Graffiti sketches is where most newcomers begin but really you should start by asking yourself – graffiti – what does it really mean to you? Most people see it as something that emerged only in modern society, scribbled by urban youth on railway bridges. However, its use can be traced back to ancient civilisations, such as the ancient Egyptians whose hieroglyphics could be considered a form of what we know today as graffiti. One can even say that graffiti or writing, as it is more commonly known, dates back to the origins of mankind itself, when Neanderthal man’s sense of his environment was expressed through cave drawings.
More often than not graffiti has been characterised as vandalism due to its associations with the spray-painted drawings you often see plastered over buildings and walls in cities.
Graffiti art can be categorised in three common forms: Tags, Pieces and Labels. All of us have walked down a street and seen various walls covered with graffiti, but can we differentiate one item of graffiti from another? The most common and the easiest to recognise is a tag.
A tag is usually a simple one-coloured design (though it can be more complex). Put simply, it is a depiction of a writer or artist’s nickname or message, and its aim is to send a message to other writers.
A piece or masterpiece is a more complex form of graffiti art where a writer usually starts with some kind of pre-conceived plan or sketch. A piece tends to take graffiti art more in the direction of character art, which has a big fanbase. People will often be able to distinguish a writer’s work by their character designs alone. Artists like D*Face, Insa, Sickboy and Inkie can all be recognised by the characters or symbols in their pieces.
A label is when a writer’s tag or character design is printed on posters or stickers. Labels can be found in most cities around the world. This can be a great way for all kinds of artists to promote their art far and wide; usually tags are quite hard to see and they are only going to draw the attention of people interested in street art. You often see labels plastered on the back of street signs, lampposts, and anywhere with a smooth surface that can have something stuck to it.
Although graffiti art seems to have been part of the mainstream for ages, it was not until the 1970s that graffiti reinvented itself with a more modern term named writing, which first took root in the United States and later spread across the water to Europe.
The last decade has seen writing really take hold of the global art scene with celebrities emerging from the hub of graff artists around the world. It is only now that you hear about graffiti events like Secret Wars and people like American actress Angelina Jolie forking out £100,000 for an original piece by the notorious Bristol-born artist Banksy. Also, a new record was recently set when a piece went for a massive £280,000.
Graffiti art is the new cool, with hundreds of companies in the last few years jumping on the street art bandwagon. Graffiti is no longer just a shunned art form, yet it still manages to stay true to its origins by remaining accessible to the younger generation. Graffiti it seems is here to stay.