Artist Donald Ross, better known as Scribe, remembers when people used to yell at him when he was painting murals. “I would be working and they would yell at me, ‘What are you doing?’” he recalls.

In those days, Scribe’s artwork was not of the legal variety. Police posted flyers asking for information on him and his graffitist cohorts. He even got three years’ probation for graffiti years ago, when Kansas City attempted to crack down on street art.

Now, the city has embraced such urban décor, and Scribe makes his living creating the graffiti-style art that used to get him in trouble. As the artist-in-residence at Children’s Mercy hospital in midtown Kansas City, he creates whimsical, out-of-this-world experiences for children and their families. On the city streets, building owners commission him to create murals that can stretch a passerby’s imagination.

One crisp morning, Scribe heads outside Children’s Mercy’s main campus in midtown Kansas City to check on a project. After a coat of bluish background, he intends to spray paint a scene that will become one of his signature cartoonish images. His animal characters are often seen in multiple locations throughout the hospital so that patients will connect to the characters and perhaps feel more at home.

Scribe, who is working on several projects at the hospital at once, arrives at 4 … The hallway where the latest project lives is full of colorful terrazzo tiles, vibrant-hued walls, and TV screens dropping from the ceiling. It’s more like a children’s museum rather than a place where sick children go for treatment. He’s even overhauled the Critical Care Transport helicopter and the hospital’s ambulances with playful cartoons.

His process now is different from his early murals, when he used to carry ladders and salvaged half-empty cans of paint to his location. Now there’s a lot of planning involved.

First, Scribe outlines the characters and theme of the project. Then, he uses a computer to draw it digitally. He prints the drawings and affixes them to the walls. “You still get the feel of it being painted but if you need to fix a panel, all you have to do is reprint,” he says.

As a child, he says, he often drew animals. He had a brush with formal education through the Kansas City Art Institute, but he says he didn’t get along with school officials and ended up leaving.

Since then, Scribe has had a grassroots career, with his work first gaining notoriety on the streets. He’s gained a following and has inspired muralists across Kansas City, many of whom have artwork on display in Westport and the Crossroads Arts District. He says that early graffiti community of street artists helped normalize murals on buildings as an art form. “Now perhaps a younger generation can refine the craft,” he says.

For his younger—and young-at-heart—audience at Children’s Mercy, Scribe’s images brighten perhaps an otherwise painful or scary day. As visitors enter through the doors, they immediately come in contact with Scribe’s artistic touches, even if it is just colorful wheels of the little ones’ wagons rolling across the terrazzo to an appointment. View more of Donald Ross’s work at