So you want to be a street artist? Well these days the line between graffiti and art has been blurred to the point where you’ll either be thrown into prison or protected for your efforts. Of course you’re going to want to be the guy who has Perspex drilled into the wall around his work for protection as opposed to the guy doing time for spraying up tags all over a train. But how do you walk that thin line between vandalism and having your stencil work paraded around art galleries for the middle classes? Here’s a few fundamental pointers you’ll need to master before you can take your place amongst street art legends like Banksy.
Like any self respecting street artist, you want people to know who has doused their wall in spray paint. However, you’ll want to dodge the arm of the law until you’re well known (and rich) enough to avoid serious jail time, so we advise you not to sign it “John Smith” or whatever your real name is, you’ll want a nickname. Go for something obscure and totally senseless, as it’ll have the broadsheet art editors guessing the “deeper meaning” for years to come.
Stencil rats, an angry Pacman and weed smoking Yodas—we’ve seen them all before. These days to get noticed you’re going to want to climb up a mountain or create some kind of installation to really elevate yourself to the realms of Banksy-like stardom. But to start with, you’ll need to throw something funny into the mixing bowl, a dash of cleverness, some arrogance and of course the most important ingredient to incorporate in your street art style is some socio-politicism. You need to capture that all powerful “zeitgeist” so the PR folks “understand you message” man… Go for something that a lot of people can sneer/smile at on the way to work: “Eat the Rich” sprayed on the side of a Greek restaurant for example. Maybe even put up a Dick Dastardly with George Osborne’s face.
Trotting off down to Soho or Shoreditch to declare war on the already plastered walls of the “trendy” end of London is all well and good, but little controversy will be garnered in a place where eccentric moustaches and bohemian coffee bars are already the norm. Where you really should be taking your kitbag of spray cans and stencils to, are the posh areas of any given city. These are the places that the governments are most interested in protecting—the zones that the tanks would’ve been patrolling had the riots spread there last year.
Head up to those rich and affluent areas and spray your work all over the shop. Maybe even add in a swear word or two and you’re guaranteed overnight headlines in the Daily Mail. Don’t worry about the outrage or the shrieks of you being the anti-Christ, because in the world of street art, all publicity is good publicity—think of it as a shop window for liberal film stars to stare into.
So by now you’re known all over the place. The Guardian loves you, Elton John thinks you’re the new Damien Hirst of the street and the cool kids are even down with your message due to your clever use of 90s themed colour schemes. Well done, but now you’re going to want to make some money from all your hard work. Of course people will start crying about this. You’re a street artist after all, you’re meant to be all about the message and the thoughts created when somebody looks at your work—not the money. This is understandable, but inspiration and column inches in the art mags don’t pay your bills or even cover the cost of a can of spray paint.
The next step is to put on an exhibition. Perhaps naming it something ironic like “Film stars please buy my work” will paper over the cracks created by “selling out”. The irony is you actually mean it—even more genius, right? If you managed to follow the above steps correctly, Brad Pitt may be hiding somewhere at your exhibition. He’ll be greyscaled with a long beard and a list of obscure but deeply unsettling catchphrases from a perfume advert. Once you’ve managed to convince this guy you’re the real deal, you’re in.
Now young padawan, with this guide, you are ready to pull on your black tracksuit, load your duffle bag with spray cans and hit the rooftops on a journey to become the next street artist to “shake up the system”.