t takes just 20 minutes, a few cans of spray paint and a couple of lighters for Matthew Tyler Emery to turn a blank white canvas into out-of-this world art.

Playing in the background while he creates his science-fiction-inspired landscapes is the thumping bass of an electronic dance song. Emery tosses up spray paint cans, twirling them in the air and catches them to the beat.

After spraying a layer of paint onto the canvas, he takes a simple cigarette lighter and with the spray paint can turns it into a blowtorch, drying the paint in seconds.

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Currently, Emery is a hairstylist at the SmartStyle salon at Wal-Mart in Seymour. When he’s not cutting and styling clients’ hair, he likely has a respirator mask and goggles on and a can or two of Krylon spray paint in his hands.

He may be painting at home or performing his unique talent at festivals and events throughout the Midwest. But Emery said it doesn’t matter where he’s at, he gets lost in his work.

The 23-year-old from Holton always has had an interest in and talent for art, starting when he was just a child with drawing and then as he got older painting with acrylic and oil paints, he said.

“I’ve been an artist my entire life, but my love for spray paint art all started when I was about 10 years old,” he said. “I saw a man performing at a local event, and I saw him performing the art of spray. That’s how he introduced himself.”

Emery said he couldn’t get the performance out of his mind.

A couple of years ago, he ran into an old friend who also was getting into the spray paint art scene.

“He had been performing for two to three years, and I decided after watching him and others who inspired me that I wanted to do it, too,” Emery said.

Although he took basic art classes in school, Emery said no one ever taught him anything to do with spray paint.

So he immersed himself in spray paint art, studying online videos and talking to others who have made a name for themselves and their work.

“I got advice from people and got a lot of questions answered along the way,” he said. “Everything I’ve learned has been techniques I’ve learned from watching these videos on YouTube.”

Emery said art in any form is “all about creating.”

“It’s creating and developing a passion you can share with everyone,” he said.

Although he works with all mediums, he prefers spray paint because it’s not as restricting, he said.

“There’s so much more freedom with spray paint than any other medium,” he said. “It becomes a process, and you get into it.”

He uses fire to flash dry the layers of paint, and he can create multiple layers. It also adds another crowd-pleasing element when he paints for an audience.

“Let’s face it; everyone loves a little bit of fire,” he said.

Most of Emery’s work depicts other worlds and fantasy landscapes. Some he does in black, whites and grays; others are in bright vivid colors, depending on his mood.

“It’s my wonderland,” he said. “I like to create these sci-fi wonderlands.”

Growing up, Emery said he always liked watching movies such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which would inspire him to create his own versions of what he would like to see in a wonderland.

“And that’s exactly what I do,” he said.

He often incorporates planets and nature scenes, combining them to create something people haven’t seen.

“I wanted to make sure that when everyone sees my spray paint art, that I am able to show people my own signature,” he said. “Everyone who does this or any other form of art works hard and puts their heart and soul and their passion into their art.”

Spray paint art may be his passion and a way of expressing himself, but he also takes it seriously as a business.

He is the founder of Above and Beyond Art of Spray. Besides performing, he also sells his work.

“I want to be as professional and safe as possible when creating so that I can be a positive example to others,” he said.

That’s why he uses a respirator mask so that he’s not inhaling the fumes and wears protective goggles and a skin protectant to keep the spray paint from entering his bloodstream.

During performances, he uses a fan setup to keep the fumes away from his audience.

All of his spray paint art is done freestyle, without drawing anything first.

“I may have a decent idea of what I’m going to put and where, but if I feel like that needs to change, then I just change it,” he said. “I go with the flow and what I feel.”

When he tells people he does spray paint art, they automatically assume he means graffiti.

“This is a completely different art form with the same medium,” he said.

Emery has big plans for himself and his art and is working to make his dream come true.

“I want to share my love of art with people, and I’m trying to get my name out there,” he said. “My dream is to travel the world performing art of spray.”

Matthew Tyler Emery

Matthew Tyler Emery

Age: 23

Home: Holton

Job: Hairstylist and founder of Above and Beyond Art of Spray

On the web: Check out Above&Beyond Art of Spray on Facebook

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.