From letters to logos

May 25th, 2009 | By | 11 Comments »

I touched on this issue the other day, but I thought there was more to be said and some examples to be given.

There are a few graffiti writers who are blurring the line between graffiti and street art by painting trademark characters or symbols instead of, or in addition to, their names. Of course, painting characters has been around since the earliest days of graffiti, but in recent years, certain crews and writers have taken that a step further.

Here are a few examples of writers who I think are really pioneering a new form of character based graffiti. I think it could, and should, be one important direction for graffiti and street art in the coming years.

Booker/Bones/Reader... Photo by hghwtr

Booker/Bones/Reader... Photo by hghwtr

Mighty Mo. Photo by Nicobobinus

Mighty Mo. Photo by Nicobobinus

Katsu. Photo by Sabeth718

Katsu. Photo by sabeth718

More after the jump…

Booker/Reader/Bones... Photo by sabeth718

Booker/Reader/Bones... Photo by sabeth718

Faro. Photo by C-Monster

Faro. Photo by C-Monster

Rowdy and Tek33. Photo by unusualimage

Rowdy and Tek33. Photo by unusualimage

Bloke. Photo by shoehorn99

Bloke. Photo by shoehorn99

Sweet Toof. Photo by bixentro

Sweet Toof. Photo by bixentro

Avoid. Photo by Atomische • Tom Giebel

Avoid. Photo by Atomische • Tom Giebel

Burning Candy. Photo by unusualimage

Burning Candy. Photo by unusualimage

If you know any other writers or artists doing similar work that I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment.


Category: Featured Posts, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
  • http://www.eclecticboxblog.blogspot.com/ EclecticBox

    From Spain and since 1989 (or so it says his web: http://www.elxupetnegre.com/) El Xupet Negre (The black baby pacifier) would be the most representative example of graffiti artist doing the type of work you mention.

  • beck

    Wake up it was a 1999-2001 trend, with people like la Mano, Stak, Pez, Krisprolls…

  • http://www.vandalog.com RJ

    Since I obviosuly didn’t mention everybody, I’m loving these comments. I completely forgot about El Xupet Negre, but yeah, he’s a great example of this. And Pez is another, especially since he, like the Burning Candy guys, walks that line between graffiti writer and street artist.

    The difference this time, as I see it, is that now, if you go to London, New York, or Barcelona, and maybe other cities as well, much of the best graffiti is done by these people. Previously, maybe that was the case in Barcelona, but certainly not in New York or London. And since London is probably the world’s most important city for street art right now (due more to the galleries more than the art on the street admittedly) and New York is the home of graffiti, this shift is pretty important.

  • elDamo

    Not sure I understand?

    Characters replacing letters have been around since the start (e.g. Quik throw-ups often replaced the ‘u’ with a character); Miss Van paints almost exclusively in salacious female characters.

    There’s a guy/gal in Berlin who paints almost entirely as a clenched fist, palm facing in yellow & black; up everywhere & seems to have evolved to fists aloft & flying around in a roller skate. Should know who it is – anyone know?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/delete08 spoons

    Stik
    Pure Evil
    Dscreet
    D*Face
    New ATG writer GetMe

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/delete08 spoons

    You could even include 10Foot in that too…

  • Hands

    I would say Claw would be included in that.

    Not so much 10Foot as his is still more graffiti inclined…

  • http://www.vandalog.com RJ

    The use of characters has been around for a while, but I think we’re increasingly seeing trademark characters/graphics, like Pure Evil’s bunny that essentially acts as his tag, or Sweet Toof’s teeth and gums. Miss Van, in my opinion, has a distinctive style, but I wouldn’t say it acts as a tag or represents her name so much as Katsu’s skull or Bloke’s paper planes. Also, I think that even though people like Claw have been doing symbols for a while, we’re really seeing some recent growth in this area of graffiti with a lot more people dong it.

