New York’s “graffiti boom” of the ‘70s and ‘80s spawned a worldwide (initially underground) street art movement that would eventually gain a level of mainstream appreciation. Early graffiti drawings primarily consisted of stylized lettering and characters, usually featuring the artists’ names--with many artists attempting to develop their own unique style of script. If you’re a fan of graffiti art, both old-school and new, we invite you to explore the many graffiti drawings for sale on Saatchi Art, created by emerging talent from around the globe.
Surviving graffiti drawings and street/urban art go as far back as the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, where people turned to carving walls and monuments to express symbols of political thoughts, declarations of love, and basic words and names. Throughout time, graffiti has served as an outlet for people on the outskirts of mainstream cultural categories including class, race, and gender to communicate with each other. Contemporary graffiti really took off in the 1970s and 1980s, when New York City experienced a surge in graffiti activity. Artists influenced by hip-hop, rap, new wave, and punk subcultures tagged walls, public restrooms, subway cars, and bridges. Graffiti eventually caught the eye of arts institutions, leading to gallery exhibitions and a rise in commercial mainstream support for the medium. Today, organizations like the Graffiti Research Lab encourage artists to utilize new technologies, including LED lights for lettering and projected lights, to create cool graffiti drawings.
Artists create graffiti drawings and street/urban art in a variety of mediums. While some use graphite or permanent marker to practice tags or produce graffiti drawings on paper, the preferred medium is aerosol spray paint. Some graffiti artists, muralists in particular, draw their compositions before projecting them onto a wall. Freehand drawing is also a common tactic for producing quick tags and written graffiti characters with drawings. Graffiti artists also sketch designs to cut into stencils, which are later used to quickly spray paint graffiti drawings of cartoons, logos, slogans, and names.
Darryl McCray, whose tagging name is Cornbread, is considered to be the first modern graffiti artist. New York City artists known for their graffiti drawings and street/urban art include Fred Brathwaite (Fab 5 Freddy) and Lee Quinones. Quinones is most famous for spray painting a subway car with “Stop the Bomb” in large bubble letters. Blek le Rat, a Parisian graffiti artist, is well-known for his stencil graffiti compositions. Jean-Michel Basquiat tagged the streets of New York City under the moniker SAMO. Basquiat usually included short snide phrases with these tags. Other artists known for their graffiti drawings include Skeme, Dondi, ZEPHYR, Keith Haring, John Fekner, Dr. Revolt, Lady Pink, and Inkie.