Stencil graffiti makes use of a paper, cardboard, or other media to create an image or text that is easily reproducible. The desired design is cut out of the selected medium and then the image is transferred to a surface through the use of spray paint or roll-on paint.
The process of stenciling involves applying paint across a stencil to form an image on a surface below. Sometimes multiple layers of stencils are used on the same image to add colours or create the illusion of depth.
Those who make and apply stencils have many motivations. For some, it is an easy method to produce a political message. Many artists appreciate the publicity that their artwork can receive. And some just want their work to be seen. Since the stencil stays uniform throughout its use, it is easier for an artist to quickly replicate what could be a complicated piece at a very quick rate, when compared to other conventional tagging methods.
Stencil graffiti subculture has been around for the last thirty years. John Fekner is one of the first artists to place his work outdoors, starting in 1968. Fekner's stencil Wheels Over Indian Trails greeted motorists and international travelers arriving in New York City at the Pulaski Bridge Queens Midtown Tunnel from 1979-1990. The message remained untouched for 11 years, until Earth Day 1990, when Mr. Fekner, feeling the piece had run its course, painted over it.
Famous French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest's stencilled silhouette of a nuclear bomb victim was spray painted in the south of France in 1966 (Plateau d'Albion, Vaucluse)