Is it just me or is stencil lettering everywhere? Stencil letters, or any stencil art for that matter, takes us back to a time when everything was done by hand. There is a nostalgic quality, but stencil art also creates a rebellious and even dangerous aesthetic, as Steven Heller asserts in this article. The history of stencil art has a few chapters on street graffiti, and could represent lawlessness and sketchy neighborhoods that you wouldn’t want to walk around in the dark. Here is an example of a really cool stencil I found walking around in Soho the other day.
I appreciate the tactile quality of street art – the crumbling side of the building is the format, then there are layers of wheatpaste, stencil, or scrawling spraypaint. Especially in New York, the layers upon layers of art are fascinating. Sometimes things are partly peeled off to reveal an interesting layer underneath.
I will share a secret about myself – in junior high school a few of my friends and I created tags for ourselves. I will try to recreate it and post it up here – I think I thought graffiti art was cool even back then.
Another interesting aspect of street art is the lack of respect for the institution on which the art is sprayed, and the passersby that have no choice but to absorb the artists message. There is inherently an anti-corporate message in anything hand-altered at street level. There are the obvious examples of folks vandalizing actual advertisements and the indirect message above, but then there are the subtle messages like Banksy’s amazing political art.
‘There is always hope’
On a side note, I also picked up some cute stencil books on our recent trip to Scotland. One was all different types of horses and another was mythical creatures. They are fun to create basic artwork fast and especially cool when working with layers of color.