graffiti vs street art

many people don’t realize that there is a difference between graffiti and street art; the terms are often used interchangeably.  though the terms describe similar art forms, there are some key differences to notice when using each term.

m e t h o d o l o g y

arguably the most noticeable difference between graffiti and street art are the methods used for creation.  graffiti artists use spray paint and markers to create on the spot art, often in the form of initials, slogans and free hand artwork.  street artists are more deliberate in planning their artwork beforehand.  they create stencils, perform wheatpasting (using a homemade paste to roll over an image that has been preprinted), or simply “slap” premade stickers onto the walls.

s t y l e

it is true that graffiti is considered an artform, but even more than that it is a cultural movement and lifestyle for the artists involved.  in many instances, graffiti artists lack any kind of formal artistic training. their main goal is to “tag,” or put up artwork across the city as fast as possible to avoid being caught.  graffiti artists risk being fined or imprisoned when putting their art in undesignated or unapproved places.

on the other hand, many street artists are formally trained art students who prepare their work before arriving to the location of their choice. they also risk fines or imprisonment if they put up their art work illegally without permission.


wheat pasting: obama hope poster by SHEPARD FAIREY


stenciling in the style of BANKSY


classic tag by ENERO in richmond (ca)

b a c k g r o u n d

in terms of backgrounds, one new york blogger said it best, “graffiti is a medium for borderline criminals and maniacs who insist on testing every limit. street art is for frustrated graphic designers with too much time on their hands and not enough creative control in their day jobs.”


whether you prefer graffiti or street art, both are powerful forms of public art that use visually striking, bold images and metaphors to convey a message. both art methods are culturally valid and should be admired by the public for their uniqueness and character.

for a more in depth look into the graffiti vs. street art debate, click here

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