PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Rod “Rodman” Leisure has been one of the main artists adding his tag to the Pensacola Graffiti Bridge, but who is the man behind the spray can?

The son of a hardworking plumbing contractor, the Indiana native said since elementary school, he would get in trouble for drawing during class.

“I remember in third grade getting in trouble for drawing when I wasn’t supposed to be,” said Leisure. “That was in Ms. Combs’ class. I would be drawing and not realizing what I was supposed to be doing, then I would look up and everybody in the class would be looking at me and the teacher was right over my shoulder. I never stopped since then.”

After delivering a piece of artwork to Prattville, Ala., Leisure said he was asked to make the drive to Pensacola. He would then visit the area during the winters for the next several years before moving to the beach full-time.

“When I was in Prattville, I posted a picture on social media of the couple that bought the piece and a blues guitarist in Pensacola asked if I wanted to come hear guitar,” said Leisure. “I ended up meeting some of the maintenance guys from Peg Legged Pete’s. I helped them find a water leak in the condo that nobody else could locate. Four years later, the lady in the condo remembered me and the guy who was living there moved out and she said, ‘Hey, how about Rodman that artist dude? Do you think he would want to live here?’ I’ve been here ever since.”

The first piece Leisure did on the Graffiti Bridge took him nine hours, but only lasted for 15 minutes.

“I was pretty angry,” said Leisure. “What happened is, I had my truck backed up to the bridge so I could have access to the paints. When I got it all done, I turned the car around, facing the bridge and was sitting in the air conditioner watching peoples’ reactions. Then a young man walks up with a can in his hand and I can read his mind, ‘Where can I do the most damage?’ He just blasted on it. I thought there was some honor among thieves; there is none. As Joseph Seurkamp would say, you have to look at it like blowing a bubble, it’s there and then it’s gone. Sometimes it’s there a little longer before it pops and sometimes it pops as soon as you blow it.”

When starting a piece, Leisure said he thinks about the composition of the piece and the weather.

“You have to understand that you are fighting the sun,” said Leisure. “During the summer, I know that I have to do four-hour pieces, five-hour pieces at the most because the sun is going to beat me up. So, you’re dealing with the weather conditions and the sun is always moving on you too.”

The consensus on his work, according to Leisure, is pretty mixed. He said people usually try to figure out the inner meaning of his work.

“There were about 100 comments on this post, spanning from Trump to abortion, trying to figure out this inner meaning behind the piece,” said Leisure. “All it was, was a little dark humor. Most of my pieces are pretty straightforward. I like to keep them family-friendly. I’m not trying to cause too big a stir.”

He said the method behind the madness is drumming up support for his fine artwork.

“I had a gallery contact me about doing a contemporary show, but I told them no thank you, because I knew not enough people would show up,” said Leisure. “So, I told them I would go out and paint some on the bridge, stir some people up, and then I would come back have a good following because nobody really knows who I am here. So, that is kind of the method to the madness, to be honest. This work is not what I’m known for at all.”

Leisure has tackled many forms of art including fine art, murals, plein air, sculpting, custom paint and much more. He is also recognized by the International Society of Scratchboard Artists as a Master, their highest distinction. Leisure finished second up against the best in the world working on scratchboard.

“Scratchboard has been the focus of my art for the last 20-plus years,” said Leisure. “I’ve traveled to Australia, British Columbia, all over the United States and have done collaborations with folks who are some of the top scratchboard artists in the world. I really enjoy the collaboration, whether you’re a beginner or a master. I’ll have six more states and I will have scratchboard in every state.”

He said the process behind a scratchboard piece gives more detail control than any other form of art.

“So, basically what you have is a board that has been coated with a thin white layer of clay,” said Leisure. “Then, you spray paint it with black ink. The artist then scratches through the black, exposing the clean, white clay below. The detail available to the artist is unsurpassed. These days, I’ll start with an uninked scratchboard, so basically the clay without the ink on it. Then I put ink on where I want it and then take it off with traditional and non-traditional scratchboard methods.”  

As an art nut and critic, Leisure said the Graffiti Bridge is a perfect venue for all types of artists.

“When I first saw the bridge, I thought that it was a cool venue,” said Leisure. “There was a lot of nonsense on there that I was glad to spray on top of. I think it could be a heck of a venue. It’s a very unique thing and has a huge following. I mean, there are people from New Zealand that I have seen comment on pieces. I think the local galleries should have something like ‘Battle at the Bridge,’ or something like that. You could have a trophy that bounces around galleries. It would raise awareness about the art scene here and there is a great amount of talent that I have seen here. I’m not sure it’s being celebrated as much as it could be.”

For most places around the world, graffitiing is in fact illegal, but Leisure said the City of Pensacola has a nice thing going with the Graffiti Bridge.

“What I’ve heard is that they have just given up on trying to catch people painting it, and that they’ve given them that, so maybe they’ll stay off everything else,” said Leisure. “It’s not too bad of a plan. I think this bridge is really known around the country and, perhaps, around the world for being available for anyone that wants to come out and have a go. It’s pretty forward-thinking for them, I think. I tip my hat to them for it.”

For more information on Leisure’s work, or to see more of his murals, click here.

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