Street Art is a public form of art that artists usually for a particular agenda, whether it be a political, social, or personal stance. There are many forms of street art, the most popular being graffiti, but there are plenty of other mediums as well. Because it is done in public spaces, artists are enticed by the idea that the artwork will reach a large audience and communicate a message directly without having to see the art through an exhibition or another third party. This usually brings upon a well known icon and cult followings with the images as well.  

Background Edit

People have been writing in public spaces since the times of the cavemen and Ancient Greece. People throughout history have been interested in letting people know that they where "here," but we see becoming more viral and well known through modern transportation and media in this day and age. As the world's population increased, there are more and more people to act as the audience for these public forms of art.

Notable history of street art in its form we see today dates back to usage in the late 19th century in Paris, when artist Toulouse-Lautrec would post around the city some of his work. His work was so popular that people developed ways to successfully remove his posters from wall without any damage for personal keeping.[1] Another example of this is with "Kilroy Was Here" during the World War II time, as he appealed to many soldiers going abroad and wanting a piece of home, since he was seen all over ships. [2] Finally, the makings of modern street art started around the time of the New York City graffiti boom where subway trains were being covered in graffiti art.

Kinds of Street Art Edit

Wheat Paste Edit


Wheatpaste art by Stikki Peaches

Wheatpaste refers to the actual paste that is made as a type of glue to adhere posters or other forms of art done on parchment to their locations. The crude adhesive is made simply from mixing flour (usually wheat) and water until it reaches a thin, sticky consistency. It is a rather weak glue, so it is usually only effective on paper. This paste was used for all sorts of commercial reasons, but it had still been used by artists. When the graffiti boom started up in the 1970s, wheatpasting also was taken up as a form of street art. It became better known when artists like Shepard Fairey would create iconic logos and post them around U.S. cities.

What makes this such a popular form of street art is because it is a quick and convenient way of getting artwork up. The artist can do the piece at home or in their studio and then all they have to do is go to their destination and quickly paste it on. This is especially useful for artists if they are posting in illegal places and risk being caught.

Sticker Art Edit

Also known as sticker bombing, sticker slapping, slap tagging, and sticker tagging, this is another form of contemporary public street art. It is popular because it is easy to carry, discrete if the artist is posting somewhere illegal, and also convenient because the artist can do the artwork at home and then print mass copies of it for easy distribution. It's also popular because if small enough, stickers are usually effective in getting a lot of circulation because of these conveniences and they are able to be placed in small, difficult spaces. Another benefit is they are easy distributable among other artist so they can trade work and increase circulation. Stickers are frequently used to either spread a name, label places or items as some sort of instillation, or advertise. 


Public sticker art

Sticker artists are also able to make stickers that have very strong adhesive, are waterproof, and fade-resistant, making them more desirable for street artists. They are more difficult to get off cleanly without leaving residue, so your artwork stays up longer. However, they do have the constraint of their size. While it is possible to make a very large sticker, it is costly and difficult to make, so the artist has the limits of how big they want to make their piece without it being inconvenient for application.

Stencil Edit

Stencil graffiti is closely linked to print making; it is not just one piece of art but the possibility to make multiples from an original piece. Stencils are usually made from paper, cardboard, or plastic. An image is cut out from the medium, so there is then a blank area where the artist can apply paint or spray paint to transfer the image to whatever surface. It is popular because, again, it is a convenient way of getting an image onto a surface without having to spend time on actually creating the piece at that location. 


Stencil art by Banksy in London

Stenciling has become popular through mainstream street artists such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy, but it has also infiltrated the contemporary art world as well. Aside from Banksy who also holds private shows, there are many private exhibitions from artists containing this medium. This has created a riff in the art community between street artists and private ones, as street artists find their art is being appropriated into something only for corporate wealth. As stencil street artist dlux says, "It's about wanting to go against advertising, to provide an aesthetic alternative that is not just about selling things."[3]


Yarn Bombing in Port Adelaide

Miscellaneous Edit

Aside from these popular forms of street art, there are many other forms that artists have exhibited. 

Carvings Edit

Artists have carved names and even images into public surfaces, the most common and easiest to carve being wood. However, a multitude of tools can make carving in other surfaces possible.

Moss Edit

through the process of blending water, certain mosses, and a few other ingredients depending on whose recipe you're using. It is then painting on surfaces like walls or sidewalks, and it creates a moss growth that grows in the design the artists paints.

Yarn Bombing Edit

easily removable, and more 3d than street art images, yarn bombing is the act of knitting or crocheting over a space or landmark, often trees, statues, or fences.

Critical Conversation Edit

There is a deep-seated and heated debate between the pro and anti street art. Non supporters are usually against if for many reasons, one being that it is by its very nature vandalism usually done on someone else's property. It is illegal and you can be fined for it. They also tie tagging and graffiti to gang activities in cities. The rebuttal to this is that most graffiti artists are just that: artists exercising their right to freedom of speech. Graffiti artist say that their art is often overshadowed by gang violence and the minor amount of gang graffiti. The main difference between the two is legibility. Gang graffiti is usually put up to be read, while graffiti art is mostly from an artistic and abstract standpoint. [4] To add fuel to the unsupportive side, graffiti removal is extremely costly. Chicago, IL budgeted $6.5 million in 2006 for graffiti removal and Graffiti Blasters, the city's removal program[5].

Resources and Further Reading Edit

Defining Visual Street Art: In Contrast to Political Stencils by Axel Philipps

  • This article written by Axel Phillip who teaches Visual Sociology at the Institute of Sociology at Leibniz University, focuses on the particular medium of street at known as "Stencil Graffiti". This article is helpful in providing a fresh approach to understanding the characteristics of visual street art, through the use of interviews and analyzing street art, as well as comparing street art to polical stencils found in the city of Leipzing.


  • This article clarifies that street art was originally art that is created illegaly on private or public property, but its definition has changed over the years and is now a trending piece of art that many are now desiring. The increase in demand for street has caused many to copy and reproduce the original street art, therefore this article is useful in providing a understanding who own the copyright to street art is if intelectual property law should protect it from being copied or destroyed.

Street art and graffiti: Michael DeNotto

  • This article is useful in providing information on the origins of street are and graffiti as well as discussing the current state of its culture and its prominent figures such as Banksy and Shepard Farey. Although street art and graffiti are often linked together this article highlights the characteristics of street art that make it distinct from graffiti.


  • This article closely look at how those living in the city of Sydney are responding to an increase in Graffitti and Street Art. This article provides an inside look into how street art has transformed the moral geography of Sydney, thus making a creative city.

Symbiotic Postures of Commercial Advertising and Street Art by Stefania Borghini 

  • This articles views Street Art as a form of rhetoric and is successful in analyzing the rhetorical practices street artist use when creating their art. Not only does this article focus on street art alone but also highlights the direct impact Street Art is having on commercial advertising.

References Edit

  1. Posters Weren't the Half of Him, New York Times Book Review, 16 January 2000, accessed July 2006.
  2. Zotti, Ed (14 August 2000). "What's the origin of 'Kilroy was here'?".Straight Dope; staff report from the Science Advisory Board. Sun-Times Media, LLC.
  3. Norman, James, "Graffiti goes upmarket", The Age, Melbourne, Australia, August 16, 2003.
  4. Martinez, Jose. Know Your Graffiti: Art, vandalism or gang device?.OnCentral. 3-06-2014.
  5. "Night-vision cameras aim to stop graffiti." Chicago Sun-Times, April 6, 2006.