The History and Evolution of Arrows in Graffiti Art

One of the most important design elements in graffiti art is the arrow. Arrows express movement and energy. In her groundbreaking book “Tag Town”, Martha Cooper photographed vintage graffiti tags in her Washington Heights neighborhood, still visible from the early 1970′s to 1980′s (tags are those hard to read scribbles you see on mailboxes and other surfaces around most cities). Many of these tags contained arrows, as well as stars, hearts, numbers, and crowns. From studying the images of these early tags, we were able to determine that the complex variations of arrows we see in today’s advanced Wildstyle graffiti letterforms originated from simple graffiti tags.

An arrow is an internationally understood symbol that is used on signs to simply indicate direction, as in “Entrance” or “Exit”. In graffiti art, however, an arrow is a powerful, visual tool that is often combined with letters to give them motion and dynamism. An arrow guides the eyes of the viewer in a specific direction. An arrow can project out from any side of a letter, weaving in and out, backwards and forwards, and around in circles, across a two-dimensional surface, creating depth and rhythm. Graffiti artist Ezo says that every graffiti writer has his or her own arrow and it’s true: the variations and design possibilities of an arrow are endless. An arrow can be drawn in all shapes and sizes; thick and chunky or long and spindly, pointy or squared, single or with multiple ends. An arrow can organically follow the flow and direction of a letter, like a vine. Or it can blast off of the side from which it protrudes, like a missile, as in the artwork of “The Rammelzee”, known as Gothic Futurism.

So, early graffiti writers incorporated simple arrows and other basic design elements into their tags to make them stand out and grab attention. From that simple beginning, the arrow has evolved into a multi-faceted, complex and autonomous art object of its own. One New York artist and graffiti writer, Mare 139, actually creates beautiful, 3-dimensional sheet-metal sculptures that contain only arrows, with light and space as parts of his designs. We think arrows are a fascinating and diverse element of graffiti letterforms, providing artists and students with continuous possibilities for innovation and style. We totally love arrows.

Designing and Making Paper Items

There are several ways of decorating paper. Most of the techniques were born out of experimentation of the artist with the colours and other materials found in the environment. This implies that aside from those methods that will be detailed, every artist must endeavour to create new ways of designing paper items.

1. Marbling (controlled and uncontrolled)

2. Comb-pattern

3. Wax resist

4. Doodling

5. Spraying

6. Roller and twine pattern

7. Ink-blowing

1. Marbling (controlled and uncontrolled)

Marbling is a method of making decorative patterns on paper by transferring colour from the surface of a liquid onto paper. Tools and materials required for marbling include paper, brushes, thinner, basin or trough, various colours of oil paint, cooked starch, empty tins, stick, and water.

Controlled Marbling

Process:

1. Fill a trough with cooked starch in an even consistency.

2. Sprinkle different colours of oil paint on the starch.

3. With the aid of the stick, stir gently for the colours to mix on the surface of the starch in order to make the patterns.

4. Place paper flat on top of the starch and tap the back to remove trapped air.

5. Hold one edge of the paper and remove it by dragging it along the edge of the trough to remove the starch.

6. Excess starch is washed off with water and hanged to dry.

Uncontrolled Marbling

Process:

1. Fill a trough with water.

2. Sprinkle different colours on the water.

3. Stir in different directions for the colours to come together over water.

4. Place paper flat on top of the trough and tap the back to remove trapped air.

5. Hold one edge of the paper and remove it by dragging it along the edge of the trough.

2. Comb-pattern

The tools and materials are large brush, paper or hair comb, cooked starch, water, powder colours, paper.

Process:

1. Mix powder colour with cooked starch to an even consistency to form a thin paste.

2. The brush is used to paint paste over the entire surface of paper.

3. The comb is used in making rhythmic patterns on the sheet.

4. It is hanged to dry.

3. Wax resist

Tools and materials required for this paper pattern making technique include brush, crayon or candle, powder colour, paper.

Process:

1. A sheet of paper is folded and creased to create parallel lines.

2. Wax is used to draw lines within the folded lines.

3. Go over the lines for a second run.

4. Colours are mixed and painted over the waxed paper.

Another technique is to sprinkle molten wax on paper. It is painted over with any high key colour. Wax is sprinkled over again and painted over with a low-key colour. After drying it, place the paper between two sheets of newspaper and iron to remove the wax leaving the patterned design.

4. Doodling

The tools and materials used include pencil, colours, paper, and brushes.

