Everybody’s down with street art. Unless you’re a handyman for the council, there is no downside. Uncommissioned street art is truly at the cutting edge – so much so that it’s even inspiring fine art these days.
Street art is full of inspiration for all sorts of artists. There’s just so much get-up-and-go in it. I live in South London, so I see fantastic street art every day, and it fair puts a spring in my step. It’s part of the furniture round our way – convenience stores pay local artists money to be ‘tagged up,’ to help their shops stand out from the crowd.
But I know other areas aren’t quite so forward-thinking. With all this in mind, enjoy this list of fantastic books that cover the history and how-to elements of street art. Happy mural making!
Street Art History
1. Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art by Carlo McCormick
A visually-striking examination of street art as a social phenomenon and a fundamental element of modern self-expression, grassroots politics, protest and youth culture.
2. The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti by Dr Rafael Schacter
Featuring over 700 artworks photographed on five continents, this collection, more than any other shows the meteoric global takeover of street art since its birth in the late '60s.
3. Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo by Annice Jacoby
With 600 stunning photographs, this comprehensive collection begins in the early 1970s. It runs us through all this: Mexican mural painting, surrealism, pop art, urban punk, eco-warrior and cartoon, presenting the full story of how graffiti flourished in the dynamic, multicultural Mission District.
4. Graffiti Kings: New York Transit Art by Jack Stewart
A first-hand account of the birth of the New York subway graffiti movement in the 1970s – a true behind-the-scenes tale of kids risking their lives to grab a slither of fame and self-fulfilment.
5. The Nasty Terrible T-Kid 170 by Nick Torgoff
The life story of graffiti artist T-Kid 170, from Bronx gang member to international star. He grew up in the golden age of hip hop and became one of the leading figures in the early New York graffiti scene – an uncensored look at the Bronx in the '80s.
6. Medieval Graffiti by Matthew Champion
Street Art isn’t anything new, as archaeologist Matthew Champion shows us with this compilation of examples from secret graffiti artists, and their forgotten world of charms, curses, prayers, satirical cartoons, windmills, word puzzles and loads more.
7. Calligraffiti by Niels ''Shoe'' Meulman
Dutch visual artist, graffiti writer, graphic designer and art director Shoe Meulman mashes up calligraphy and street art into a thought-provoking, bold and beautiful art form, and at the same time, takes a look at lettering through the ages.
8. Obey: Supply and Demand The Art of Shepard Fairey 1989-2009
This massive retrospective covers 20 colourful years, showcasing Fairey's entire body of work, from his early OBEY Giant campaign to his prodigious print output, increasingly ambitious large-scale street work and beyond…
9. Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents by Nicholas Ganz
The art of graffiti itself is usually gender-less, but the culture around it is not, says author Nicholas Ganz. This book features 1000 full-colour illustrations from such revered artists as Brazil’s Nina, Japan’s Sasu, Mexico’s Peste, and the USA’s Lady Pink, Swoon, and Miss 17. It shows us that female artists have always been at the vanguard of street art, even though they tend to be pushed aside by the media.
10. World Piecebook: Global Graffiti Drawings by Sascha Jenkins
A collection of never-before-published and never-made-it-to-a-wall sketches from preeminent graffiti artists – unreleased graffiti – it doesn’t get much more hipster than that, does it?
11. 1,000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art: Murals, Tags, and More from Artists Around the World (1000 Series)
Coffee table inspiration for artists of all kinds…One thousand photos are conveniently sorted into categories such as letterforms, stencils, portraits, murals, nature, tags, throw-ups, pieces, and productions.
12. Before I Die by Candy Chang
An inspiring story of an art project that invited members of the public to contemplate one of life’s biggest questions - “Before I die I want to ___________________”. Artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned building with chalkboard paint in the incomplete statement above. He found that, 24 hours later, the wall was full of answers that reflect the full gamut of the human condition – hope, fear, humour, heartbreak and everything in between.
13. The Mammoth Book of Street Art: An insider's view of contemporary street art and graffiti from around the world
Hip hop and graffiti lover Jake presents a diverse collection drawn from Rio, Berlin, London, Philadelphia and other global street art hotspots.
