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STENCILLING: GO: Where's the best place to learn the art of graffiti? In a local police station, discovers Chris Lochery: PHOTOGRAPHY Adrian Sherratt: HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN TAG: GET STARTED: COLOUR AND FILL

June 21, 2014

Sitting at a featureless desk in an underground room of a Bristol police station, Rob Wheeler asked me an uncomfortable question. "So," he said, "do you have a graffiti name?" I squirmed. I didn't want to admit it, but the truth was I kind of did.

It happened on my very last day of school. The girl I'd had a massive, unrequited crush on handed me a compass and asked me to scratch my name next to hers on a wall. So I carved the - sickeningly cutesy - pet name she'd given me.

Recalling this, I flushed with embarrassment. "I carved the name Trixy into a brick, once," I mumbled. "Cool," he replied, his face breaking into a smile. "Let's start with that."

Rob, I should mention, wasn't an officer of the law. He was my graffiti tutor. The police station, long-defunct, has been transformed into a graffiti workshop known as the Lock Down Studios. It's a rather fitting change, actually, as this was the police station that held 72 artists who were arrested as part of Bristol's city-wide crackdown on graffiti artists in 1989.

Back then, it was a common complaint that graffiti made a city look decrepit. More people now appreciate the beauty of street art, thanks in no small part to this city, the walls of which have been used as a canvas by a number of the UK scene's leading lights, including Banksy.

Rob handed me a fistful of paper and a pencil, and got me to write and rewrite my new "tag", Trixy, the way I did when I was deciding on a signature for my first bank card. It wasn't so much the name that was important; it was the way I made it look.

When I was happy with my design, we moved over to the wall. The feeling of swiping your hand across bricks and leaving a bright swoosh of colour in its wake felt really quite magical - like using Photoshop, but in the real world.

Soon I was writing words and phrases that looked legible. Rob also taught me the technique of "cutting back" (an invaluable skill to a mistake-prone artist such as myself) in which you spray back over the outlines of your tag to make it look sharper.

Once I could cut back, Rob invited me to collaborate with him on a larger piece. Within half an hour there was a huge piece of artwork, in glowing cyan and magenta, on the wall of a former police station.

Walls on which you can legally paint are still not that common, but Rob showed me that I could get equally good results at home using a craft-shop canvas instead.

It will, of course, take a lot more practice before I can operate with Rob's level of skill but now that I, Trixy, have a tagging career that spans 10 years and 200 miles, I'd be mad to let it slide.


Sketch out some ideas with a pencil and paper, using a free and confident hand. Many graffiti artists tag in quite an angular style to suit the square end of thick marker pens, but you can do whatever you want.


Once you are happy with your tag, use marker pens to work out colour schemes and outlines, playing with shadowing, arrows, crowns or bubbling. Find inspiration online - we love the street art found in Bogota.


If you want to get started with spray cans, pre-cut stencils are available to buy online. Otherwise, draw your tag on to cardboard, and carefully cut out the design with a craft knife. Only tag or spray where you have permission.


Sign of the times

Chris tries his hand at street art,

turning his pet name into a graffiti tag

Where to do it

Lots of councils in the UK offer spaces for street artists to practise. Contact your council or try, a guide to legal graffiti walls around the world

In pictures

To follow Chris's graffiti lesson stage by stage, go to

Special offer

Chris learned to graffiti with Graft, based in Bristol. Workshops start from pounds 40/pp. Do Something readers can get 10% off any Graft workshop until 31 July

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Guardian (UK)

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