I can still remember the first piece of New York City street art that made an impression on me: walking through Williamsburg several years ago, I was stopped in my tracks by the haunting face of a young girl peering out at me from within a doorframe. Pasted on a door was a beautifully detailed woodcut print I would later learn had been crafted by the street artist Swoon.
Down the street, I discovered what looked like a cover of a tawdry pulp fiction novel stenciled on some wooden scaffolding by a collective known as Faile… from that moment on, I was hooked. With a little patience, you too can develop a street art habit.
The streets of New York City have something for everybody, provided you know where to look. If the walls are spotless and clean, keep walking. If the stores you’re passing are ones you’d find at the Mall of America, keep walking. If things are starting to look a little grotty, slow down and put your peepers to work. It is almost impossible to walk the entire length of a street without encountering some kind of illegal art. Marker tags are everywhere – if you can’t read them, don’t worry – they’re solely to let you know that the tagger made it there before you. Once you start paying attention, you’ll be hard pressed to pass a mailbox, newspaper stand, construction fence or pretty much any free standing object that doesn’t have a tag on it. If you let your eyes wander, you’ll start seeing stickers, lots and lots of stickers. You can continue to ignore about half of them, because they’re just bands, t-shirt manufacturers or other corporate wankers hoping to build some street credibility so they can tap into the lucrative urban youth market. But wait, what about the other half? Well, that’s where things start to get more interesting.
The street sticker is a classic, low budget means to get your image seen again and again. Whether you draw them by hand or cough up the cash to have them printed on vinyl, if you put up enough stickers in a city, they will get noticed. Take, for example, my boy Darkcloud: his signature, hand painted dripping clouds can be seen, often in pairs, on the backs of street signs all over northern Brooklyn.
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