Graffiti Wars 2011 – King Robbo vs Banksy by alxka

As ever in DS106 land, it started with a tweet.

I hade never heard of King Robbo but I had seen Banksy’s work around the UK. Meh. I follow Ryan Seslow  here on Tumblr and like his art, sometimes. Yet I never got (until yesterday) the recurrent aerosol can in his art, forgive my ignorance Ryan. 

I clicked to watch with a view to ‘scan and go’ as so much of what goes through a daily feed. I never ‘went’. The video was such an education, then Google filled in the holes of my ignorance. Graffiti vs Street art, free hand vs stencil, what legitimises graffiti as art, passion vs economics….yet, what stayed was as deep sadness for a talent lost.

Some people, I learnt as I read, did not approve of the documentary. Yet, I found it compelling. It opened up a world I knew nothing about and showed me people passionate about their art. Blek le rat saying he was a little bit miffed (as we say in the UK) that Bansky had used him as ‘inspiration’. It takes time to find a style, he said. And when you do, you want it to be yours. It takes time to find a style, noted. I will keep trying. 

I learnt content, I learnt useful strategies to help with inner struggles about what the heck is it I am making since I joined DS106 – art, artefacts, or just shit – but once again, the deep sadness for King Robbo’s life. On the edge of getting the recognition he craved, his life destroyed by some random act of life. Deep sadness. Also striking to me was how Robbo thanked Banksy and the their war for bringing him out of retirement and getting him motivated to make the transition to the art gallery. Something I imagine some might condemn as breaking some deep Graffiti art rules. Yet, nobody got the chance to condemn him. As he felt inspired to create again, he left this life. In a coma for 3 years, before dying this week. 

Well, in true DS106 style. I was curious about the art. I never thought twice about this type of art. The film made me think. The Google obliged with a lovely little project to help students create graffiti. I was not tempted to go to my nearest train depot to use one of their trains as my canvas, I must be getting old. 

So here it is. I was curious about the distinction between free hand and stencil. Here is the stencil attempt,


And here is the free hand,


I loved that the site offers a digital aerosol can with sound to go with it!

Okay, so it was missing the smell, but sound helped a lot to simulate the experience. 

I only did one attempt as I imagine that that is the point of the free hand lettering, you do not get a second chance – though the digital version did have ‘undo’. The stencil version has many options, I am sure somebody who knows what they are doing could make something awesome.

My modest attempt showed me that free hand looks worse but feels more creative. And that may be if you make your own stencils then the creativity shifts to that and you can also reuse it. There is a pragmatic stench to that learning, but if you want to make money doing what you love it makes a lot of sense. Such rich distinctions in this video for the places my thought vectors are meandering at the moment. Thanks Andrew for posting, thanks Ryan for engaging as the story evolved for me last night. 

My favourite for better or worse, was neither Banksy’s work not King Robbo’s. It was Blek le rat narrating his work and (relatively) chilled about who may or may not have copied his work through the years. The rat rocks in my view. 


A journey through the Graffiti wars as my evening entertainment. The magic of Twitter for learning, right there.