Most art teachers are terrified of teaching graffiti. This is understandable considering the implications of a child going out into the world and actually doing graffiti. It is illegal and vandalism. And most art teachers do not want the blame for when that child becomes a hooligan. I have a true love for street art and believe that in 2012, it is not only a form of contemporary art but a social movement that will be part of history. That being said, when I teach street art, I very dramatically stress the fact that IT IS ILLEGAL TO TAG ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU AND YOU WILL GET ARRESTED AND GO TO JAIL!!!!!!! I make this very clear to students. When we look at pictures of street art (we looked at tags and work by Banksy for this lesson) there are always a couple students who ask “did those artists go to jail?” and I slyly answer, “No, because they got permission of course.” This is obviously not true — the very nature of street art is one of anarchy and belligerence. But I am not teaching kids to be belligerent anti-society vandals; I am teaching them about modern pop art and how they can use the style to express themselves.
We talked about the style of graffiti letters, how they are not always easy to read (it was fun to try and untangle some of the tags I showed them as a class) how artists use embellishments like arrows and curvy wavy lines. We started off by drawing the letters regular. Then we turned them into bubble letters. Last was the fun part of adding graffiti details. Students had to use a variety of patterns and shapes to fill the space and I reminded students to make their compositions balanced.
Some students struggled with what to add but when I asked them what kinds of things they like to do, they were quick to add basketballs, pencils, flowers, headphones, and even magnets (from a kids who loves science). We painted using INTERMEDIATE COLORS of liquid watercolors. Students had to paint with contrasting colors. I urged the students to experiment with mixing colors and blending or splattering the paint. This was an overall successful project that the kids really connected with.