8 Terms to get you through the Urban Art Scene!

Let’s face it, we all tend to call everything we see on the streets “graffiti” or “street art” when in reality there is a whole spectrum of art techniques and styles that we actually encounter.

These eight terms will help you navigate through all the beautiful installations that we see on the thriving public art scene!

1. Graffiti is illegal writing done directly on the surfaces of a city. Graffiti writers normally cover the walls of a city with their artist name or “tag” with the intention to go “all-city” or to cover as much public space as possible.

Writers normally use “Posca” pens or spray paint to do their writing. There are three styles of graffiti: Tags, Throw-Ups and Pieces.

Photo: Sram 23 and Gipsy Kid in Barcelona  

2. Tag: A tag is an artist’s signature. We are all born with a family name, but your artist name is something that you identify with, you vibe with and you adopt and choose to reproduce. Formulating your tag is not an easy task, as this is what represents you in the urban art world.  
Photo:  Tags in the Gràcia neighborhood
3. Throw – Up: A throw-up is a two- colored writing that consists of a bubble letter or a cloud and then an outline. It’s more risky than a tag because it’s usually bigger and it takes more time to do.

Photo: This is a Throw up on a persiana in Barcelona 

4. Piece: A piece is short for “masterpiece” and is the most intricate form of graffiti writing. Pieces usually have three colors or more and they are the riskiest form of graffiti because of their complexity. Location of tags, throw-ups and pieces play a role into the risky art of the writing, the higher up in buildings, the closest to a highly transited area the riskier it is. 
Photo: Piece in París

5. Street Art is a work of art that is placed illegally in a city, but it has been previously created inside a legal space. So, for example, a mosaic installation is a form of street art. The artist created its installation inside his studio and then, using glue, or plaster, or silicon or any adhesive, put it up illegally.
There is pathos when it comes to street art because, as spectators, we engage with the images, messages, or icons left behind by the artists.  

Photo: Me Late Artists in El Raval               

6. Paste – Up is a form of street art. It is any work of art done with water resistant materials such as “posca” pens, acrylics, permanent markers, spray paints, and later put up on a surface using a mixture of glue and water. The artists can use several kinds of glues and different brushes or rollers to apply the glue on the paper. These are also known as “wheat paste” in other cities.

Photo:City Kitty's work on paper   
7. Stencils can be done directly onto an illegal surface or onto paper. that is later glued up on a wall as a paste-up. Basically, the artists use a pre-existing image and cut out the area that they would like to reflect colored on the surface. There can be as many stencil layers as the artist wishes. When done directly unto the surface it is a risky endeavor since the artist has to be vigilant that there are no police nearby and he has to wait for each layer of paint to dry. 

Photo:  Akore in El Born

8. Murals are legal, commissioned works of art in public spaces. The artist is normally paid for these interventions, or provided materials, and can take much longer than when putting up street art or tags.  

Photo:  Mural created with the Ajuntament de Barcelona and Casa Infantil in El Raval by Erbmonart                            

All of these interventions are ephemeral, they have a lifespan, and that is what makes this movement so fun and ever-changing! We are consistently reminded to live in the present moment and to admire each work of art for the time it livens up our life!

All Photos and Story by Journey of an Artstigator