14. Street Logos by Tristan Manco
Celebration of 21st-century graffiti and the vitality of the street artists who are fluent in branding, and have moved away from typographic to iconographic forms of communication. Wonderful inspiration for all artists and designers.
15. London Graffiti and Street Art: Unique artwork from London's streets by Joe Epstein
London is a graffiti artist’s paradise: from the established to the constant streams of new talent spraying up The Big Smoke, this book celebrates them all.
16. Stik by Stik
A collection of the best works of Stik, an East London protest artist who has gone on to do murals all over the world. Getting stickmen - six lines and two dots - into a message that conveys a universal feeling isn’t easy. This collection of photos and descriptions of the motivation inspiration goes some way to explaining how to wring so much feeling out of such a small toolkit. A coffee table winner!
17. Blek Le Rat by Sybille Prou
A unique, in-depth exploration of the life and work of Blek Le Rat, studying the motives and working methods of one of the most applauded and most influential figures in street art.
18. Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall by Will Ellsworth-Jones
Banksy is a man who’s been described as Britain’s unlikeliest national treasure. For a man who never shows his face, and only does interviews over email, he’s certainly remarkably well known. This fascinating portrait attempts to get to grips with the man behind the legend. It examines the impact this "vandal" has had on the world of art.
19. Covert to Overt: The Under/Overground Art of Shepard Fairey
Fairey’s most recent art and poster works, most of them never-before-published, including street murals, mixed-media installations, art/music events and countless silk screens.
20. Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine
Featuring the work of artists Banksy, Ron English, Blu as well as lesser-known Palestinian artists and activists who turn Jerusalem’s ‘security wall’ into a living canvas to express outrage, compassion, and touching humour.
21. Urban Iran by Karan Reshid
Iran is a complicated place, where everyday life is loaded with political strife - and it shows through in its street art and underground music scenes. This book looks into both, cataloguing the often angry art that pops up on walls in and around Tehran, with a particular focus on the artist A1one.
22. Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution by Don STONE Karl Basma Hamdy
Created in close collaboration with artists on the frontlines of the battle to liberate Egypt, this captivating book showcases the role that street art played in the Arab spring of 2011.
23. The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World by Gabriel Campanario
This is more art ‘of streets’ than ‘in streets’ - but this excellent collection of urban illustrations is well worth a look. There are 500 drawings by diverse artists from 30 countries across the globe.
24. Walls & Frames: Fine Art from the Streets by Maximiliano Ruiz
A study into the influence that ‘vandalism’ has had on fine art, showing how artists who work with limited time and a small selection of tools have come to be hugely respected and imitated by more traditional artists.
25. Street Art Cookbook by Benke Carlsson
An ace book that gives killer insights on the techniques and materials that famous street artists use. Carlsson interviews 12 street artists, and by analysing hundreds of photos, presents a comprehensive guide to creating stencils, stickers, posters and installations.
26. Global Street Art: The Street Artists and Trends Taking Over the World by Lee Bofkin
A comprehensive gallery of some of the most startlingly talented street artists all over the world and the witty, provocative and sentimental art they create. More technical than most of these anthologies, it covers techniques, surfaces, themes, movements and activism - a great starter kit for the more inquisitive street art fan.
27. Graff 2: Next Level Graffiti Techniques by Scape Martinez
This is the most ‘how-to’ of the bunch, revealing the nuts and bolts of various graffiti styles along with ideas and techniques for bringing those styles to life - have a quick read of this, and you’ll be itching to hit the streets yourself!
28. Sidewalk Canvas: Chalk Pavement Art at Your Feet by Julie Kirk-Purcell
Street art isn’t all about walls and trains - the pavement is a great option too! Street painter and professional artist Kirk-Purcell shows us how to whip a masterpiece up, right there on the sidewalk, by examining countless examples of her own and other pavement artists’ work.
29. Stencil Republic by Ollystudio
Stencil Republic is a pure celebration of the stencil. It gives you 20 ready to use stencils printed on perforated card. All of them have been created by international artists from across the street art scene, well-known and not-so-well-known stencil artists.
Just for a laugh
30. Crap Graffiti by Adam Elliott
Not all graffiti is awesome - Crap Graffiti is a ‘greatest hits’ collection of some of the turgid lame (but often quite rib-tickling) street art. Just regularly remind yourself you’re laughing AT them, not with them.