Art Resolutions That Release Your Inner Rebel

Bowls of fruit are a very healthy subject matter for art classes – and they’re a great post-class snack. Those looking for a bit more excitement may opt for classes using life models – but if you’re thinking the models will look like Heidi Klum or Hugh Jackman, you may well be disappointed. Those looking to find an edgier art form to fulfil their creative resolutions can look a little wider, and maybe opt for spray cans instead of pencils, paint brushes and charcoal.

Graffiti – so often associated with teenage rebellion – can arouse a mixture of both excitement and disapproval. The word “graffiti” describes the illicit pictures and words that have been scrawled onto public buildings since the dawn of human civilisation. Check out some Ancient Egyptian graffiti and tell me that is vandalism. For over a millennium, talented street artists have used their environment to express poignant and often challenging messages whilst at the same time adding colour and intricate images to urban façades. Michael Friedman, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia School of Social Work explains the psychological benefits of arts: “Through the arts people can find voices to express dimensions of self usually left in silence. And through art, people can shape their own identity. Art is not just self-expression; it is also self-creation.” However, to get into graffiti without getting arrested or prosecuted, you need to find a totally safe place where you have full permission to let your creativity fly. I found such a place in the creative hub of Portobello Road, West London where I was convinced to appreciate street art as an accessible art form that commands respect.

Sitting on the long benches of the cosy graffiti covered courtyard and studio of Graffik Gallery on a lazy Saturday afternoon is the perfect way to indulge your creative side. We began by watching our teacher Jezz (who is also a street artist and tattoo designer) effortlessly cut out an elaborate stencil of a hand and create a masterpiece, whilst chatting to us at the same time. “Wow! That’s amazing,” we all cooed, to which he replied nonchalantly, “Well, I do this every week.” Fair enough. There are two types of graffiti art: stencilling, the common medium of Banksy, and freestyle spray painting, often seen in mural form. The classes at Graffik focus on stencilling because it’s quite hard to mess it up. Our first task was to design our own stencils. I was terrified, “But I can’t draw”, I lamented. I am sure other art-phobes would empathise with me, but I found that writing out a word in solid text can look as good as more elaborate designs. The class was filled with artists of varying abilities, and the more simple designs often conveyed more impact than the intricate masterpieces. The hardest part of the class was cutting out our stencils, but even though I made the most mistakes in the whole class, I still ended up with a decent design – if I do say so myself.

Next came the fun part – putting on our Breaking Bad-esque boiler suits and spray painting. Jezz taught us various spray paint techniques so that we didn’t just end up with a boring block colour canvas, so we spent a while experimenting with the paints and trying out different colour combinations. The beauty of spray paint is that even if you make a mistake, it looks kinda cool and edgy. After creating a colourful base, we were able to imprint our stencilled designs on to our canvas. My inner rebel got braver, and I started getting courageous with my creativity: “Can I use two tones for this part?” I suggested to Jezz, who shrugged his shoulders and replied, “It would probably look better, actually.” To my surprise, it did. The class gave me a sense of relief, some how. A cathartic feeling of calm, happiness and pride that I had created something worth hanging up in my house.  In fact, it motivated me to walk eight miles home as I mused and pondered on the experience, suggesting that such creativity can be a motivating force to achieve other benefits to our lives.

Graffik Gallery can be found on the famous Portobello Road in London, and if you go on the weekend, you can also check out the bustling markets tucked behind the venue. The gallery includes art by Banksy himself, as well as provocative and inspiring exhibits from artists such as Mr Brainwash, D*Face, The Dotmasters, Skyler Grey and BenNaz, so make sure that you leave a bit of time before or after the class to have a look around. The workshops are suitable for ages 8+ and are the epitome of chilled. Jez’s placid tones were complimented by the urban music humming in the corner of the colourful outdoor studio. Graffiti group master classes take place every Saturday and Sunday, starting from 11am, 1pm and 3pm. I recommend purchasing an A4 canvas from your teacher (which is only £5) so that you can take your art home with you. It will look good, I promise. Street art classes take place all over the country. Try Zap Graffiti in Liverpool, Graffiti Artist in Birmingham and Graff Workshop in Manchester. Just remember: these aren’t your standard art classes. If you pick up your pencil with a rebellious and passionate frame of mind by channelling the spirit and history of graffiti, you will create the most poignant and slick designs.

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