A simple can of spray paint - Art’s evolving story

by Art Materials on May 05, 2021

A simple can of spray paint -  Art’s evolving story

Art from a can - aka spray paint art, aerosol art, graffiti, street or urban art - has earned a reputation and made its mark on the world (literally). Its vibrant colours and bold designs are a visual assault. The origin of spray paint in an aerosol can is less than a hundred years old, and its inclusion as a legitimate art form only dates back to the 1980s. From the illegal graffiti artists in the 1970s, whose weapon of choice was a can of paint coupled with indignant activism, to the urban renewal of inner-city spaces, to fine art pieces hanging in galleries, spray paint has had a colourful journey in a relatively short space of time.    

Tracing the roots of spray paint in the world of art tells a remarkable story. And whether you love it or hate it, are exasperated or excited by it, there is no denying that spray paint art - in all its creative expressions - makes a statement.

It may offend, it may make you pause and smile, but it cannot be ignored. 

Initially dismissed as vandalism, graffiti 'art' has evolved, becoming part of the fabric of urban renewal in cities and finding its way into galleries and interior design spaces. That is quite an accomplishment for the humble can of spray paint!

Graffiti art

Graffiti is defined as writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view. It was a radical movement starting in the 1970s in New York. Spray paint was portable, affordable, and easy to use, making it the medium of choice for the illegal activity.” Graffiti quickly gained momentum as a form of rebellion, protest, self-expression and empowerment. 

urban art/street art - spray paint

Street Art

Urban or street art is a collaborative art movement allowing non-graffiti artists - who are artistically skilled with a can of spray paint - to legitimately showcase their art and receive recognition for their work. Urban art is often a community-based initiative to beautify inner-city neighbourhoods. 

Spray painted murals  are part of a creative social narrative, transforming neglected alleys and dilapidated buildings. Devoid of brush strokes, the end product is bold and in-your-face, but it becomes the people’s outdoor gallery and it never fails to get the attention of passersby. (It also makes for many Instagram-worthy posts!).

Street Art - Cape Town, South Africa

Gallery art

Ed Seymour - the paint salesman who invented the aerosol spray paint can in 1949  to apply an aluminum coating to radiators - could never have known that art galleries would one day be displaying spray paint art on their walls!

Spray paint artists who choose this medium are generally creating murals for interior design spaces or portraits and artistic works on canvas or poster board. 

Professional spray paint artists are finding their pop art and fine art pieces being displayed in galleries across the world, and many artists are exploring this exciting medium and experimenting with new techniques on other surfaces, including wood, metal, glass and ceramic. 

Spray paint gallery art

The Art Materials Company

Spray paint is an exciting, affordable and versatile medium. No matter where you are in your spray paint art journey, premium quality artist’s spray paint is just a click away at the Art Materials Company, Ireland’s largest and leading online art supplies store.   

From broad strokes to finer detail, our Montana spray paint range is fast-drying, giving full coverage and withstanding harsh winter weather. Our Liquitex professional spray paint range is specifically for fine artists; it is highly pigmented and has a full range of colours that are water-resistant when dry. 

Spray paint art has no rules - so take a 'can do' attitude,  pick your colours and start expressing yourself.