Art Rules.

deer1What are the rules of graffiti? Maybe I should rephrase that: are there any rules of graffiti? Well there are some things that are pretty consistent. Most graffiti is painted–usually spray-painted. Most of it’s not very good, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. Most of the time it’s just a name, if that–a lot of graffiti is just illegible scribbles. Sometimes it’s a tag meant to mark gang territory. Most people consider graffiti an eyesore that’s hard to get rid of, and that’s why you frequently find it in out-of-the-way places.

And then there’s this paper cut-out of a fawn, pasted to a wall just a few doors down from the Belcourt Theater in Nashville’s Hillsboro Village–one of the busiest districts in the whole city. There are several shops within just a block, including the independent bookstores Bookman and Bookwoman, a coffee shop, stores selling haute couture, and the Pancake Pantry which is supposed to be the best breakfast place in the city but I wouldn’t know because I don’t have the patience to stand in line on the sidewalk for three hours but that’s another story.

What I’m getting at is this isn’t a sweet picture. It’s subversive, a rule-breaker. It violates the standards. It’s deceptive in its simplicity. It’s–dare I say it?–dangerous.

Yeah, I shouldn’t dare. I’m stretching it a bit, like a rubber band around a running rhino. Maybe you need some extra convincing. What if I told you that a few blocks down the street, in a run-down area of abandoned buildings, gang tags, empty alleys, and cheap apartments there was another deer exactly like that one?


deer2Yeah. Breaking the rules. Or following them. Either way you can see it as a subtle transposition of the rule of graffiti or a work of sweetness and innocence, the sort of thing that puts you in the holiday spirit.

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  1. M. Firpi

    What a funny clip. I think several graffiti makers have stencils which they use to repeat motifs of their choice. They may just use them for getting the outlines, and then paint in the details. It’s done to speed up the work when it’s done in public walls quickly. “Free hand” graffiti is different and there will not be repetition of motifs. At least I’ve noticed it here.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve noticed some graffiti makers here have stencils too but most seem to work “free hand”. What makes that interesting is how many of the ones who do it “free hand” still manage to repeat the same or similar patterns over and over, although often in different sizes. Practice makes perfect.

  2. Ann Koplow

    This time, Bambi wins.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Bambi definitely deserves to win.

  3. Gilly Maddison

    Genius piece of animation! I like films where the title sequence is longer than the story and makes me smile. One of these days, if I ever get home again, I WILL find the graffiti pics I did in London (well I didn’t PAINT them, just took pictures of course) and blog about them, if I ever get back to my blog. I love hearing about real Nashville through these posts. Here in the UK, it’s easy to think Nashville is just a place full of people wandering around the streets in cowboy hats/boots singing about drunken husbands, broken love affairs and whiskey.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      All the people wandering the streets in cowboy hats and boots singing about drunken husbands, broken love affairs, and whiskey–and don’t forget trains–are downtown. I imagine London’s graffiti being so much more amazing and interesting than Nashville’s because it’s such a large, diverse, and colorful city. There’s a good reason Samuel Johnson said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.”


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