While graffiti is viewed as art by some and vandalism by others, it brightens up commercial space and draws in many people. It is also a source of inspiration for artists.
A stylized signature done quickly. It can be abbreviated to the writer’s name, crew names, or the suffixes one, ski, rock, em, and more.
Graffiti art can be traced back as far as ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Different kinds of scriptures, words, names and, signs have been found in their cave frescoes.
In the early days of graffiti, artists used coal or chalk in order to draw pictures on a wall. Nowadays aerosol paints make the process much easier and quicker. Graffiti is usually associated with young people as it is seen as a rebellious way of expression and challenging the world.
Cornbread – A graffiti artist from Philadelphia who is considered to be one of the earliest leaders in the graffiti movement. He was known for his bubbly letters that were influenced by a lettering style from Hip hop music.
Heaven Spots – Term used to describe a spot that offers a high level of visibility and respect from other writers. Examples include billboards and freeway signs.
Biting – To copy or steal another writer’s style and use it in your own work. Generally, crews will battle each other and the winning writer will get some sort of reward like paint, money or even a punch in the face.
Graffiti artists use a variety of techniques. They can paint freehand using spray paint, create posters, stencil or use a photo-editing program to design and cut images from paper or plastic. Some graffiti artists even work with clay, sculpting figures and other materials.
Generally, graffiti is used for expressing personal style, marking territory and informing the public of events and activities. It can also serve as a way for gang members to memorialize dead comrades or boast about acts of crime. It can be a means of resolving conflicts between crews by battling (or “bombing”) one another.
Some graffiti artists are known for creating elaborate murals or large pieces of text-based graffiti art. Others are more interested in artistically representing objects and buildings. For example, Australian artist Fintan Magee uses street walls as massive canvases and often incorporates architectural influences within his images. Other artists use technology as their inspiration, like writer Zedz, who uses a technique based on technical drawing to form letters in his graffiti.
The classification of graffiti styles is a complex task. The most dominant styles are tagging, throw-ups and pieces. Tags represent one-colored signatures (pseudonyms) of graffiti writers often adorned with decorative elements like stars, drips and arrows. Throw-ups are more complex than tags and they usually contain a name and some type of drawing. Pieces are full color masterpieces that require a lot of planning and time.
Another popular style is stencil. It consists of shapes cut out of cardboard or paper that are painted on walls with spray paint or rollers. Its popularity is due to the fact that it is easier and faster to do than traditional graffiti.
The most recognizable names in the street art industry are Banksy, Blek le Rat and Shepard Fairey. These artists are well-known for their enigmatic and provocative artworks. Their artworks have a universal appeal that transcends cultural boundaries. They also have a unique approach that challenges the viewers’ perceptions and stimulates the imagination.
Throughout the history of graffiti art various influences have shaped the artists and their work. From the early days when the graffiti writers started to paint trains with their monikers like Cornbread or Hondo 1 to the contemporary works that are exhibited in the Hall of Fame the genre has been influenced by everything from pop art and pop culture to the hip hop culture of the 60s and 70s.
According to our interviews with graffiti writers the main informal rule of writing is the principle that a writer should not paint over another writers name or piece. This has created a sense of belonging in the subculture which is illustrated by the fact that many of our interviewees are still active in the field. However, some writers also disconnect from the graffiti scene. An Outsider, for example, is not influenced by other writers and does not have the same drive to gain recognition within the subculture. This category of writers is well known for starting feuds (beefs) with other writers.