The Morals and Dangers of Public Art. (A Warning)
I've decided to write this post so some of the fledgling street artists who may or may not follow this world in the future are informed about two things in the urban art world that are either not discussed at all, or distorted (intentionally or otherwise) to the point of misinformation. Those two things are, as the title says, the dangers of street art, and the morals of street art.
The dangers of street art, although they seem very obvious to most, are sometimes forgotten by a fledgling artist who gets caught up in the glamour of banksy and other famous street artist who have managed to hide their identies and avoid law enforcement. Please, please don't think that you can hide your identity or you will never encounter law enforcement. Chances are, you will run into people who would rather see an awful advetisment for sears than your art. Now, if and when you do run into a indiviual with opposing veiws to your own, your first instinct will be to run, and im not going to lie to you, if you have planned your escape route ahead you probably should run. If however, you dont have an escape route planned, it's best to just stay put and and comply with the officer who stopped you (if a shop owner catches you, run no matter what). Most of the time you will just get a ticket for a first offence, or some community service. If you continue working and get caught a second time, chances are that they have put some of your other work in the grafitti database. The grafitti database is a scary thing that stores pictures of tags, walls, and other street art, all orginized by artist. So if they catch you, you will not only get punished for that tag you were caught doing, but any amount of the of the tags that you have done before. So i warn you, if you decide to become an urban artist (and i encourage you to do so) please understand the risks.
The morals of street art are not quite as obvious to most, but, should still be at least loosely followed if you want to become respected in the urban art community. The basic rules (more like guidelines) are really simple to remember, and keep you from being a complete dick. They are as follows
- Cities punish shopkeepers and homeowners who dont remove grafitti quickly by giving them tickets of up to 300 dollars. So please, dont work on private residences or on small local shops. Try to keep it on big chain stores or on public property. And never, ever work on somebodys car!
- First come first rights. This basically means whoever gets to a blank wall first gets full acess to that wall, and their work should be respected. Dont cover up sombody elses work unless your sure that its been there for about three months, then it becomes open season on that wall again(and even then some more aggresive artists won't be happy, just use common sense).
- Dont talk! If you want to go around to the local art stores bragging about a peice you just put up, go ahead, but don't ever, ever go around talking about artists who you worked with. That means no descriptions, names, nothing. The general rule is, don't tell anybody about another urban artists description or name without their permission. The less people know what you look like the better.
- No stealing styles. That means no stealing other peoples signiture tag, their charecters or just their name. It's fine to be influenced by another artist but ultimatly you must come up with your own stuff.
The last thing i want to say is very important. I would like to talk real quick about gang-related grafitti. The bottom line with gangs is that you do not want to piss them off! I have heard too many stories of promising urban artists who just needed that wall, despite the numerous gang tags, and ended up shot or beaten. If you see a gang tag when working or are in a gang infested neiborhood, get out as quickly as possible! Many gangs will attack you just for having spray paint or markers. I the future i plan on writing an article on how to identify gang tags and avoid confrontatione, but for now just listen to what i have told you and use common sense.
Street art is the most vibrant, but also the most dangerous art style in the world. People live and die for their art, and the product is a beautiful mish mash of styles from around the globe. So get out and start sharing your art with the world, but be careful, its a dangerous place out there.