Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stencils versus graffiti

In recent days, anonymous commentors have chided me on a post a wrote back in April 2011, Lamenting the Quality of Ann Arbor Graffiti:

I've always thought that graffiti was graffiti, regardless of medium. Is that not true? Can't posters, stickers, stencils, markers and spray paint all be used for graffiti? To the anonymous commentors who corrected me earlier, please feel free to explain your understanding of graffiti and street art and how stencils fit in. Thanks.


  1. From the Merriam-Webster website:
    noun (Concise Encyclopedia)

    Form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group. Technically the term applies to designs scratched through a layer of paint or plaster, but its meaning has been extended to other markings. Graffiti is widely considered a form of antisocial behaviour performed in order to gain attention or simply for thrills. But it also can be understood as an expressive art form. Derived from the Italian word graffio (“scratch”), graffiti (“incised inscriptions,” plural but often used as singular) has a long history. It has been found in ancient Roman ruins, in the remains of the Mayan city of Tikal in Central America, on rocks in Spain dating to the 16th century, and in medieval English churches. During the 20th century, graffiti in the U.S. and Europe was closely associated with gangs. Graffiti was particularly prominent in major urban centres throughout the world; common targets were subways, billboards, and walls. In the 1990s there emerged a new form of graffiti, known as “tagging,” which entailed the repeated use of a single symbol or series of symbols to mark territory.

  2. street art is all the dumb shit people do like stencils of flowers, knitting things around light poles, bad stencils, good stencils, wierd stuff that people spray paint when they're really drunk etc...graffiti in the modern sense is for the most part based on having a name, and you make that name for yourself by painting it as big, as stylishly, and in as many places as possible. street art is something to dabble in that looks ok and most people ignore. graffiti is something that consumes your every breathing second and pisses most people off when they see it.