A Taste of Art
Graffiti: History, Purpose, Types
What is graffiti: art or vandalism? What is behind the "graffiti"? Is graffiti just tagging and bombing or it has deeper sense? Today we will talk about the most vibrant form of street art - graffiti, its history, purpose, types.
The history of graffiti

The history of graffiti goes back to ancient times. The first drawings on walls appeared in caves thousands of years ago. Later the Ancient Romans and Greeks wrote their names and protest poems on buildings. Modern graffiti appeared in Philadelphia in the early 1960s. Darryl McCray ('Cornbread') is widely regarded as the father of modern day graffiti. The story tells that Cornbread felt in love with a girl named Cynthia Custuss and started to write Cornbread Loves Cynthia to get her attention. He enjoyed it so much that he continued to tag Philadelphia with his name.

By the late sixties graffiti reached New York. The new art form took off in the 1970s, when people began writing their names, or tags, on buildings all over the city. In the mid seventies it was hard to see out of a subway car window, because the trains were completely covered in spray paintings known as throw ups, letters, masterpieces. In the early days, the taggers were part of street gangs who were concerned with marking their territory. They worked in groups called 'crews'. The term 'graffiti' was first used by The New York Times and the novelist Norman Mailer. Art galleries in New York began buying graffiti in the early seventies.

But at the same time that it began to be regarded as an art form, the mayor of New York declared the first war on graffiti. By the 1980s it became much harder to write on subway trains without being caught, many established graffiti artists began using roofs of buildings or canvases. The debate over whether graffiti is art or vandalism is still going on.

For decades graffiti has been a springboard to international fame for a few. Jean-Michel Basquiat began spraying on the street in the 1970s before becoming a respected artist in the '80s. The Frenchman Blek le Rat and the British artist Banksy have achieved international fame by producing complex works with stencils, often making political or humorous points. Works by Banksy have been sold for over £100,000.

The purpose of graffiti

Graffiti as a form of artistic expression, often associated with subcultures as the rebel against authority. Graffiti in its origins was used to publicly display the artistic expressions in response to the lack of access to museums and art institutions, and the continuous strife, discrimination, and struggle of living in the city.

Because graffiti is illegal in most cases, this form of art has flourished in the underground, requiring little money and providing an opportunity to voice what is often excluded from dominant histories and media. From here, although graffiti remains the major form of street art with other mediums have evolved - including stenciling, stickers, and wheatpasting.

On the other hand, artists also used graffiti as a tool, to express their political opinions, (indigenous) heritage, cultural and religious imagery, and counter-narratives to dominant portrayals of life in the barrios. Similar to other forms of art within, graffiti has become another tool of resistance, reclamation, and empowerment to make the artist own space for expression and popular education.

Nowadays, graffiti is commonly recognized as a form of public art, embraced by museums, art critics, and art institutions. But its significance for many people remains in the barrios (neighborhoods), reiterating the importance of accessibility and inclusion in relation to their identity and community in their artwork.
Types of graffiti.

1. Tag

Tagging is the easiest and simplest style of graffiti; it includes one colour and the artist's name or identifier. Taggers are using graffiti for fame and notoriety. Their objective is to get their crew (group) name and or their individual moniker up on buildings, signs, walls, etc. ... The more locations that they tag their graffiti on or the more difficult the location to remove their tags, the more fame and recognition they receive. Hence, tagging is considered as a very simple form of graffiti.

It is considered disrespectful to write a tag over another artist's tag or work.

2. Throw-up or a bomb

Sometimes called a "throwie" is a simple form of graffiti, sitting between a tag and a bomb. It's usually painted with a simple letter outline and then filled with color. Easy-to-paint bubble shapes often form the letters.

3. Letters

Letters can be different styles. The oldest style - Wild Style

Wildstyle is an elaborate version of a throw-up and is particularly hard to read. Wildstyle often consists of arrows, curves, spikes and other things that non graffiti artists might not understand.
Blockbuster is blocky letters. Blockbusters are used to cover a large area in a small amount of time. Blockbusters can be painted with rollers, which makes them faster and easier to do.
Bubbles - the letters are round, circular and often overlapping partially one another, creating an image that seems to expand and bubble-up in a way. Bubble graffiti can be done in two colors, where letters are sprayed in one color, and later outlined with another, creating a contrast.
Sharp -in sharp style the letters or abstract elements are sprayed or painted in as sharp and angular forms as possible.
4. Piece or character

Short for "masterpiece", painted free-hand. A big and complex piece of wall painting that is time-consuming and difficult to execute. It's characterised by many different components, such as a rich palette, 3D elements, and other visual marks. It's a work of an experienced writer.
The street art world is full of artists who use different techniques, from freehand spray paint to elaborate installation art. But perhaps no other technique is so tied to graffiti like calligraffiti, stencil, wheat paste, stickers ...


Calligraffiti is an art form that combines calligraphy, typography, and graffiti. It can be classified as either abstract expressionism. It is defined as a visual art that integrates letters into compositions that attempt to communicate a broader message through writing that has been aesthetically altered to move beyond the literal meaning.

The origins of the term "calligraffiti" comes from the Dutch artist Niels Shoe Meulman in 2007, when he used it as the title of his solo exhibition. Meulman described calligraffiti as "traditional handwriting with a metropolitan attitude" and a "way of translating the art of the street to the interior of museums, galleries and apartments."

Stencil is a form of graffiti that makes use of stencils made out of paper, cardboard, or other media to create an image or text that is easily reproducible. The desired design is cut out of the selected medium and then the image is transferred to a surface through the use of spray paint or roll-on paint. Banksy and Shepard Fairey are the most known for their use of the stencil.
Wheat paste

Wheatpaste refers to a method of creating or laying out publication pages. In general, wheatpaste is a homemade concoction used for putting up posters. It's relatively cheap and easy to make—a simple combination of flour, sugar, and water—and can be created in large quantities. Posters which have been put up with wheatpaste are referred to as wheatpastes.

When hanging unauthorized billboards, to reduce the danger of being caught, wheatpasters frequently work in teams or affinity groups. In the United States and Canada, this process is typically called "wheatpasting" or "poster bombing," even when using commercial wallpaper paste instead of traditional wheat paste. In the United Kingdom, commercial wheatpasting is called flyposting and wheatpasting associated with urban art is called paste-up.

Sticker art (also known as sticker bombing) is a form of street art in which an image or message is publicly displayed using stickers. These stickers may promote a political agenda, comment on a policy or issue, or comprise a subcategory of graffiti.

Sticker artists use a variety of label types, including inexpensively purchased and free stickers, such as the United States Postal Service's Label 228 or name tags. Sticker art is a popular processing method to create artworks with a 3D effect. The artist cuts vinyl sheets and foam board components with a scalpel. With this components the artist glues a sticker art collage.

What is graffiti for you?