"My art is about listening to your soul and creating something that might not be what people expect."
Meet Brandon Thrift, a 26-year-old Sarasota native with a passion for creating art that makes people stop and smile. Thrift is known for flowing pink and green hair, '80s-style reflective sunglasses, faux fur coats—and his technicolor, eclectic street art with a "spread love" message that aims to inspire anyone who stumbles upon his work.
"People will recognize my art on the street and message me through my social media," says Thrift. "It's cool to interact with the people posing with my art or taking it home with them."
Thrift has created several canvases and street paintings that can be found in downtown Sarasota, including a newly commissioned mural on the corner of Cocoanut and Pineapple avenues for Pride Month.
As a part-time artist and part-time musician who marches to the beat of his own drum, Thrift has used social media to his advantage, traveling around the United States creating art. He recently heard from a Colombian woman who found his work while visiting Texas. "She took the piece home with her," he says. "I'm aiming to go international soon."
Since March of 2020, Thrift has created almost 3,000 original pieces of street art with multicolored, spray-painted hearts and his signature "spread love" text. He paints on just about anything he can find—furniture sold on Craigslist, refrigerators or desks left on the side of the road and plain old canvases.
"I was making abstract and carefree stuff," says Thrift. "It snowballed after my first piece, and that's where the idea for art drops came about."
Art drops are a popular notion in the street art community. After an artist creates work, they leave it behind in a public place where people will find it. Passersby can then take photos with it for social media or take the piece home with them for free. When the pandemic struck and Thrift had to put his live music endeavors on hold, he turned to his first love, creating art, and began the art drop process around downtown Sarasota. By June 2020, he was ready to take his operation on the road.
Thrift packed up his art supplies and took a cross-country road trip. He drove to 13 states in 21 days, leaving art behind for people to enjoy. He made frequent stops to replenish canvases, paint and other supplies—including trips to local dumpsters or scouring Craigslist postings for funky furniture pieces. "By that time, art dropping became second nature," Thrift recalls. "I was painting and dropping every day."
The national "spread love" mission continues as Thrift hopes to travel to all 50 states. So far, he's traveled 13,000 miles and been to 43 of them, including Hawaii, where someone picked up his work and flew it to Japan. In the next few months, he plans to drive to Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.
Looking ahead, Thrift hopes to commission more work, find a studio space and make creating art a stable form of income without losing his spark. He also wants to keep inspiring people through art workshops, classes at the YMCA children's summer camp and other interactive events to be themselves—not just during Pride Month, but all year round.
"I was bullied in high school for wearing skinny jeans and whatever I wanted," says Thrift. "Now, my personal style is—pardon my French—I just don't give a f**k. There will always be people who judge, so I wear and create whatever I want. Everybody should do the same. I hope my art reflects this. It might be controversial, or not what people expect, but it's coming from the heart."