something, you don’t care,” he said.

And McIntosh is passionate about art.

But he’s also passionate about helping people and doing what’s right for the community, he said.

That’s why he’s trying to get more involved and work with groups like Seymour Main Street, Jackson County United Way, the Jackson County Bicentennial Planning Committee and Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.

He will offer graffiti art classes for teens at the art center on July 10, where he plans to teach youth about different paint techniques and styles, the history of graffiti and the importance of doing it legally.

Besides his art, McIntosh also is a certified addiction recovery specialist through Save Indiana and works through Centerstone Behavioral Health Center, providing support and counseling services to addicts as they transition back into a healthy lifestyle.

It’s a subject he knows a lot about.

“I’m a recovering addict,” he said. “I’ve been clean for five years now, but I went through every rehab there was. I was severely mentally ill and had taken every anti-psychotic drug out there. I had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.”

He also attempted suicide three times and lost his older brother to drugs and suicide.

‘Something has to change’

What led him to turn his life around was God, he said, and he was led down that spiritual path thanks to his art.

“The only way I found God was through art,” he said. “A local church had commissioned me to do a job. They wanted some graffiti work done in their new building.”

That church was The Alley, a nontraditional church that ministers to all in need, including addicts and the homeless.

“I met a guy there, Jaime Harris, and at that point I was living really rough,” McIntosh said. “Really, I had nothing to live for, and I was just taking the job. But he starts talking to me and asked me if I had a relationship with God.”

McIntosh said he had never really been in church, so he didn’t understand what Harris was saying.

“I’ll be honest; I painted the mural and went home and didn’t think much about it,” McIntosh said.

But what Harris had said about having a personal relationship with God kept “manifesting in my head,” he added.

When he finished the mural and was asked how much the church owed him for his work, McIntosh said, he told them not worry about it. He wasn’t charging them anything.

Soon after, McIntosh found himself sitting alone in his room and realized his life was going nowhere.

“I thought something has to change in my life. I can’t keep living like this,” he said. “I’ve got to do something different. I remembered thinking I had tried everything to make myself happy, the money, the drugs, the alcohol, everything, and I’d lost everything several times.”

That’s when the tide began to turn, he said.

“Everyone’s telling me about this God thing, and I’ve tried everything else, so what’s it going to hurt,” he said. “Let’s try it out.”

‘Take me as I am’

So, for the first time, he prayed.

“That night I said the sinner’s prayer and asked God into my life,” he said. “I said, ‘Lord, if you’re up there, is there anything you can do to help me, because I can’t do it anymore?’

“I remember saying, ‘Lord, you know my heart. Tell me what I’m supposed to do.’”

The next day, he got his answer, when instead of downing a few beers and doing drugs in the morning, he chose not to, without even realizing it.

“That whole day I didn’t use or drink,” he said.

The same happened the second day.

On the third day, he grabbed the beer out of his refrigerator and dropped it into the trash can, he said.

“That’s when this light bulb came on,” he said. “That’s the moment I realized I could be clean and sober. I looked up and said, ‘Lord, if you can do that, what else can you do? I’m willing. Take me as I am.’”

That’s when his life changed, and he began a new path, he said.

Four or five months later, he was traveling the country painting live on stage at Christian music festivals, speaking at churches and taking part in street ministries.

“It was a huge opportunity,” he said. “I was able to share my testimony with all these people to show them that there is hope. I loved it, and I loved what God was doing in my life.”

But McIntosh soon felt the pull of adult responsibilities. He is now married and has three young children.

“At this point, my second child was born,” he said. “And we had to survive.”

‘What you want to do’

So he took a factory job to help support his family and pay the bills.

“I hated it,” he said. “It wasn’t the hard work, because I’m all about working hard. I knew there was more and I could do something else.”

In October, he was let go from the factory, which he said was a blessing. That’s when he took the job with Centerstone, counseling recovering addicts.

“It’s such an awesome job because I’m at the end of the process where I can see them succeed,” he said.

He was doing that full time and painting on the side when he could.

But the mental health field wasn’t paying enough, so he began praying about what he should do.

He felt he was at Centerstone for a purpose, but that something was still missing, he said.

That’s when he began thinking more about his art. He wasn’t planning to open an art shop, he said, but felt God led him to that choice too.

At first, he didn’t think it was even feasible to open a shop because it would be too much of a financial investment.

“I shot the idea of doing the mural business to my wife, Kasey, thinking there was no way she would go for this, because it would mean going to part time at Centerstone,” he said. “But she texted me back and said, ‘I have been waiting for you to say that. I know that’s what you want to do.’”

So he started the mural business in March, working out of his house and going from site to site to paint.

‘It’s so cool’

One day, he was scheduled to go paint a mural, but it was canceled. So he joined his wife in a cross walk in Seymour, where a group of people carried a large wooden cross from one church to another during Holy Week.

As they took his turn carrying the cross, McIntosh said, they walked in front of the Vehslage building across from Seymour City Hall and saw a for-rent sign in the window.

“The day before, I was talking to my co-worker, who said when are you going to open up a shop,” McIntosh said. “I told him if I could find a place downtown for $200 a month, I would be on it. But that’s not going to happen.”

The sign in the window said, “For rent, $200 a month,” he added.

“I feel like at that moment, the Lord was like, ‘Oh you think I can’t,’” McIntosh said.

So he called the landlord and said he was interested. Within days, he signed the lease on the small corner space, which he has turned into a workshop and gallery.

“It’s so cool, because now I get to do what I love for a living,” he said. “The Lord has provided. He has opened this door for me, and I’m not going to let it close.”

McIntosh said he doesn’t want people to feel like they have to buy his art.

“My main purpose here is so people can see art, be able to enjoy it, and not feel pressured to buy anything, and also to be able to minister,” he said. “People ask me how I do this, and I can’t take credit for it. The only thing I can tell them is the Lord. To get where I am now, I couldn’t have done it without him.”

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Name: Kyle McIntosh

Age: 28

Home: Seymour, originally from Indianapolis

Job: Artist and small-business owner; also works part time as an addiction recovery specialist with Centerstone Behavioral Health

Family: Wife, Kasey; three children

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What: Expressive Mind Artistry LLC, commercial and residential mural art, graffiti/street art, airbrush and mixed media canvas painting

Address: 305 N. Chestnut St., Suite 5, in the Vehslage building in downtown Seymour, across from Seymour City Hall

Contact: Kyle McIntosh 812-498-9954 or [email protected], also can be found on Facebook.

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“The biggest thing you can do to get your name out there is to take every small opportunity that comes along. Because those small doors are going to open up to huge things in the end.”

Seymour artist Kyle McIntosh


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