Helen Rose’ Outdoor Diary: Glasgow Graffiti


The inspiration to write on Graffiti in Glasgow came from a virtual online tour of Brooklyn in New York graffiti by Ariel at Made and Spotted  – I am very grateful to him as it opened my eyes to local graffiti as an art form during the Covid 19 Pandemic local walks. The graffiti shown is all from the west end of Glasgow.


The first question to ask is what is graffiti and is it legal? It is writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view and provides a way for people to openly express themselves. It helps people make a statement about what they believe in. This is one of the main purposes of art. Many famous artists, from Van Gogh to Frida Kahlo, have used their artwork to make declarations about their beliefs.

Graffiti is illegal, but it is precisely this illegal risk that gives it its counter-cultural edge. Street art, on the other hand, is most often done by artists who have received formal training.  Street art and murals are usually painted with permission or commissioned. Graffiti on walls should not be confused with commissioned murals. The Art Pistol by Rogue One commission is at Cowcadden’s Subway Station underpass. https://www.artpistol.co.uk.


Graffiti has existed since ancient times with examples dating back to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. In modern times, spray paint and marker pens have become commonly used graffiti materials and there are many different types and styles of graffiti. It is a rapidly developing art form. In more recent times chalk is also used. Modern graffiti art has its origins in 1970s New York, when young people began to use spray paint and other materials to create images on buildings and on the sides of subway trains. Such graffiti can range from bright graphic images to the stylised monogram.  Graffiti is constantly changing with fresh coats of paint and new ideas replacing faded images. It is a free art gallery outdoors and is time limited until another artist paints over it. The images speak louder than words provided you can understand them!

Types of Graffiti

Basically, there are eight types of graffiti. 1. Tagging is the easiest and simplest style of graffiti as it is one colour with the artist’s name or identifier. It is considered disrespectful to write a tag over another’s artist’s tag or work. 2. A throw-up is like a more complicated tag. It usually has two or more colours and bubble-style lettering. A throw-up can be done quickly and repeatedly, just like a tag. 3. A blockbuster is like a massive throw-up, usually in blocky letters. Blockbusters are used to cover a large area in a small amount of time. Blockbusters can be painted with rollers, which makes them faster and easier to do. 4. Wildstyle is an elaborate version of a throw-up and is particularly hard to read. Wildstyle often consists of arrows, curves, spikes and other things that non graffiti artists might not understand.

5. A heaven is a tag or artwork in a place that is extremely difficult to get to. An artist who manages to put one up gains a lot of respect from other artists. 6. A stencil is an easy (some say ‘lazy’) way to put up detailed pieces. By spraying over a stencil, you can produce a more detailed piece than by doing it free hand and it is also repeatable. 7. A poster is a quick and easy way to put up pieces. You just make the piece at home then paste it up where you want. 8. A sticker is like a downsized poster, and just as easy to execute. Many stickers are simply tags on postage labels but sometimes they are more elaborate.

In addition, a piece (short for masterpiece) is a picture that has been painted free hand. They contain at least three colours and take longer to paint. A piece in an obvious place will gain the artist respect from other artists because painting on walls where graffiti is illegal is a great risk.

Bubble writing

The most common type of lettering used is called Bubble Writing. It’s basically a lettering style where the letters look puffy and bloated like bubbles, hence the name. Bubble letters are easy to learn and fun to do. On some graffiti, a gothic style of writing is used.

Who does it?

This is a difficult question as it is so common and varied globally. It could be gangs, messages in coded language, political statements, street art and also professionals like Banksy. In Glasgow westend I did not come across any political statements and did not have the knowledge of gangs to interpret the messages but I did find one that I admired and later learned that OOZI was a Slang term for an ounce of illegal drugs and named after Oozi, an alien spaceship pilot finding his way home after crashing on a mysterious planet and losing his suit! Graffiti by street gangs can be to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities.

Banksy is one of the world’s most notorious and popular street artists who continues to remain faceless in today’s society.  A number of exhibitions of his work have taken place since 2000 and recent works of art have fetched vast sums of money. Banksy’s art is a prime example of the classic controversy: vandalism versus art. Some councils, such as Bristol and Islington, have officially protected them, while officials of other areas have deemed his work to be vandalism and have removed it..

The Rebel Bear is a Glasgow street muralist of unknown identity sometimes referred to as ‘The Scottish Banksy’. The artist cloaks their identity while publicly creating work via the donning of a pink bear costume and has been described as a “pink bear”  The Rebel Bear also created a mural in the New York City borough of Brooklyn during a visit there called ‘Rotten Apple’ https://reem.gallery/the-rebel-bear/


Graffiti as such is rarely seen in galleries and museums, yet its aesthetic has been incorporated into artists’ work. Early exponents of graffiti in art included the French artist Jean Dubuffet who incorporated tags and graphic motifs into his paintings, and the New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Some of the graffiti could be seen as influenced by Jean Dubuffet which you can view at the Tate Gallery in London and is titled Hopes and Options. www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dubuffet-hopes-and-options-t01575

Street art and social media have transformed blank walls into cottage industries. In the process, street art has become a promotional tool and one that can be exploited by various players with differing interests. Social media influencers may photograph themselves in front of the art, gaining followers and building their brand. Street art differs from traditional art in several ways. Most notably, street artists don’t own the walls they use as canvases so it can be illegal.

Thanks to all the unknown artists!  If you want to give graffiti a go, you can buy graffiti colouring books for adults to practice on! Have fun identifying which type the Glasgow images fall in to!

May, 2021

Coming attractions; Bellahouston Park and the Magnificent 11.

Thanks to Sam for the two photos of RIP and Hat that were hard to reach and to Art Pistol for their mural.



Bellahouston Park. June 2021

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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