Graffiti vs Stencil Art | May 6, 2004

Brighton has quite a bit of a graffiti problem. It was getting so bad that the local council devised a radical solution. Their plan was to go around spraying the words "is a plonker" next to the tags, in the hope that it would shame people in stopping. However the council have just announced that they are scrapping the plan. It's Mostly kids tagging blank walls. It's akin to littering or vandalism. It's pretty pointless and makes the local environment a much less attractive place to live.

However, there is also quite a surge in stencil graffiti, or stencil art. Rather than being destructive, stencil art actually makes the environment a much more interesting and quirky place.

Some stencil art is political. Highlighting issues in a light hearted way.

Bush Stencil Art

Sometimes it's quirky, like this zebra decal. Wild animals juxtaposed against the backdrop of the "Urban Jungle".

Zebra Stencil Art

And sometimes it's just fun, like this "Nurse Decal".

Nurse Stencil Art

Stencil graffiti is a mixture of gorilla art and anti advertising. Little subversive "blipverts" intended to interrupt the near constant assault of commercial marketing. And I think it rocks!

Posted at May 6, 2004 12:00 AM


Aaron said on May 6, 2004 12:18 AM

Someone around here has stenciled “SANTA IS REAL” on various lampposts and empty walls.

Michael Williams said on May 6, 2004 12:29 AM

We have them a fair bit in Bristol too, no doubt inspired by local hero Banksy. Whenever I see them I’m reminded of this (an episode in the life of TV Go Home’s Nathan Barley:

Nathan Barley purchases a copy of Knees Royale, the debut album from a knowingly lo-fi Westbourne Grove-based band called The Knees, whose music is a thinly-veiled amalgamation of the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (yet manages to be precisely one-hundredth as rewarding) and whose CD cover boasts a specially commisioned portrait of the queen wearing a Bomberman helmet, sprayed rebeliously on the wall of a Soho alleyway by dangerous urban street art phenomenon Banksy, whose provocative stencilled images of riot vans and monkeys effortlessly shatter the cosy mindsets of all uptight ‘normals’ who see them, while simultaneously providing a vague sense of inclusive 21st-Century somethingism to the self-orbiting (expletives deleted) who frequent the kind of gentrified media locales in which is sixth-form wall-splatterings tend to be somewhat conveniently displayed.

YMMV ;->

DarkBlue said on May 6, 2004 12:40 AM

Aw, what a shame they’re not going to use the stencil anymore - it would have been so much fun to have “is a plonker” appended to the following:

Tony Blair
David Beckham
Kermit the Frog

and so on…

meashman said on May 6, 2004 3:20 AM

This reminds me of the rash of “stencil graffiti” I’ve noticed recently here in my neck of the woods.

Unfortunately we’re not struck with political comments or quirky zebras, but rather satanic goat symbols and the word OBEY, all in caps.

simon said on May 6, 2004 6:45 AM

Pete F. said on May 6, 2004 7:24 AM

Thanks for sharing, Andy. I’ve been meaning to start a photo collection of the stuff that gets sprayed all over Bristol; most of it is stencil-based work, and it’s damned good.

For a taster, you might want to check out our infamous local boy; Banksy.

Malarkey said on May 6, 2004 8:19 AM


Maybe I’m just getting old, but I find the common Bronx-style, ‘hip-hop’ (do they still call it hip-hop?) graffiti that adorns bus shelters and garage doors, pretty unimaginative. Another example of North American culture creep.

We don’t get much graffiti in our part of Wales (we don’t go in for sheep ‘tagging’),

Mike Stenhouse said on May 6, 2004 12:46 PM

Malarchy, maybe you should have a go at sheep tagging… Banksy’s first book had shots of his stencils on cows and at his exhibition in Dalston last year he’d painted up a couple of cows with Andy Warhol portraits.

I’m not a big fan of tagging but I love stencil graffiti and stickering. I highly recommend the books by Tristan Manco on Thames and Hudson if you wanna see how these sub-cultures are developing around the world. Also worth a look are Scrawl and Scrawl 2, showcasing ‘urban art’ by the likes of Banksy, Will Barras, Mr Jago, Obey, Kami and The London Police. Not all stencilled but all awesome.

pubarso said on May 6, 2004 1:48 PM

Woah, those are pretty cool.

Detroit has a problem with someone marking turtles all over. New buildings, old buildings, signs, walls, overpasses, everything. Under it, his signature: ‘TRTL’, TURTL, or ‘TRDL’.
( gallery: )

Mike Stenhouse said on May 6, 2004 5:14 PM

Oooh, and check the ads being served by Google: ironically, they’re all Graffiti Removal!

