Serif in Education

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – a graffiti art form

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And that could not be truer of one specific art form that has divided opinion for many years and continues to do so. That art form is graffiti.

Usually thought of as an eyesore, and usually in most cases an illegal activity, graffiti has been used for many reasons – public protest, a bored pastime, an expression of art, a cool thing to do amongst friends, a political statement.  However, formally, in the words of the English Oxford Dictionary its meaning is: “Writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.”

Perhaps the most famous of all graffiti artists that we have come to know (and love) is Banksy. Banksy publically paints pieces that are executed using a distinctive stencilling technique, which is highly recognisable and has created excitement amongst all that have viewed it.  In fact it is now highly collectable and extremely valuable.

There has been many a debate over whether graffiti should be classed as illegal, and the rise of Banksy has lead to much debate.  Especially in Bristol which is Banksy’s home town.  In fact, back in 2009, Bristol city council planned to let the public vote before murals on buildings, walls and fences are scrubbed clean or painted over. If citizens decided they liked it, the work would remain.

Others, like Westminster City Council, declared that some of Banksy’s work painted in April 2008 was to be painted over. The council said it would remove any graffiti, regardless of the reputation of its creator, and specifically stated that Banksy “has no more right to paint graffiti than a child.” Robert Davis, the chairman of the council planning committee told The Times newspaper: “If we condone this then we might as well say that any kid with a spray can is producing art.”

Due to this illicit nature of this work, it has become important that he can paint in a secretive manner.  And perhaps stencils help him to do this.

Banksy mentions in his book, Wall and Piece, that as he was starting to do graffiti, he was always too slow and was either caught or could never finish the art in one sitting. So he devised a series of intricate stencils to minimise time and overlapping of the colour.

He said, “I use whatever it takes. Sometimes that just means drawing a moustache on a girl’s face on some billboard, sometimes that means sweating for days over an intricate drawing. Efficiency is the key.”

Stencils are traditionally hand drawn or printed onto sheets of acetate or card, before being cut out by hand. However it is assumed that Banksy uses computers for some images he produces. But we are still unsure due to the fact he remains an unknown individual and due to the secrecy and wonder surrounding his designs!

You can get lots of great effects by using stencils, so why not give it a go?

If you would like to try your hand at making stencils in your computing class, follow the steps below:

Open a new page in DrawPlus.

Set the document size to the measurements you need for the stencil. (This could be the size of a piece of A4 paper for example).

Create a stencil design on the document. Use the shape tool to create different shapes for your design.

Add text to the stencil using the text tool. Alter the font by selecting new styles from the toolbar.

Go to “File” and select “Print.” Follow the on-screen directions to print the stencil onto card or thick material stock.

Use a craft knife to cut the stencil out of the card stock. Cut out any inner parts of the stencil before beginning the outline.

Use your spray paint (or ordinary paint if more suitable) to paint within the stencil and create different effects with your design!

Just be sure to not stencil on anything you are not supposed to – check with a teacher first!

*Courtesy of