It used to be a touchy subject in schools, as to how graffiti can be taught without stepping over any illegal barriers. Similarly, it has the highly negative connotation of being related to gangs. Obviously, this ideology is far from the truth.

     Here is one was way, which I have tested successfully to teach graffiti in the classroom, while adhering to state standards and educating the youth that this street art is much more than writing on a wall. My process…

Step one, redefine the term “graffiti”. I gave the students the Oxford Dictionary definition, then provided my own. This is based off personal interpretation, so it can vary teacher to teacher. However, I most notably encourage to mention brief history (when and where it came from), how far it’s spread, and the uses of graffiti:

  • Self promotion
  • Social/Political Reflection
  • Commemorating a loved one

Next, I showed an image of graffiti, specifically in Chicago to engage my students further. (This trigger can be adapted to any city you teach in) Get them to recognize how graffiti is all around them.

I went on by giving them examples of different ways graffiti is practiced and used, aside from public walls. Sketchbooks (Black Books), Canvas’ (Fine Art Scenes), and Merchandise (Toys, Shoes, & Clothing)

Sketches – Show examples of black book work, and talk about the basic materials used. Usually, it’s just pen, pencil, crayola markers, and mixtures of interesting materials. 


Canvas – Show examples of graffiti on canvas and talk about the art scene and how it’s growing. There are galleries out there that host graffiti based shows, as well as artists that make a living off of it.


Merchandise – Show examples of custom painted shoes by graffiti artists, toys (found at stores like Rotofugi and A.Okay), and even t-shirts. Ecko clothing is a great example, especially their designs from the 90’s and students are very familiar with it.


Then, I explained three basic forms of graffiti. Bubble Letters, Straight Letters, and Wildstyle. Describe each one off their visual characteristics.





The student will choose and alias or use their own name and adapt it into one of the 3 mentioned styles of graffiti.

Sketch it out on a large piece of paper, then erase any unnecessary lines.


Choose at Minimum 3 colors of any choice. Color in watercolor.


Outline in a fine point Sharpie marker.


Add details: Auras (line around the piece, usually in a high intensity contrasting color), backgrounds, characters, tags, etc.

     This lesson will act as a great advantage to any youth that is interested in the various aspects of art. As a whole, they will learn history of a social movement, which acted as a present day Renaissance with the breakthroughs of dance, music, art, and literature. Additionally, they will become educated on a contemporary art form that continues to advance and spread across the global. One great facet of this project is that it is adaptable for any student to relate to their home. Graffiti is a raw form of expression that is seen all around the streets, yet it is a growing movement in many areas of the professional art world, as well as the media. Recognizing it as more than vandalism can advance a student’s artistic understanding of the scenes around them.


























A Man of Many Faces

May 11, 2009

l_182674f0f2f300f7eb3b03d958aca9f1     Angel Silva is a Chicago artist with roots stretching back to Mexico. Working out of the Pilsen area, graffiti artist turned fine artist, and further into a world renowned tattoo artist, Silva’s work continues to turn heads from street scenes to galleries. He is most notably recognized for his black and white portrait tattoos, one of which I am very proud to sport. Don’t let that stray you away from his coloring abilities,.. even those pieces are an amazing sight to see. 

     From sketches to canvas’ and even body platforms, there is a highly apparent sense of culture flowing through his work. Whether it is representing images from Dia de los Muertos, or his own hyper-detailed ability of Chicago style graffiti, the aspect of Angel always appears.


     As an artist, he has risen with ability as well as a professional. With owning his tattoo shop, The Native Soul,located on 17th and Ashland, he has progressed by converting the front half of the studio into a recognizable art gallery. There, they hold shows of individual artists coming from all over Chicago, group shows of graffiti based icons working on canvas’, and recently open studio programs for the neighborhood to join in on some fun. All in all, this is one artist that continues to grow with a stature of professionalism and incredible skill.


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     Although tattooing would be a difficult to impossible topic to create a lesson plan on, I think the exposure to artists that work in various fields of their skill is important for students. Additionally, it is equally important to expose them to professional and interesting artists that are from their own cities (in this case Chicago).

     Depending on the classroom setting (school or community center), tattooing is a touchy subject for principles/parents. This includes temporary tattoos. However, if you can squeeze past some of the regulators, there are pretty neat ways to make temporary tattoos. 

