Our second and final tour on Monday (our third tour was cancelled) was a graffiti and street art tour in the Spitafields area of London, which is just North of Whitechapel. Our guide showed us how serious street art really is, which really fascinated me. He explained to us different techniques practiced in street art, etiquette that street artists should follow and how people gain fame in the community.
Basically, artists turn to the street to get recognized. Some have even gone to art school for proper training, but found that their best bet to make it big is to work their artistic magic on the street. Once they pick a city, these artists start leaving their mark. Speaking of leaving their mark, “tagging,” which is basically the street term for writing one’s signature, is very important for artists so they can be acknowledged. Of course, street artists do not use their birth name, since what they do is illegal.
Although most artists are thought to paint walls in the night and then vanish by morning, it is common for them to pick a spot and get to work in broad daylight. One technique is to put on a bright vest and hard hat and make it look like you are supposed to be there. One famous painting was done on the side of a very expensive home, illegally. However, once the cops got the owners involved, the artist showed the home owners pictures of his work, and they gave him permission to continue.
There are so many different techniques to graffiti and street art. Some artists paint on paper at home and then paste it to a spot when they are finished.
Others create a stencil using a computer and then spray the design onto the wall using the stencil.
Some completely customize a signature style, such as this helium and drip graffiti.
There is also a set of unwritten street art rules. For example, if you are going to paint over someone’s work, you need to completely cover it with a solid coat of paint first to pay tribute to the original artist. Another way to make sure an artist is not covering up the work of others excessively it is to repaint over one’s own work. That also proves that the artist is still active in the area. It is also known that artists gain respect through the effort and time they put into the trade.
Of course, there are other types of street art that can be anything from Styrofoam figures to huge sculptures. Street artists do not see their work as vandalism, but rather as sharing art with the world.
I did not do these artists justice with this post, and maybe a follow up post will come after this trip. Regardless, this tour truly opened my eyes and now every time I see art on the street, I will have a much deeper appreciation for it.