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The Evolution Of Graffiti And Urban Art

By Nikki | Inspiration

You’ve already learned how to use the BeFunky Photo Editor to work with photo manipulation for your street art photography, so now I’m going to give you a little historical background to this exciting and gorgeous form of art.


Graffiti and street art emerged in urban art around the early 1970‘s, mostly in large cities, such as New York. It started off as humble vandalism, but quickly progressed into a unique form of art that requires huge technical skill. It is probably most well known for the tags we see all around cities and towns. When graffiti first emerged, taggers treated tagging as a competition over whose name could be seen around the city the most frequently. Many taggers would use permanent markers on subway trains at first, and moved to spray paint as their styles became more complex.

graffiti edit

This evolution in tagging led to the “Style Wars” of the 1970’s, which is where the crafted, beautiful graffiti we know today began to emerge. Artists began pushing their skills and saying more with their art than just their names; this formed an entire artistic subculture surrounding graffiti that led to a tight-knit and creative community of artists working together to forge graffiti masterpieces.

Graffiti Girl

Because Graffiti is, at its heart, a defiant form of artistic expression, and technically illegal, law-makers in the 1980’s cracked down on graffiti artists. After this shift, the artists who perfected this style of art began taking a great risk in showcasing their skills. Typically, graffiti artists are viewed as vandals or criminals, when in reality they are passionate, outspoken, and community-oriented individuals.

Graffiti has become increasingly popular recently largely in part to Banksy.

Graffiti Banksy

Banksy’s street art is meant to highlight social and political issues in a very direct and beautiful way. Banksy’s style is minimalist and often utilizes other items of the street, like in the picture above, which references back to found objects in art. In doing this, Banksy is trying to make it seem as though the images he paints exist in reality and are not simply a sketch on the wall. Through Banksy's work and documentary, he has truly brought graffiti to the mainstream to highlight its creativity and place in the artistic community.

Sources: PBS and CSDT


Another form of urban art that has grown in popularity is street murals. Street murals can be found all around cities and urban areas, and they usually tell a tale about the city or community in which they reside. Without the popularity of graffiti, street murals would not have had a place to grow and progress into the amazing style of art they are today.

graffiti la mision

This mural, by Precita Eyes Mural Center in San Francisco, is a representation of The Mission District, which is rich in cultural heritage. The center, opened in 1977 by Susan Kelk Cervantes and her husband, Luis, provides community outreach and educates children and adults in the area about art and the importance of beautifying one’s community through artistic expression. They hold workshops educating people from the community on how to express themselves and work together through murals and mosaic arts in order to communicate a cohesive and conscious message. The mural center in an integral part of the San Francisco community, and is, unfortunately, dangerously close to closing.

Source: Precita Eyes

Now you can get inspired by your new-found knowledge of the roots of this wonderful style of artistic expression, make the most of its beautiful colors in your street art photography, and use the BeFunky Photo Editor to create new, exciting pieces of art!

Graffiti robo mural

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