Do you want to be like the famous graffiti artist Banksy? Sean Sequeira tells you how you can earn money legally using your graffiti skills
Although the British graffiti artist Banksy is world-famous, his antics aren’t legally permitted. This is because Banksy, as many other graffiti artists, uses his art to send a message to the world and hence does it illegally so more people will take note of it. Illegally spray-painting public or private property cannot be condoned. However, a passion for graffiti can be turned into a freelance or part-time career for those who are interested.
The problem with being a graffiti artist is people have a preconceived notion that you are a vandal. This is because the graffiti community takes pride in leaving messages in public locations in spite of it being illegal. If you are to paint on public walls or other forms of public property, always obtain the required permission from the municipality and other concerned authorities of the locality. This will safeguard you from being arrested for defacing public property. When you are hired to paint private property, there should be no problem with legality since you will receive permission from the owner in order to paint what they require.
India has no formal educational programme to train someone in the art of graffiti. It is taken up because of passion for the art. Most graffiti artists believe it can’t be taught, it is something that is developed through practice. If a conventional educational qualification is desired, the closest programmes available are a Bachelor of Arts degree with a specialisation in fine art or a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree.
Graffiti artists start by choosing a medium for their art. The most common medium is spray cans and the canvas, a wall. The first step is to design your artwork in a sketchbook which graffiti artists commonly refer to as the black book. Practice your designs on a big canvas until you are perfect. You can paint on canvases and sell them at art exhibitions. Most artists take up private assignments of painting walls in residences, offices or eateries. If your work is good, you should be able to get the ball rolling with your first few projects and get more work in due time.
There are no organisations in India which hire graffiti artists on a full-time basis to work exclusively on graffiti projects. Taking up graffiti can only be considered a part-time or a freelance career option since standard employment is not guaranteed and neither is payment. Most graffiti artists in India tend to work as freelancers. They take up projects as and when they come up with individual prices for each project. As a freelancer, it is important to stay up-to-date in the industry by word-of-mouth. Your work should speak for itself since the graffiti artist is only as good as his art.
The money you can earn as a freelance graffiti artist depends entirely on the project. If the artwork is more complex with a high level of detail and very intricate designs, the remuneration is bound to be higher. For simpler theme-based work, the expected pay package will be lower. However, it is not possible to have a predefined price tag on the work a graffiti artist does. Once you gain more experience and are well-known for your work, you can demand better pay. As Gunjit Purswani of New Delhi-based Graffiti Inkorp says, “There cannot be a standard payment for art.”
Graffiti has just about broken the ice in India as an industry. People have been taking note of street art over the last five years which has given the art form of graffiti a little visibility. Offices, small businesses, restaurants and residences have recently started employing freelance graffiti artists to decorate the walls of their establishments. This form of modern art is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years for those who would like to take it up legally.
“If you like painting and you grab hold of the spray can, you are qualified enough. I am an automobile engineer by educational qualification but I chose to be a graffiti artist for the profession.” – Gunjit Purswani, Graffiti Inkorp
“Art is the backbone of all forms of design including graffiti. One needs to practise and constantly refine their skills to find their individual style of expression. One could opt to join an art school or design college to learn the basics. Nevertheless, it is your own drive and passion for art that will push your boundaries from an A4 paper to a 4-storey building size poster!” – Delwyn Remedios, freelance graffiti artist