Houston Graffiti


Graffiti is any "Writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place." There are both positive and negative effects of graffiti. For one, those who practice graffiti are prone to injury, death, imprisonment, questioning, community service, physiological disorders, and fines. On the positive side, graffiti has a big impact in most advertisements, websites, book covers, logos, and art. Graffiti can also be seen as a way to express yourself, or an alternative to heavier criminal activity, as well as a part of hip-hop culture, and the creator of some of the best muralists. On the opposite side of the spectrum, graffiti vandals also known as “writers" cost Houston a lot of money. "In Houston, TX (population just over 2 million), the city earmarked $2.2 million for cleanup of existing graffiti in 2006.”

People often misinterpret graffiti as being gang related, most of the time its not. Graffiti in Houston is mostly about making a name for yourself and doing whatever you can to get your name up. Houston graffiti writers do anything they can to get fame, props, or experience. The argument that is often made against graffiti, is that it leads to a gang mentality, stealing, and addiction. It is true in some cases, but not all writers veer to this extreme. Graffiti makes or breaks people. Some may steal markers, ink, shoe polish, spray paint, and even house paint; but the many others may join crews, which are not necessarily gangs, in order to gain a reputation in the graffiti community; either working together to reach a common goal, which is to get their name up, and or creating murals that decorate our beautiful city.

Historical Background:

Graffiti has been around sense cave men, but in the past 50 years, man has pushed graffiti to a new level. Different methods of getting writer’s names up came to play; either using tags, throw-ups, block busters, fill-ins, burners , pieces, roller bombs, extinguisher graffiti, wheat paste, stencils, etchers, characters, tile graffiti, murals, and productions. Using techniques such as 3-d, wild style, cutting lines, and flares. Technology such as the different types of caps and can pressure are pushed to the limits, but the traditional method of using rollers, house paint, sucker cans, markers, marking sticks, paint, paper, glue, cardboard, concrete, shoe polish, ink, and even rocks, are still used today. All for the purpose of getting fame, gaining a reputation, and not being limited in what or what not to write, show, or create. Over time, most writers fall off. When kids write on the walls with crayon or Crayola markers, they get scolded and punished by their parents. This conditions the child to stop the “negative” stimulus. Same principles apply with a lot of developing writers; they get caught, punished, and are most likely conditioned to never do graffiti again. Other times, graffiti writers focus on different aspects of the art form, make sure they are smart about their decisions, practice, and take their talents to the next level. Graffiti artists such as Cope 2, Saber One, Banksy, TLOK, and Seen One are now selling art, creating productions, making toys, merchandising, starting clothing lines, and advertising.

Writers all start somewhere, and sometimes it involves risking their lives and going out. But eventually, the toys will fall off, and the remaining will focus their talents on any aspect of graffiti as an art form.

Historically, the East coast was known for having graffiti on the subways and trains as well as having some of the first graffiti artists in America. Graffiti culture then spread to the west coast; whom had East coast influence due to the trains that connected the two coasts. At that point in time graffiti style changed from sharp blocky letters to curved flowing letters. Over time, cameras, tighter security, stiffer penalties, fines, made it a lot harder for many writers. When graffiti made its way to Houston, it developed and transformed into a mixture of both styles and created something new entirely. With Houston being such a artistically diverse community, graffiti art went into many different directions.

Houston is now working towards ,"graffiti abatement and eradication."Graffiti eradication is an unreachable goal, but the city tries its hardest to at least lower the amounts of graffiti using the same tactics the city of New York tried, and then some. Politicians in Houston, Texas make it extremely unforgiving for minors, and even more so for adults. Policies such as, three strikes, which could entitle you to life in prison for as little as three tags.

"Penalties for Vandalism in Houston
The minimum statutory penalties, as defined in Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code, for vandalism offenses are listed below. However, these punishments can increase depending on whether the offender has previously been convicted of a felony, caused death or serious bodily injury while committing the offense and/or used a weapon while they committed or attempted to commit the offense.
A person who is charged and convicted with a vandalism offense can result in a Class C misdemeanor. This offense can result in a fine up to $500.
A class B misdemeanor can lead to a jail sentence up to 180 days and/or a fine not more than $2,000.
Class A misdemeanors can result in a one-year jail sentence and/or a fine not exceeding $4,000.
State jail felonies can result in a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
A felony of the third degree can lead to two to ten years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000.
Felonies of the second degree can result in two to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
A felony of the first degree is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years or life imprisonment and/or a fine not more than $10,000."


Houston graffiti is mostly based on the will to get fame, go big, gain a reputation, and become the best of their ability. Letter formation is important to many Houstonian graffiti artists, no mater how intricate the colors, characters, and backgrounds are, letter formation really sets true writers apart; though colors, characters, and backgrounds help. Most toys break away from the art form, but others take it to the next level. Houston has a unique graffiti culture, community, and practices a variety of styles. Laws, policies, and cameras strive to eradicate graffiti; which is an unachievable goal. Due to the fact that every city in America has tried the same tactics; yet there is still graffiti on every street corner and murals on thousands of walls.


Aerosol art stems form graffiti; all the beautiful murals and productions we see today stem from the early creations known as tags, and developed over time.Generations after generations will continue to practice graffiti, develop new styles, and take the art form to the next level. Graffiti is unique in Houston, and maybe one day accepted into the art community.

Keep America Beautiful, by practicing the art form.















Further research: Houston Graffiti Artists







Recommended Documentaries: Full Video







Recommended Books: Sources

The History of American Graffiti by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon (Apr 5, 2011) HISTORY

Piecebook: The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers by Sacha Jenkins and David (Chino) Villorente (Apr 30, 2008) PICTURES

GRAFF: The Art & Technique of Graffiti by Scape Martinez (Feb 20, 2009) TECHNIQUES

Wall and Piece by Banksy (Apr 1, 2007) ICONIC IMAGES







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