     First, you can have your students create a design they would want on their body. Simplify the images for the first round, then let them advance in detail once they get the hang of the process.

Method One (EASY): 

Materials: Masking Tape, Markers, Water, Fan/Blow Dryer

You use the typical tan masking tape and create a layer of tape strips slightly larger than your tattoo design. Then, with a sharpie marker, draw onto the STICKY side. Adhere it to the body, usually clean & hairless areas are best. With warm water, lightly dampen the tape. Do Not Rub or else your design will smear. Press the tattoo area firmly. Continue pressure for a 5-10 minutes, then dry with a fan or blow dryer & slowly peel the tape back and enjoy your new ink!

Method Two (DIFFICULT): Keep in mind, this application lasts Much longer – Creating your own Henna tattoo.

Materials: Henna powder, Lemon Juice, small squeeze bottle w/ fine tip, plastic bowl, plastic spoon, plastic wrap, small container w/ lid, two trouser socks, and rubber bands.

You’ll need to sift the Henna before mixing it to get the clumps out. A simple way to do this is to get a small container with a lid on it. Take two trouser socks and put one inside of the other. Put them into the container, toes at the bottom, and pour the Henna powder into the toes of the socks. Put the lid back on the container and rubber band it shut very tightly. Shake the container as hard as you can until all the Henna is sifted through. Mix the sifted Henna in a bowl with some lemon juice until the consistency is a little thinner than mashed potatoes. Since the Henna paste will start to crack and flake once applied to skin, add some sugar or honey to your mixture before applying it to skin. This will help it stay on the skin better, giving you a better, darker tattoo. Once it’s mixed into a good consistency, cover it with plastic and let it rest until the dye has been released. You can tell when it’s ready when the top layer turns a brownish color and the underneath is a darker, greener color. Spoon the mixture into a small plastic bottle with a fine tip. Next hold the plastic bottle like a pen and apply the desired design to your skin. Next wait until your tattoo is completely dry and doesn’t look wet, but not yet cracking. Heat up a small amount of lemon juice mixed with sugar until it is bubbly, then let cool. Apply some to cover your new tattoo, carefully not to disturb the design. Dry the sealant with a blow dryer. You’ll want to wrap your dry tattoo with toilet paper, and then plastic wrap and leave overnight for best results. When you wake up the next morning, gently wash the paste off of your skin and viola! You’ve got a beautiful new tattoo that will last 1-3 weeks!

Warning about Black Henna:

Most Black Henna contains a toxic dye called para-phenylenediamine (PPD). Some people add this to Henna to speed up the dying process and create a black color. This dye can not only harm your system, it can also leave itchy spots, oozing sores or even blisters on your skin.

Reverse Graffiti

April 8, 2009


Alexandre Orion is an artist out of Brazil that incorporates graffiti influences, public art, and photography. 

picture-3What caught my attention most was his “Reverse Graffiti” video that I came across on Here he uses subtractive techniques to create a huge assemblage of stylized skulls by simply cleaning the dirt off the wall. This practice brings a lot of questions to the table regarding vandalism, definition of art, and even graffiti concepts according to the culture (illegality vs. his semi-legal approach).  In essence, he is not defacing any property, yet he is still manipulating a restricted area. By using products to cleanse the wall in a visually aesthetic way, he has broken the boundary of public art in a graffiti stylization by keeping it legal with the adrenaline pumped approach of stepping up without permission and giving the public a taste of his visual vocabulary. This can be formed into a great lesson of subtractive drawing. At least by being used as motivator to the ideas of how far art can go, it can show how someone can combine two extreme cultures and using them in a positive way. 



Illustrating the people in her community and the city as the people who live there. i have been very excited about this artist for a very long time. the images she posts around NYC are not only gorgeous but telling about the people that make up the city she lives in. I think that she has a lot to say and she is saying it and making statements about place, society, and identity. This could be an important project for highschool students in which they could express their identity through place and society. asking them what, who, or what place makes them who they are. or what they see everyday and how it affects their lives and how to make this idea into a visual piece. 6a00d834cad15053ef00e54f7f07298833-800wigrandfather-main1swoon_cphswoonswoon_street_art

this is another one of her projects where she organized this big event making ships to sail in NYC.. this is a video

lesson plan idea: self portraits how do your surroundings make up your identity? printmaking or drawing project.