Seuss said on May 6, 2004 8:39 PM

I too love stencil art. I have a gallery of Object d’Art including Face and The Luchidor. Also on a side note the “demonic” face of OBEY has become one of the most recognizable antiverts worldwide. I believe I have even heard of him doing some actual gallery work now.

dusof said on May 6, 2004 8:40 PM

We’ve got here also Bush Danger stencil picture ;-) I mean in Bratislava, Slovakia (new member of EU).

Chris Vincent said on May 6, 2004 9:29 PM

Actually, I think tag graffiti is pretty cool. It’s an art form in itself, and can bring great color to an otherwise bland environment. But, each to his own.

I like the stencil graffiti as well, especially the political kind. :)

Mart Gordon said on May 7, 2004 8:46 AM

All urban art has its value, even the tagging. It can be unimaginitive but it is someones form expression so holds value that way. However, the stencils are heightening peoples perception of graffiti and proving that it can be artistic in the broad sense of actually being nice to look at.

There was a really nice line drawing of a girl on the fence around where they are building the new library along with some nice urban poetry stencils but that was soon painted over. Its a shame really as many people commented on the poetry.

lolly said on May 7, 2004 11:07 AM

Like all things, Stencil artifiti is great. But only when its good.

Ian said on May 7, 2004 12:04 PM

Brighton has a long history of great stencil art graffiti. I always appreciated the thought that goes into the design and message. Hopefully, if this becomes more and more popular, it wont lose its quirky appeal.

p.s. I get the last word. ;)

aj said on May 7, 2004 3:54 PM

I like urban art - but I prefer more creative methods than tagging or defacement, like the guy in France who sticks up Space Invaders made out of tiles….I saw a very cool example in Old Montreal: someone, several years ago, strapped metal bands to lampposts, stamped with cryptic lines of poetry in English and French. You’d walk right by them for years and assume they were old straps for holding no-parking signs or whatnot, until you inspected them at close range…forcing you to look closer at what’s around you instead of taking the streetscape for granted…

treadmills said on May 10, 2004 10:43 PM

Street art is both an expression of our culture and a counterculture in itself. ‘Communication’ has become a modern mantra: the city streets shout with billboards, fly posters and corporate advertising, all vying for our attention. They almost invite a subversive response. As high-tech communications have increased, a low-tech reaction has been the recent explosion in street art

mBoszko said on May 11, 2004 3:49 AM

I think it rocks that someone other than myself recalls what a ‘blipvert’ is.

chris a said on May 12, 2004 12:34 AM

wellington, new zealand has quite a few stencil artworkds too. theres some crew thats been making incredibly detailed hand-crafted designs..

owent said on May 12, 2004 12:52 AM

discover acouple clicks a go another gallery

Cleo said on May 12, 2004 9:05 PM

stencils are amazing. im from brighton and have seen loads around. they put out a political message mixed with art. art and politics, whoever thought they would mix would be called insane but we now have visual proof that its not. so stencil on my little picassos.

emma said on June 29, 2005 6:10 PM

where i live (in a small townoutside glasgow) the bus shelters are full off random things like “Yer maw” and it’s just basically crap, but at school (i’m still at school) we’ve started using graffiti on large sheets of paper/cardboard to places over bins to incurage people to put their litter in the bin. They don’t actually realise they’ve put it in coz they’re too busy looking at the wall!
We have had a few things like “Stop that bus” at the bus shelters which are funny at times but plain stupid at others.

I think we need sheep and “is a plonker” to make the place more funny and to put a message across in a way.

why is a name important said on October 13, 2005 6:07 PM

Graffiti is not a form of vandalism it is a art form and has as much, if not more skill than any other art form. The skill needed to have good can control is extremely high and if the councils want to stop illegal graf then give the artists a wall in designated areas where anyone can do there piece of art. Also to write ‘is a plokler’ next to the tag will get a very bad response and possibly instead of a tag you will probably get profanities over the is a plonker label so make a decicsion do you want a harmless tag or a profanity.

Pamala said on October 14, 2005 9:09 AM

i’m a stencil artist however i think all are is great, why not? sure wish i had the ability to create great art without a template

Po said on November 24, 2005 3:48 PM

I feel all graffiti art can be just as enjoyable. Maybe its the fact that its is not as easy to identify with. Try to analyse it and i think you’ll agree

matty j said on December 21, 2005 2:10 PM

yeah im a bristol boy too and there is really a huge stencil thing going on here..spurned by the likes of banksy who in my eyes in nothing short of genius. Im just a little worried that it could all get a little milked and lose some of its originality and expression.

Arcane said on February 21, 2006 11:37 PM

Tagging is phat. Only the ones that have style. Stencils have become a ubiqiutous just like the tag,
drouning the cities, but I feel that people make a big deal out of stencils. But its all street art I suppose.

Progress the culture in new ways, its heathly.

F**k Blairs anti social ting.