One did not have to be at the Faribault County Fair very long before hearing comments about one of the new features at the 150th edition of the county festival.
Folks would ask me if I had seen the kid who does the painting. He is fantastic, they would all add.
They were referring to the Cosmo Kid, who was doing his spray-painted artwork under a tent near the food stands.
Actually, it is hard to describe what he was doing. It was part art, part show.
The Cosmo Kid would kneel in front of his work table, take out a fresh piece of 12 by 18 art board and crank up his stereo.
Next came the air mask (usually). After that he was a blur – grabbing spray paint can after spray paint can, in such rapid procession it was almost hard to follow. Sometimes he used a card to shield the spray from certain areas, or dragged the card across the ‘canvas.’
He would set an upside down dish or a spray paint can on the picture in progress, and spray around it.
Sometimes he sprayed his fingers and flicked dots of paint onto his work.
Less than five minutes later, he was done. That’s correct, in less than five minutes, he was holding up a beautiful piece of art.
The crowd – and there always was a large crowd watching him perform – was left in awe, all asking each other, “How’d he do that?”
Years of practice, says the Cosmo Kid. Fourteen years, to be exact.
“Fourteen years ago I saw a guy do this, and I thought I could do it, and it might be fun,” says the Cosmo Kid.
His real name is Todd Kenyon – just like the town in Minnesota, he adds.
He grew up in New Jersey, but now he lives, well, wherever he happens to be.
“I just travel around the country doing fairs and festivals,” Kenyon says. “But I spend the winter in Florida.”
Home is a 40-foot converted city bus, now an RV, which he is working on in his spare time. He also pulls his pickup behind it.
He sells his paintings for $25 each, plus he usually gets paid by the event he is at.
“I’d rather get paid enough to be somewhere and then just give my paintings away,” he says. “That is really fun.”
Sometimes that happens when he gets a corporate sponsor. The Southwest Florida Water District hired him for an event, and he was able to give the art to a person for free. Same thing for a recent restaurant opening he was hired to entertain at.
Kenyon says he usually creates three or four paintings at each show and that adds up to 12 to 16 each day. But, he adds, he is capable of doing 80 to 90 a day, if he really wanted to work hard.
“I don’t really want to work at a real job,” he says. “I love what I do, I love my work. Not everyone can say that.”
He says he has some basic designs for paintings in his head, but actually there are thousands of possible variations.
“I do a spacey theme, some patriotic and religious, or down-to-earth,” he says. “Sometimes I don’t know what I am going to do even moments before I start.”
He also guards his designs, not allowing videos or photographs of him doing the painting or his finished art.
Unless it is for the local newspaper, he quickly adds.
He thinks his type of spray paint art was started by artists in Mexico back in the late 1960s or early 70s. It is still popular there.
“I pretty much taught myself how to do it,” he says. “But now I sell a ‘How-To’ video on my website. I also have instructions there for the proper care and display of one of my pieces.”
That website is, of course, www.CosmoKid.com. Believe it or not, he is also on facebook, at FaceBook.com/CosmoKid.
Fair Board President Daryl Murray is not surprised at the local response to the Cosmo Kid.
“We saw him at another fair and hired him on the spot,” Murray says. “People are fascinated by his work, and he draws a crowd wherever he goes.”
Including the 150th Faribault County Fair.