Our guide to graffiti
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to graffiti

First published date January 30 2014 Amended date December 21 2015

If your inner Banksy is eager to create magic with a spray can (on a highly-legal canvas or board, that is) then there really is no better time to learn the art of graffiti. Today graffiti or street art is shrugging off its shady reputation as a form of criminal damage and now Banksy, Inkie et al, are celebrated as bona fide artists in their own right whose work is admired and preserved rather than destroyed. Graffiti is still an emerging art form and more and more of us are keen learn the techniques and skills of this edgy, too-cool-for-school style. Luckily, there are a number of up-and-coming graffiti courses scattered across the country that can teach you the tricks of the aerosol paint and marker pen as well as group workshops for creating a masterpiece.


The History

Graffiti art has been around for longer than you might think. While cave men illustrations are the earliest examples of writing on walls, graffiti really came to life in New York during the 1970s and 1980s. It started life as tagging or writing your name on a street sign and then gangs used graffiti as a way to mark territory. Graffiti soon became a form of art and inspired young artists to use their spray cans and vibrant colours as a way to express their opinions, thoughts and styles. It was also a way of transforming the grey, inner-city landscape into a beautiful and colour-packed outdoor art gallery. Graffiti art played a big part in the Hip Hop movement that swept the USA in the 1980s alongside other forms of self-expression such as break dancing and Mcing; it also became associated with the anti-establishment punk rock movement. Despite a nagging controversy, graffiti is gradually becoming a major part of the global art industry and can be viewed in galleries all over the world. It is also a brilliant way of introducing young people to art.


Where can I try it?

It's not just a case of brandishing your aerosol and marker pan and letting rip, as using spray paints requires practice, skill and technique if you want to create an effective piece of art. For a great introduction, check out our line-up of growing graffiti courses happening around the country. This is your chance to master the techniques of legendary street artists using the tools of the trade to produce cool and beautiful artworks in a rainbow of colours. If you don't feel confident with freehand artistry, there are also a number of stencils to try out. You will learn about the history of graffiti, graffiti styles and the role it plays in the hip hop culture then create your own inspiring piece to take home with you. There are even spray art team building activities and group art mural workshops to get involved in. Safety equipment such as masks, goggles, overalls and gloves are provided free of charge while you have great fun creating a masterpiece with your team and experienced graffiti tutor on hand.


Graffiti lingo

Know your cannon from your dress-up with our glossary of graffiti lingo. Here's a small sample, but there is lots more to know!


BACK TO BACK: Graffiti that covers a wall from end to end as seen on some parts of the Berlin Wall.

END TO END: Similar to above, but the opposite way around, when for instance a train carriage is painted from one end to another, along its entire length.

CANNON: A slang term for spray paint cans.

DRESS-UP: To completely cover a specific, untouched area like a wall, window or doorway.

DUBS: A UK-style of graffiti in silver or chrome paint usually on railway walls or street locations.

HEAVEN SPOTS: Pieces that are painted in hard-to-reach places like rooftops making them hard to remove and dangerous for the artist to create.

TAG: A stylised signature often done in one colour to contrast with its background. Artists tag on or beside their pieces, just as traditional artists sign their artwork.


Enrol on one of the graffiti courses happening around the country for a real insight into the avant-garde world of street art.


Who is Banksy?

Banksy is an anonymous, UK-based graffiti artist and one of the world's most notorious and popular street artists. He is known for his political, anti-war stencil art, mainly in Bristol, but his stencils, street art and statues can be seen across the world from Los Angeles to Melbourne to Palestine. Despite hosting several exhibitions of his work and directing his own film, Banksy remains faceless in today's society. One of Banksy's most recent art pieces saw a fibreglass Ronald McDonald statue having his shoes shined by a real boy dressed in rags. The controversial, installation made its way around all the New York boroughs' McDonald's during the lunchtime rush.


By Lara Sargent