Understanding grafiti art in 5 steps. Everything you should know about it.

Grafiti art created by Quatch

Some people may think that it’s annoying to observe markers and spray paint in the city’s walls, but for some of us grafiti art is a way of living. In other words, part of our culture.

Cooltourspain is not only interested in spreading the love for this industry, but also willing to promote it among our international readers.

Here you have some key details/aspects about our community:

  • Grafiti art’s importance
  • From the streets to museums
  • Its history.

Why is grafiti art that important?

Grafiti art observed in a squat
Abandoned buildings usually feature a large number of grafiti art

First of all, graffiti might be observed as art. Historians have studied its techniques, its roots and its importance as political/social contributors.

Secondly, it is opened to all audiences. From little kids taught by their parents to elder generations. Both women and men use spray cans to paint statements of all kinds.

Furthermore, there exists codes and mistery behind it. Let’s pay attention to the most common forms:

Whole cars, painting over train wagons

grafiti art on a train wagon
‘Mad Flava’ wholecar in Leipzig. Captured by Markus Zapke-Gründemann

Writers refer to this action as ‘missions’. Painting in the subway, freight trains, or intercity wagons gives respect to the artists within the community.

Spain is at the top of the European list when it comes to trains painted. RENFE (the national railway company), MTB (Barcelona) or Madrid metro spend thousand of euros removing the paint from their wagons every year.

Artists from different European countries meet fellow Spanish illustrators to leave their marks together in the train tracks. They then wait hidden in the surrounding areas for the train to leave the sheds the next morning.

That’s the moment when they take photos of the train leaving. Boom! You’ve got your shot!

Grafiti art is more than just tags

Grafiti art in Spain
R2hox is one of the most famous grafiti photographers in Spain

Similarly to what happens in the metro doors & windows, grafiti art might be also observed in the streets. Artists paint over different surfaces. For instance, concrete walls or metal shutters.

What do writers use to paint?

  • Markers or dabbers. Easy to carry and leave your signature all around.
  • Spray cans. They are probably the most common material used for painting. There exists different sizes, colors, and caps.
  • Regular home paint. Think about those big names written in the highways or the train tracks. Writers do recycle the paint cans left in the trash containers, and use roll-ups for the actions.

From grafiti art to contemporary art galleries.

Okuda San Miguel grafiti art
Okuda is represented in worldwide art galleries by Ink & Movement

In addition, it should be interesting to analyze the move that grafiti art has taken. It all went from illegal to being paid in modern art museums.

Here you have some examples of artists who started painting in the streets (they still do it). It was fame who catapulted them to museums. That is to say, post-graffiti.

1UP, One United Power

Grafiti art video recorded by 1UP in Athens, Greece

If we had to mention the most famous grafiti art crew around the world, we would definitely talk about this German ‘gang’.

They don’t play around. What it all started as a reduced group of friends, turned into an almost 25 people crew who travel all around the world painting in the most adventurous scenarios.

One of the most famous grafiti art photographers, Martha Cooper, even participated in a project with them. She captured them while paiting, and all these images have been observed in different European contemporary art galleries.

Kobra, Brazilian writer

Grafiti by Eduardo Kobra
Mural by Kobra in Lodz, Poland. Picture by Ferdinand Feys

Eduardo was born in Jardim Martinica, a poor neighborhood in the south of São Paulo. Similarly to what happens with many other humble artists, Kobra has now painted along the 5 continents.

He began drawing on walls, as the majority of artists do, hidding! Kobra learned and developed his art by observing the work of artists he admires :

  • Keith Haring
  • Banksy
  • Diego Rivera

It is common to observe Kobra’s gigantic walls featuring historical figures. Did you have the opportunity to observe his skillful artworks?

Okudart, Spanish internationally known artist

Graffiti created by Okudart in a building
Street art from Spain around the world

Despite being the most renowned Spanish street art artist, Okuda San Miguel’s origins started as a graffiti writer.

He started painting over train wagons and abandoned walls in Santander, his hometown. Okuda then moved to Madrid, where the cultural possibilities where endless.

His colorful designs are mostly created by following patterns and people’s faces or animal bodies are frequently painted.

Everything you need to know about grafiti art

Keru de Kolorz, Madrid Spain
Keru de Kolorz is an emergent grafiti writer from Madrid, Spain

Talking about the most famous writers and the importance of the community wouldn’t be completed if we didn’t mention its history.

There exists different versions of where graffiti started, but here as some key aspects that you should take into account:

The history about grafiti art

Dondi grafiti New York city
Wholecar in New York city, circa 1980

Modern grafiti art appeared in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, and by the late sixties it reached New York, where it gained popularity among young people.

This artistic wave took off during the 70s, when writers started drawing ‘tags’ on facades and wagons.

Among others, the most famous artists by that time were:

  • Seen
  • Cornbread
  • Blade
  • Fame 1

If you were interested in becoming famous, the best way was to paint on a train wagon as it would travel to different parts of the city within hours.

The difference between graffiti and street art

difference between graffiti and street art
Characters and letters are both used in grafiti and street art

Last but not least, we should pay attention to the difference that exist between them.

Here’s the opposite ideas we found:

  • Grafiti art will remain illegal, whereas street art usually receives permission.
  • Writers mostly use markers and spray cans, while urban artists may work with paste-ups, stencils, wool…
  • The main difference observed would be the feeling. If graffiti artists look for adrenalynn, modern art artists are more interested in the aesthetics.

Cooltourspain’s opinion about grafiti art

Three years ago we found that our hobby could turn into a daily job. Our team observed as there were graffiti tours all around the world, but Madrid didn’t have its one.

Consequently we created the first project in the Spanish capital which exclusively digs in the street art & graffiti industries with a social, cultural and touristic point of view.

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