Finding your own style: A self-guided graffiti and street art tour of Brooklyn
Chris Schmidt uses calligraphy as an introduction to graffiti. He wants his students to understand that this art form is an acquired skill. Graffiti writers need to master basic elements of art, including color blending, fading, contour, and perspective, in order to give their pieces a 3-D effect. And Chris instructs his class to focus on the movement of each artist’s hands to visualize his or her style.
“What makes those letters move?” Chris asks his students at his art class at the Dual Language and Asian Studies High School in Lower Manhattan. “Did the wind come by and blow on them until they began to curve? Did a hammer come down and smash them with its force?”
Writing his name in script, Chris Schmidt bends and pushes each letter on the chalkboard with one continuous movement.
“What makes someone successful at calligraphy,” he explains to his students, “is the ability to move your hand and wrist without obstruction.”
Then he shows his class some Chinese characters and applies the same lesson from writing to painting.
“If the brush stops for a second on paper it is going to bleed. And if a graffiti artist stops for a second too long with a spray-can on the wall he is going to get drops of paint running down.”
Figuring out the style that transforms each graffiti piece into a moving monument is essential to deciphering what it says. The shaggy edges of some pieces can resemble the long hairy legs of a tarantula. Other graffiti writing is crafted to look like a lightning bolt or a shard of pointy glass. Some creative styles are more subtle, starting out narrowly at the bottom, and then swelling at the top like blossoming flowers.
For Chris, each style is part of the artist’s narrative, which gives context and meaning to New York. And by urging his students to locate different graffiti and street art in the city, he hopes that they will build a stronger connection between themselves and their artwork, and develop their own style as a form of expression.
Just like a student in Chris’ art class, we were inspired to find the artwork of veteran graffiti and street artists to connect with our own creativity. We ventured out recently to Bushwick, the heart of Brooklyn’s graffiti and street art scene, where we found some of the best samples of American graffiti writing available today, as well as some more European-style street art, including poster-work, stencils, and stickers.
Print out this article as an itinerary for your own self-guided tour of Bushwick. While graffiti and street art is not permanent, you will find newer artwork by the time you visit the locations listed below.
1. GAK, on White Street, between Seigel and Moore Streets
2. SHANK, on White Street, between Seigel and Moore Streets
3. KNOWS, on White Street, between Seigel and Moore Streets
4. DASIC, on White Street, between Seigel and Moore Streets
5. TABOO, on Boerum Street, between White and Bogart Streets
6. ROA, on Grattan Street, between Bogart Street and Morgan Avenue
7. ZEHPOLITO, DASIC, on Waterbury, off Meserole and Scholes Streets
8. OBEY, on Waterbury, off Meserole and Scholes Streets
9. NEVER, on Meadow Street, off Bogart Street
10. PEZ, on Knickerbocker Avenue, off Harrison Place
11. WERDS, on Ingraham Street, between Knickerbocker and Porter Avenues
12. ROA, on Vandervoort Place, off Flushing Avenue
13. JIM AVIGNON (mural parts I, II, III, and IV), on Vandervoort Pl., off Flushing Avenue
14. VANG, on Johnson Avenue, off Stewart Avenue
15. BAST, on Stewart Avenue, off Johnson Avenue
16. OVERUNDER, on Johnson Avenue, off Gardner Avenue
17. ECB, CHRIS, on Johnson, off Gardner Avenue
18. CHRIS, NBA (parts I & II), on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
19. CHRIS, on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
20. ECB, on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
21. VANG, OVERUNDER, CHRIS, on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
22. NEVER, on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
23. ECB, on Gardner Avenue, between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street
24. OVERUNDER, on Ingraham Street, off Gardner Avenue
25. OVERUNDER, ECB, corner of Flushing and Scott Avenues
26. OVERUNDER, corner of Johnson and Scott Avenues
27. BAST (I & II), on Wyckoff Avenue, off Troutman Street
28. AIKO (I & II), on Wyckoff Avenue, off Troutman Street
Photos courtesy of Arturo Conde