Process:

1. Create doodles to cover the entire sheet. Doodles are scribbles make on paper without any forethought plan.

2. Different colours are mixed to paint familiar shapes created by the doodles.

3. Erase the extensions created by the pencil.

5. Spraying

Tools and materials used include spray diffuser or shoe brush, paper, colour, cut out shapes, natural objects.

Process:

1. Arrange the natural objects or patterned templates and maintain their positions with drawing pins on the sheet of paper.

2. Spray colours on the patterns using the spray diffuser or an empty pen barrel with a mesh held at one end.

3. Gently remove the drawing pins and the cut out patterns.

4. The sprayed patterns on the paper is left to dry.

6. Roller and twine pattern

Tools and materials used include paper, printing ink, two hand rollers, rags, twine, thinner, glass slab.

Process:

1. Twine is wound around one hand roller.

2. Printing ink is placed on glass slab and rolled over with the second roller.

3. Printing ink is transferred onto the twined roller by rolling it over the glass slab.

4. The inked twined roller is rolled over the paper from the edge to edge and covered all over.

5. The rollers are cleaned with thinner and a different colour is used to go over the already created pattern to give a two coloured effect.

7. Ink-blowing

Tools and materials used include ink, paper, and empty pen barrel.

Process:

1. Sprinkle the paint at different sections on the paper.

2. Blow the paint to sprinkle it in a hairstyle manner using the empty pen barrel.

3. Leave the paper to dry.

Decorative papers are used for making book covers, endpaper, wrappers, wallpaper, background for calligraphy etc.

Pop Art – A Quick Guide to the Basics

Some of the most well-known artists of the Pop Art phenomenon, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, were born in the 1920′s which was a boom time in the USA with money to spare and jazz music starting to make it’s mark. But in 1929 the stock market crashed and the US entered a depression that lasted until the mid-1930′s. Perhaps the most famous of all pop artists, Andy Warhol, was born at the beginning of that depression.

So these artists grew up in a fast changing world that went from boom to bust to World War II in little over 10 years. By the time the war ended, they were still young and during the 1950s people again started to have some extra money available to spend on the endless stream of new products that were starting to appear.

And it was the design and advertising of these new products that the artists were commenting on, and influenced by, in a way that no previous generation of artists had been. They tried to use ordinary consumer items in their work to encourage people to view them differently. They also positioned common items in unusual ways to make people take notice of them.

Other common themes in Pop Art were comic books and the famous people of that era such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, who will be forever associated with Warhol’s work. Warhol used screen printing techniques for his work and usually made several copies of the same image.

But what the artists sought to highlight was the way famous people were treated as objects in the same way as products were in advertising with all sense of their individuality removed. Although many pop artists were unwilling to give meaning to their work, and even those who posed questions with their art, left those same questions unanswered. Jasper Johns, famous for his series of paintings showing the American flag, famously questioned whether his own work was art or just a flag.

So what are the characteristics of Pop Art?

Just as the world in which we live is endlessly varied, so Pop Art used a variety of techniques but the common characteristics that define works as Pop Art are as follows:

Graphic Style: Clearly defined shapes and colours with hard edges such as the Lichtenstein comic book styles and David Hockney’s works.

Funny and Lighthearted: Rejecting the rather serious approach of earlier artists.

Everyday Products and Brands: including foodstuffs, cars and images from advertising and films.

Collage: and also different techniques within one work.

No Perspective: Flat two-dimensional works are very common.

Mechanical Techniques: silk-screen printing was used to create different versions of the same image.

The History and Culture of Stretched Ears

People have been decorating and making changes to the appearance of their bodies since recorded history began. This has taken many forms through the ages, such as tattooing, piercing, stretching, scarring, branding, muscle sculpture, hair styling and many more, and for almost as many different reasons.

The three major purposes of these forms of body modification have historically been tribal (to display allegiance to one tribe or group of people), in war (to scare the enemy and distinguish friend from foe), and for fashion and perceived beauty. Ear stretching has been popular for centuries, but this popularity has increased in Western culture in recent years.

For some, there is a profound spirituality in the protracted process of stretching ears, while for others it is fun and more involved than simple ear piercing, and the fact that fewer people do it adds to its appeal. Others have their own reasons, but irrespective of these, stretched ears have always been part of human history and will continue to be so.

Reasons For Stretching Ears

Just as with other forms of body modification or enhancement, people have historically stretched their ears for a number of reasons. For some cultures, this represented a coming of age, while for others it was carried out to enhance beauty or sexuality. Throughout the ages it has been used both for religious reasons and to protect the subject from witchcraft or evil. Ear stretching is still carried out all over the world for a variety of reasons, including those mentioned above.

