So you want to be a graffiti artist..

Growing up, it was instilled early on in my childhood that you shouldn’t draw on walls, and that it wasn’t a good thing.  As with most things in life, as you grow up you learn the world isn’t always black and white.  I’ve always had a fascination with graffiti where I would marvel with wonder at how somebody could be so artistic and talented to be able create such cool art pieces, and even beyond that, there’s the aspect that whoever was doing it had to do so stealthily and not get caught doing it.

As such, I’ve admired it as an art form from arms length as a passive observer, but never thought it would be something I would ever do in real life.    With the release of Kingspray which lets you freely spray paint walls in a virtual environment,  my interest was rekindled and Kingspray provides an easy way to try out your chops on a wall without worrying about getting dirty, making mistakes or getting arrested (which is definitely a good thing).

I thought it would be a neat and interesting experience to try and earnestly learn how to do graffiti and if that went well, to go out and try it out on a real wall.   I started from the absolute beginning by searching on Google and found this useful article:

http://www.graffitiknowhow.com/how-to-draw-graffiti-letters-for-beginners/

I thought the article was really good because it stuck to covering the basic fundamentals with additional ideas on how to start making things more creative.   There were a number of other Graffiti tutorial YouTube videos which I watched which help give more context and detail.

The article also had a link to Legal Walls which provides information on local areas in towns and cities where artists can paint freely with permission.  I found out that there is a wall right in my city, so everything looked good to go.

I decided it would be good to try something with pen and paper first to get some ideas and a rough outline to start from.

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I then started up Kingspray and went through the introduction tutorial.  I learned my first piece of education on what a NY fat cap was.  I had saw the term mentioned in some of the videos before, but didn’t understand what the implication was.   What it refers to is a specific type of nozzle that is used on the top of the spray can, and with different caps you get different physical characterizations of how it sprays on the wall.  The NY fat cap allows you to spray with an even circle pattern which allows to you do cleaner lines.  Interesting.

I then went to work to try and recreate what I had sketched out and here are the results:

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I would say the overall results were ‘okay’ at best.  It certainly looked a lot better in my head at the point where I was sketching it out on paper than it turned out in real life.  I didn’t go farther to try and add more embellishments as I wanted to stop and take a step back to reflect on my efforts on this first try:

  • I tried drawing out an overall outline using black spray paint first, and realized:
    • You need to keep the can pretty close to the wall or else your lines are too thick
    • It was a little challenging to get the proportions of all the letters right when trying to draw an image that’s wall-sized versus drawing on paper
    • I made the overall size too big.  I think if I tried to do this in real life, I would have needed a ton of paint.  I also had to grab a garbage can nearby to stand on it in order to be able to reach the top.
  • I spent a lot of time fixing and redoing parts of the image.  I would spray the outline, fill it in, but it wouldn’t be clean or I would overspray, or try and fix up the aesthetics of the lettering and then I’d have to go back and clean it up again.  Rinse and repeat many times.   It’s a good thing in the virtual environment that the paint cleanly replaces the underlying color on the wall as I went over sections many times over.
  • I can tell my lettering is inconsistent and still not well proportioned and will definitely need to work on this
  • You need some good technique with hand-eye and body coordination to do this.  If you want to spray with even and consistent lines, you need to be able to breath and move your hands and body steadily.   Basically you need to have control of the spray can in 3D (horizontal, vertical, and distance from the wall) as you move it around.

For the next time, I think I want to focus first on doing some basic lettering and techniques before trying to do something fancier.  If I can get the fundamentals down, I think it will help me to get better in the long run.

Round 2:

I went in with the goal of just doing scripted letters, and wanted it look natural and somewhat cool (I hope).  I played around with dozens of variations on the lettering trying out different variations until I settled on a combination that I liked which you can see below.

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Because I had played around with so many variations and there was a lot of repetition in drawing the letters in different ways, at the end I could pretty consistently reproduce the tag at will.   Even though it’s not fancy, I like it and felt like I took a small step forward in being able to draw/paint consistently.

Round 3:

This time wanted to play around a little more creatively and started with the same basic lettering as last time. This time I started off with initially spraying down a base background color (orange) so I could build up upon it after I put the letters down. I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable with how the spray paint cans behave as I use them more and it’s a freeing up room in my brain to explore things creatively instead of thinking about the logistics of it.  I still had to make tons of touch ups and had to redo lines multiple times because of inconsistency in my spraying, and not making clean lines.  However, it was much less rework than the first time around so I guess that’s progress.

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One cool feature in Kingspray is that you can take a 360 degree camera within the game so you can look around as if you were there too!  Try it out, it’s pretty cool.

I think the next time around, I want to work on making clean and consistent lines, especially edges.

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