  • Wakey Wakey

    A ‘Loveable’ trademark or ‘GIMMICK’ will appeal to graffiti non-initiates through it’s cutsie pie chocolate-box appeal, while capitalising on the edgy image of rebellion and danger bestowed on graffiti by generations of graffiti writers
    Example….
    “Wow, even my Granny/Girlfriend/Boss/two year old daughter/Clueless geeky mate loves the Teeth/Temple/Monkey/Capital Letters so much they bought a print/painting/chunk of wall!!! How radical!” etc etc
    This will then hang as a totem of their supposed edginess/cool/urbanity in a pathetic attempt to bestow a little of that original raw spirit of rebellion onto their obedient lives, while retaining all the predictable cutsie-pie comfort satisfied by a greeting card or chocolate box.
    Its sugar coated drivel.
    The sole use of these devices also….LUCKILY means the ‘ARTIST’ doesn’t have to worry too much about SKILL or ORIGINALITY ie coming up with new ideas, they just come up with a GIMMICK and keep painting the same two minute teeth, capital letters, monkeys, crocodiles, stickmen on the street and cashing in with their mediocre-at-best Prints and paintings…
    Graffiti writers have used characters as heralds since around 1974 (See the brand new Book ‘Graffiti Kings’ about original train painters in NY)
    It’s nothing new, what is new is the cynical use of a popular device as a marketing gimmick to cash in on the current ‘Street Art’ fad.
    It sucks, and more and more inquisitive and questioning people are realising its a GIMMICK and infinitely worse than the ‘official’ corporate advertising ‘street art’ claims to subvert because that is all they are doing with their logos, except they are disguising it as graffiti/rebellion, at least the corporations are honest about their intent when they put up a billboard.
    More and more of this junk will get gone over and lined through as people begin to realise the truth and get bored of the gimmick and the bottom will drop out of the market when people see they have no respect on the street and no more ideas other than the gimmick that bought them their fifteen minutes. This is the beginning of the end.
    Street Art R.I.P
    Vive Le Graffiti

  • Mighty Tanaka

    There is a point to be made about something missing from this conversation. NYC graffiti has been resting on its laurels while the rest of the world has been progressively pushing the limits of street art and graffiti, creating a blurred line between the two. Young artists such as BLOKE push the envelope when it comes to letter style. It’s all about the symbolism of the individual letter. BLOKE’s letter style may look simplistic on the surface, but as his art is maturing, his letters become sketchbook in style, something closer to doodling then graffiti. The letters are more similar to code, completely legible yet still innovative. The characters, such as airships, he uses are only part of the equation and while they may substitute for a letter in some cases, it is the meshing of the total package that makes his art different from the things previously mentioned in other posts such as: Graffiti ’74, Claw’s trademark claw or the 1999-2001 era. BLOKE represents a young and iconoclast movement of writers who use all the influences around them to create a hybrid version of graffiti and street art. Other artists, such as KATSU, GORE B, FARO, AVOID and BOOKER are perfect examples as well, utilizing a whole array of techniques and letter styles to apply their trade. All these artists walk the line, paying respect where respect is due and taking this hybrid movement to the next level.

  • bitter taste

    wakey wakey makes some great points but he has things a little twisted….

    he obviously doesnt like the art,selling out, money making side of graffiti. and doesnt think these people deserve the attention. and thats a fair point. but then who’s allowed to make money from graffiti? the old school new yorkers from the 80′s and only them? or just the best most realest writers? from new york or around the globe? by who’s standards?

    he makes out as if when they came up with there logos it was purely with intent to make money. (not to say some bandwagon street artists dont) but the people he’s talking about didnt get into painting logos for money im sure. they were all just getting up in a new way. the money found them. and who’s gonna turn down good money for painting graffiti especially if its your passion. it has led many of them into art. graffiti is graffiti, art is art, the two can merge, always have done, people can do both get over it.

    he seems to forget that all the artists he mentioned (except stick man) arrived at there logos after years of traditional letter form graffiti. they were hardly art students discovering banksy.

    i really would like to know what type of graffiti wakey wakey would like to see. him being such a critic on the subject. would he like to see “two minute” throw ups and tags everywhere? or illegal burners? or big legal wall productions? because really he sounds like he just needs to get out and paint some of his own shit.