ASU Student turns graffiti into cash

After struggling to find a job, Jason Mitrione is starting to make his money one tag at a time.

Armed with time and artistic talent following an unsuccessful job search, Mitrione chose to start his own graffiti business.

When most students headed home last summer, the film studies sophomore and New Jersey native decided to stick around Tempe.

He went to Los Angeles in June and met artists his age who were making money and decided to follow in their footsteps.

“It’s so hard to find work,” Mitrione said. “You got to know someone now, especially with this recession.”

On the trip he found graffiti artists who were selling their work and wanted to bring that idea back to Arizona.

Mitrione started doodling and drawing in high school during classes but eventually his drawings got off paper and onto walls.

He wanted to do something that would be enjoyable and would allow him to socialize with people while doing it.

He posted fliers on campus and advertised through Craigslist that he could make a custom piece of graffiti for any business, home, apartment or wall from $50 to $100, depending on the size and detail.

“It took a couple days,” Mitrione said. “I got a lot of e-mails from people.”

Finally, he received a call from Mike’s Tire Factory in Tempe.

“They called me up one morning and asked, ‘Hey would you want to paint a Jeep?’” Mitrione said.

For shop owner Ron Dennis, Mitrione’s post on Craigslist came at the perfect time.

Dennis was in the process of restoring a Jeep for a customer who totaled it after running into a cactus.

Because the customer was unable to pay for a full restoration, Dennis made a deal — the shop would fix the Jeep in return for the customer’s consent that the shop workers could paint the vehicle with a design of their choosing.

Dennis found Mitrione on Craigslist and told him he wanted something with cacti, specific colors and the shop’s name.

“He said he already had it picked out in his head,” Dennis said. “You could tell he took pride in his work.”

Mitrione spent an afternoon hanging out with shop employees and creating an Arizona sunset design on the side of the Jeep.

“I might go back there and paint some [of the shop’s] garages,” Mitrione said.

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The sophomore recently got a job creating logos for Tempe12, a local calendar business that hires ASU female students as models.

Mitrione said he is saving the money he makes for one goal.

“Right now, I’m trying to do this graffiti business to raise money for the film I eventually want to finish by the time I graduate,” Mitrione said.

He has been making music videos for his band but eventually wants to make a 90-to 120-minute film with a rave concept with music, art and graffiti all mixed in.

He’s been creating and writing music with his band, Four Walls, since middle school and eventually hopes to be signed to a record label.

Mitrione and his band mates were taking steps in becoming successful over the summer, he said.

Esteban Echeandia Davila, Mitrione’s friend and bandmate, lives in Puerto Rico but writes and sends music to Mitrione over the Internet to keep the band going.

“We’re trying to at least release a CD to the public,” Davila said. “The only thing that’s missing is the art work.”

Mitrione and a band mate are creating the art for the album.

“I’m doing [all this work] just to make this film and help my career in the future,” Mitrione said.

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