The Origins of Stencil Graffiti Art

Stencil Graffiti Art has become increasingly popular in modern times, and for a very good reason. But what are the origins of stencil graffiti art? As you can imagine, it all stems from the concept of spraying paint on items to show that particular item belongs to you. This first started in the US Army, where spraying buildings and items was a way to mark belongings for various divisions.

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Aside from that, the WWII soldiers would also add spray tags on their vehicles with the idea of scaring the enemy with intimidating images and also boosting the overall group morale. So yes, the Stencil Graffiti Art was quite important even during WWII, although it didn’t become as important for quite a lot of time.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s when this unique current migrated to the rest of the US. The interesting thing here is that the US was dealing with various civil aspects at that particular time. The simple fact that there was quite the instability at that time was extremely challenging for a lot of people. But artists found that Stencil Graffiti Art allowed them to express themselves in a much simpler and easier manner than ever before.

Punk rock bands in general saw the Stencil Graffiti Art as an opportunity. This art form became an incredibly strong tool for protesting and because of the short amount of time it took to paint their artwork onto a desired “canvas”, it would be very easy to evade the authority and remain anonymous.

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A good reference would be 1968, when John Fekner started to work outdoors for the first time. He worked in New York at first, and he immediately started to develop an underground strategy. This brought in front quite an interesting set of ideas to the table, and there are plenty of artworks to show that.

The Wheels Over Indian Trails at the Pulasky Bridge Queens Midtown Tunnel is by far one of the most well known pieces of work that he did, and it’s quite special and intriguing to say the least. But at least at that time, John was one of the few people that saw the benefits of Stencil Graffiti Art and that was a shame. It was clear that people found it easier to express themselves this way, and it really goes to show that at some point it would be easier just to connect with others and create a community with it!

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Yet the Stencil Graffiti Art scene did go onward thanks to Blek le Rat. This was one of the early practitioners that did manage to create unique stencil art projects all over Paris. Of course, he did have a lot of influence from the New York street art, and that’s maybe the thing that led him to the unique style he created for himself.

At first, he started with stencil rats, hence his name. He is known as one of the first people that transformed Stencil Graffiti Art from lettering to systematical imagery. It was a huge deal at that time, since most people thought about getting simplistic graffiti art and nothing too spectacular. But things did change towards the better with Blek le Rat, and that’s why he is a key moment and hugely influential in the Stencil Graffiti Art history. Being able to make so many changes to an art you are representing is quite amazing and certainly very refreshing. It goes to show the true power of graffiti art and how this continues to represent our society and the way we think about it. Plus, these techniques are extremely popular and among some of the best out there at this time.

Once Blek le Rat became very popular, many other people started to experiment in this type of art form too. A good example here would be Rennie Ellis’s documented stencil art in Australia. He also corresponded with Charles Gatewood, which managed to showcase the power of American graffiti at its best. Ellis in particular got to showcase the street art in a unique, meaningful way, exactly the way it should be represented all over the world. The thing to note here is that the internet managed to push the Stencil Graffiti Art to the next level. Modern artists tried to find some new and creative options to share their ideas, and the best thing for them is that they got to showcase stencil graffiti art in some rather amazing ways.

Credit: MF GRAFFITI (Matt Farina)

One thing to keep in mind here is that many of the methods used today are modern. Yet there are some that still take inspiration from the old school methods we listed above. Yet as Stencil Graffiti Art started to spread, so did the problems with local authorities. Initially, this shouldn’t be any kind of problem. But it is, and for a very specific reason. The idea here is that Stencil Graffiti Art became much more than just a way for artists to represent themselves. In many locations, local authorities got to deal with unwanted depictions of representatives and important political figures. From here to banning these artists was just a simple step. That’s one of the reasons why many of the key graffiti artists are working under their aliases.

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Some of the major modern practitioners include Banksy, Dolk, Pobel, Evol, Icy and Shot, Boxi and Samina. Strok, Emess and Rero or Sten and Lex are also great examples of how amazing stencil graffiti art can be. And these artists actually took things to the next level by making stencil art distinct, unique and also pretty easy to perform too.

They actually got to create their own style, to the point where you can easily recognize a piece of art from Evol, Banksy or Boxi just by looking at it. This is amazing, considering the fact that these are anonymous artists. If anything, it goes to show just how astonishing their work really is and how they get to create amazing work pieces that withstand the test of time. And that’s stencil graffiti art in the first place. It’s a type of art that surpasses time and space. It enables us to breathe life into our ideas and bring them to reality. That on its own is why artists continue to showcase their ideas in the form of stencil graffiti art, because it’s unique, vivid and visually impressive! We have a lot to be appreciative of the origins of stencil graffiti art and it’s something we should be actively teaching others so that future generations of artists are aware of where this fascinating art form evolved from.

How to Create Stencil Graffiti Art – Banksy Example

HI! I’m the guy behind this site.  Living in Bristol, England, I’m an independent filmmaker, blogger and a huge fan of Stencil Graffiti Art.

Using this site, I aim to pass on some of my knowledge to others. Enjoy!

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