I guess it was inevitable that I’d find it eventually, and here it is. Downloading a How To Draw Graffiti app onto your smartphone is almost as close as I’ve found to a pure distillation of what’s wrong with modern culture.
I’m always a little suspicious of any how-to art book (or app or website or whatever) on a particular style of illustration, because I’ve yet to see a better example of that old cliché: those who can do, those who can’t teach. But there’s more than just that which gives this app an unpleasant taste.
The thing about this How To Draw Graffiti app is that it takes an art form that by its nature is counter-culture, reactionary and anti-establishment, and commodifies it in the safest, least transgressive way possible. Step by step instructions on how to do graffiti on your phone. Ugh. It’s like getting your mum to teach you how to start a punk band – it just doesn’t work.
But maybe these complaints are simply me showing my age and my awareness of the hegemonic theft endemic to consumer culture. Maybe it’s fine to learn how to do graffiti from a phone app. Maybe, then, this app is actually fine despite all I’ve said so far?
Haha no, not really. Even as a drawing app this one isn’t very good. The examples you’re given are average, poorly designed pieces of ‘graffiti’, and the instructions are simple-minded and focus (focus being a generous term) on surface over structure. And while the app description says you can copy the examples onto paper as you learn, it also gives you the option to draw directly in the app – and this option is pretty much broken. If you’re going to give me outlines to trace over, why set it up in a way that my tracing obscures the very outlines I’m trying to see? Changing the drawing tool setting from opaque to multiply would have instantly made this easier to use, but that’s a level of detail that would suggest the app makers actually cared, and I don’t really believe that’s the case.
In the app’s defence at least it’s free (although with ads running along the bottom), but you know what? So is actual graffiti. I would never advocate for vandalism, but neither can I advocate this sanitised, cynical, bloodless version of an art form.