Growing up in the early 90s, graffiti was a warning sign. At the beginning, it was a bold spray painted sign that usually told you which colors not to wear in which neighborhoods. However, since the mid nineties a revolution started where real, true artists would begin using walls in poorly lit alleys to send a message. (Sometimes as simple as “Sorry about your Wall- Borf“). Now, with the rampant popularity of street artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and MBW making some wall art on your own has never been a better idea. Sure, you won’t get the thrill of climbing on to of a building and having a buddy look out for cops, but the feeling of rebellion against more common art practices will remain.
BOLD FACED DISCLAIMER: THIS IS ADVICE TO CREATE “STREET ART” IN YOUR OWN HOME. I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU BREAK ANY LAWS BY DOING THIS ON PROPERTY YOU DO NOT OWN. NO MATTER HOW FUN AND EXHILARATING IT CAN BE OR HOW RARELY COPS PATROL THE APPLEBEE’S BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND 6 AM.
The big thing to remember with “street art” (As opposed to graffiti) it is about self expression. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be something you identify with. It is the medium of the people, and should be accessible. In order to admire street art, a person does not need to know the differences between impressionism from post-impressionism or be able to understand the genius of Jackson Pollack. It is about making a statement and walking off the stage, remaining forever unaware of the audience response. You are not looking to get an “A” on an art project or to win a blue ribbon at a fair, you simply want to get an idea of your own out there. If people like it, great; if they don’t fine. Either way, you didn’t do it for them. This should be something that you create, otherwise you are missing the point of street art.
The most common practice involves stencils. These stencils can be made to create virtually anything (Look at Banksy’s and Shepard Fairey’s work for examples). These artists are able to create stencils of complex things like soldiers, politicians, animals, or anything else they feel belongs on a wall. This is usually accomplished by using multiple layers of stencils or by simply creating a large print and putting it on a wall the way you would with wall paper. Once again, this can be a little complex for the average DIY guy, but if you are willing to put the work in you will be more satisfied with the result.
The other option involves a trip to Kinkos. You grab a print and blow it up to an immense scale. (Think about 10 square feet of area.) This is then applied to a wall the way you would put up wallpaper. You put glue on the wall, push the paper against the wall, straighten and smooth it as needed, then walk away. This is an easy thing to do if you have more talent with computers than you do with spray paint cans. Simply walking into a staples with a USB with the picture you want on it is significantly less labor intensive then leaning over a piece of cardboard for hours with a razor blade. The issue, however, is you only have one chance at getting it right. If you have not done wallpaper before, consider practicing around the house first (Make an accent wall behind your sofa perhaps.)
If you are just starting out and aren’t really an “artist”, contemplate using quotes. Play with fonts in a common word processor, and then use the print out to create your stencil. (If you have Microsoft Word, the Stencil, Broadway and Impact fonts are worth looking at and would be easy to cut out of a stencil.) For this you don’t need anything more than favorite quote, strong paper, an exact-o knife, and a can of spray paint. From there is is just garnering up the courage to put the paint on the wall.
When is comes to the message you are going for, anything is acceptable. However humorous messages with rebellious undertones are usually the standard. This is like Banksy’s “One Nation Under CCTV in Central London, Eddie Colla’s Sarah Palin poster in San Fransico, or TRUSTO Corp’s Game The System in Brooklyn.
If you don’t have anything political to say, feel free to just say something funny…
or just point out some aspect of society that you deem to be hypocritical…
or you can just create something that will give viewers some tinge of nostalgia.
This is about your own self expression. You are not limited by anything by anything I or anyone else says. It is your own chance to take the stage, make a statement, and walk away without taking any questions.