There is an ongoing debate regarding graffiti. Some say it is urban folk art, others vandalism. The urge to scrawl on a wall is probably older than the Pyramids, but nobody really knows the exact origins of street-art graffiti, the style that virtually took over New York in the 1970s and 1980s.

History of graffiti

Graffiti is said to have began in Philadelphia during the 1960s and is rooted in bombing. The writers who are credited with the first conscious bombing effort are Cornbread and Cool Earl. They wrote their names all over the city gaining attention from the community and local press.

In 1971 the “Taki 183” tag became so widespread, it caught the attention of The New York Times and from then on, graffiti evolved rapidly. Wildstyle graffiti was produced by crews who would break into rail yards to add their tags. Later, “Phase 2” developed what was to become the popular style of graffiti, bubble writing,

Increasingly, graffiti began to incorporate images, becoming so complex they covered entire subway-car exteriors, including the windows. As early as 1972, graffiti was being recognised as art with the United Graffiti Artists promoting their work in galleries.

graffiti graffiti

Charlie Ahearn’s 1980s feature film “Wild Style”, which mixed a hip-hop soundtrack with graffiti visuals was instrumental in making graffiti known around the globe, though by the turn of the millennium, graffiti had almost disappeared from the subway.

Graphic artists have evolved graffiti into a more professional-looking kind of street art. David Choe is fast becoming the richest graffiti artist in modern times. Shepard Fairey’s OBEY Giant has sustained his graffiti career for a quarter of a century. Banksy in the UK uses stencil graffiti, often with themes of social consciousness and is one of the most famous graffiti artists to successfully infiltrate the art world.

Spray tips for graffiti beginners

Here are some spray tips for graffiti beginners:

Here are some spray tips for graffiti beginners:

When putting the cap on a can, twist it. If you push down it also opens the nozzle.

Cans should always be shaken hard for about a minute before use. Just like any liquid paint, spray paint separates from the solvent when not used for a while. The paint falls to the bottom of the can and is much thicker. This thicker paint can clog caps quickly.

Hold the can any way you like. You can spray upside down for some seconds. When the can is emptying, hold the can vertically so the tube that runs to the bottom of the can reaches the paint otherwise all you will spray is propellant.
The closer the distance to the wall, the thinner the line. Use an outline cap for thin lines and paint quickly. If you use a fat cap, most of the paint will drip down the wall.

Spray about parallel to the surface of the wall to create soft fading shadows. Close parts will fetch much more paint than distant ones.

Fill with lines to avoid patches. Thin layers are more stable, dry faster and your graffiti will last longer.

Good practices

  • Sketch your ideas first with a paper and pencil so that you can erase errors easily.
  • Choose your colours so you have a basic idea of how the piece will look, especially for larger projects.
  • Transfer your sketching to the wall. This will help get the proportions right at the beginning.
  • Once the shapes are there, they are ready for filling with the appropriate colour.
  • Add lines around shapes, to have a clear barrier between areas of different colour.

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