Captured by Street Art

Why Does Graffiti Demand Our Attention?

The atypical street art style is one of the most recognisable artistic expressions. Commonly referred to under the blanket term graffiti, the world now knows there are absolutely no limits on what this term can imply. Over generations artists have begun to break the boundaries of what can be made in this format, and yet even now the images and typography we have come to associate with the term are just as striking as they once were. But what is it that makes that so synonymous ‘urban’ style so captivating?


The use of colour is paramount to the eye-catching aesthetic of street art. Correct use results in a mural that is simply unavoidable, whether people walk, drive or idly drift past it on a train. The vivid and fluorescent paints that coat so many walls are found in a spectrum that many other colours we come across daily cannot compare to. The ability to blend these popping tones also helps draw in our eyes. Some of the most beautiful and lifelike pieces use the gradients to create a natural look and feel, whereas others benefit from cell-shaded variances in tone. The vibrancy we have come to expect from street art continues as technology allows for better use and even crazier pigments.


The reason street art turns our head so often is that it is so well defined. Many times, this is created by the thick and dark lines that surround the portraits or words we see, providing almost a 3D effect as the images appear to leap from the backgrounds they are placed on. Though this isn’t always the case. Another way that graffiti often grabs us is thanks to its borders that come in many shapes and sizes. Stenciled pieces can regularly be found surrounded by the shape of the card used; this rectangular framing invites our eyes to look inside the windows they have created. Other artists bring in our focus by showing perspective lines, these have been made to look like the beams of a rising sun multiple times. Paint drips, spatter, arrows and other tools are all used in this fashion to lock in our eyes, which are often overwhelmed by the many other signs vying for our attention.


Although oftentimes it seems like the location of graffiti is random, (which in some cases by pure necessity it is) the best artists calculate the place for their mural. Not only should the chosen spot be somewhere that will have enough onlookers but also be significant to what the artwork is about. This is executed best in politically significant pieces; placing provocative works in as proximity as possible to the people who are engaged in the decision-making. You can also see street art become rife within heavily populated areas as the artists attempt to convey messages to the masses in guerilla-inspired methods. Yet despite all these, what usually has us pausing for some art is the juxtaposition between the vibrancy of the work and its canvas. In impoverished urban areas these visually loud, rainbow pictures become unmissable on grey walls and blackened buildings, providing, colour, light and hope to anyone in their reach.