If you travel to Africa, you will find that stretched ears are common among many indigenous peoples, including the Maasia in east Africa, the Mursi in Ethiopia, and it is also carried out in some Asian countries such as Thailand. In South America, stretched ears are common amongst the Huaorami of the Amazon Basin, but you generally need go no further than your own hometown to see some excellent examples of ear stretching. Stretched piercings and flesh tunnels are now a common form of ear adornment for Western youth.

Icemen and Pharaohs

One of the more famous examples from history is Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300 year-old mummified body found in the Alps between Austria and Italy. In addition to several tattoos, Ötzi had an ear stretched to around 7 mm – 11 mm diameter. The giant Easter Island statues display stretched ear lobes, the likely reason for them being known as ‘Long Ears’. The story goes that the statues were carved in honour of the original inhabitants of the island representing them with the earlobe stretchings that were part of their culture. When a different tribe arrived on the island, they were known as ‘Short Ears’, and were forced into slavery by the Long Ears. Eventually there were more Short Ears than Long Ears, and the latter were overthrown and the statues toppled over.

In Egypt, the boy king Tutankhamen is represented as having stretched ears, and his famous golden death mask features holes that can take 10 mm diameter bars. The processes used to stretch these famous sets of ears are not known, because there are many techniques that can be used. It is likely that primitive stretchings were carried out using wooden plugs or bamboo, and although a few people like to return to these early methods, they are not recommended today for health reasons.

Stretching Ears is Not Reversible

If you are interested in stretched ears, there are certain factors of which you should be aware. The first is that it is generally permanent. Once stretched, your ears stay that way. The holes do not heal over like a normal ear piercing, so make sure that you are happy with having stretched ears for the rest of your life. There is time at the beginning to stop and allow your ears to heal back to normal, but once the diameter reached 10-12 mm, it is too late and the hole will not close up. Another is that it takes time and patience. You do not visit a piercer and come out after an hour or two with stretched ears!

If you have decided that you want it done, you are advised to have the procedure carried out professionally. Yes, you can go it alone, but a professional will provide you with the best results, and it will also be safer. It will be quicker if your ears are already pierced, because otherwise you will need that done first and then wait up to 8 weeks for it to heal. Then you can start of the stretching, or gauging as it is often referred to.

That is because the diameter of the needles used is referred to as their ‘gauge’. The gauge of a needle drops as the diameter increases, so that an 18-gauge needle is small – in fact, that’s the gauge of an average initial piercing. Once you reach a 2 gauge, the diameter is that of a pencil and so on down. An 11 mm hole is 000-gauge (actually 11.11 mm or 7/16 inch).

Ear Stretching Should Not Be Rushed

As already explained, ear stretching is a slow process, and you should never try to rush it. If you try to rush, it will likely take longer eventually because unless the ear has time to get used to each lower gauge it won’t heal properly. You might then have to start all over again. Gauged ears should not bleed and there is distinct procedure to follow. Fundamentally, you increase the diameter of the piercing in small steps, allowing healing between each step. A common way to achieve this is to use an insertion taper, where one end of the taper is the same diameter as your existing hole, and the other side is of larger diameter.

This can be in the form of a stud that you wear until you are ready for the next size up. The next stud will have one end at the current diameter and the other at the lower gauge (larger diameter). That is pushed through and secured, and you wear that until the next insertion, and so on. If you keep your ears and jewellery clean and sterilized between sessions using anti-bacterial soap or saline solution then you should heal fine between each session – allow about two weeks between sessions.

Take the Advice of the Pros

It is very important to follow the advice of the professionals, and do not try to cut corners. Many people have ruined their ears by failing to be patient, so don’t let that be you. Follow cleaning instructions to the letter, both during and after the entire stretching process. There are many different types of ear jewellery available for stretched ears, including flesh tunnels, bars and rings.

There is also a wide choice of materials, from wood or plastic to gold and platinum. Many prefer glass while others find Teflon best, particularly if they suffer allergies. Niobium, surgical stainless steel and titanium are also popular materials for stretched ear jewellery.

Keep in mind that not all can be worn indefinitely, particularly the porous materials such as wood, shell and some plastics that can harbour bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Such jewellery should be regularly removed and thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Ear stretching sets you apart from the usual crowd, and can be a very distinctive form of ornamentation. It is something that few people regret having done.