Vancouver Street Art in 2020

This week the Friendly Friday Challenge is Street Art.  I figured I would find examples of illegal and unsanctioned Street Art from my early ‘safe’ COVID walks that took me mostly through back alleys.

However, these were Westside walks and the Street Art tended to be mostly discrete. And if it wasn’t it was quickly painted over.

Sandy did list a variety of types of Street Art and for sure, the Westside did have many varieties of Street Art, often with references to COVID.

‘Yarn-bombing’ in the form of a heart crocheted on a chainlink fence. Yarn bombing on a chainlink fence with a crocheted heartStay-at-home ‘Poster Art’ series plastered over every boarded-up store and hoarding. (Photographed May 21, has now disappeared) Stay at home posters series plastered over every boarded-up place and hoardingSORRY, a Canadian bat apologizes for coronavirus on behalf of all the bats in the world. This is ‘stencil’ graffiti that is often used for political commentary(Photographed June 22, under the Granville Bridge, now painted over)SORRY, a Canadian bat apologizes for coronavirus on behalf of all the bats in the worldPainterly ‘brush’ graffiti on a set of stairs that are part of a public right-of-way. (Photo taken June 8, now painted over.)

I am fairly sure there was a credit to Caravaggio, a ‘plague’ painter who was active in Naples at the time of the Black Death in the 1600s. Of course it has now been painted over so I can’t check. I found that it actually wasn’t painted by Caravaggio, but by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, called ‘First Mourning’ and painted in 1888.  An article from The Guardian: Plague Visionaries, how Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio Tackled Pestilence. Mural on a set of stairs that are part of a public right-of-wayIs this ‘Sticker’ Street Art?Happy Face on a pedestrian push button on the way homeThis is for sure!Stickers street art with heartMost of this Street Art is certainly a labour of love, especially if you know it will be painted over as soon as it’s discovered! At any rate, after all this sweet Street Art I decided to head over to my studio in the Vancouver’s Eastside on the search for graffiti that looked and behaved like real graffiti.

Vancouver Eastside graffiti on a blue dumpster.Vancouver Eastside graffiti on a blue dumpster This little monster on a roll-up security door made me smile. Vancouver Eastside graffiti monster on a security doorThen I went around the corner and down to a gate guarding the railroad tracks. This is done in what they call ‘bubble’ style, a form of ‘throw-up’ graffiti with rounded letters. Apparently railroad tracks are a key component of heavy-duty graffiti, and the Westside suffers from having had all its railways turned into community gardens. Vancouver Eastside graffiti on a gate down by the train tracksA loading bay close to the building with my studio.
Vancouver Eastside graffiti on a loading bay down by the train tracks My studio, along with 250 other artists, is in 1000 Parker St, an old mattress factory next to the railroad tracks. This is called ‘wildstyle’ graffiti, difficult to read but very distinctive. Vancouver Eastside 'Wildstyle' graffiti down by the train tracks‘Cartoon’ graffiti. 
Vancouver Eastside graffiti down by the train tracksIt reads ‘West Coast’. I’m not sure what this style is called. But obviously one needs active railroad tracks and private industrial buildings to have the real thing.
Vancouver Eastside graffiti down by the train tracks (and a comfy chair from which to contemplate it)
Looking across the tracks. All these are signatures, nicknames of the tagger, and most are dated ’19 as if they were art pieces.Vancouver Eastside graffiti down by the train tracksThe question that often comes up is: Is graffiti art or is it vandalism?

On a dumpster in the Eastside Strathcona area this citizen votes in favour of vandalism: ‘Please respect GOD and stop! Graffiti is a crime! stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop…’Please STOP! Graffiti is a crime! (Vancouver's Chinatown) I personally think it’s art, but only when the artists are creative in the production of their work and spend some time on it, although spending time on it is the opposite of the original purpose of graffiti. Those that spend a few seconds spray painting their ‘signature’ and ‘tagging’ their territory are simply putting their ego up on the space, and are not artists in any way.

The ‘sanctioned’ murals produced by Vancouver’s Muralfest include some of the graffiti artists that spend time on their work and have built up a following for their high energy art: https://www.vanmuralfest.ca.

19 responses to “Vancouver Street Art in 2020

  1. Hmmmm……an excellent question Elizabeth! Personally I love high quality street art but seriously dislike graffiti. My favorite thing is when towns have specific areas for street art. In those cases the art is typically higher quality and it does not get painted over. rather it becomes an area that tourists visit and enjoy. Candidly, not sure why GOD would care about street art LOL! For sure it is a labor of love – well chosen for the challenge and as always beautifully captured.

    • This year, in lieu of my favourite offbeat Mural Fest, various groups and businesses around the city sponsored #MakeArtWhileApart – masses of murals on boarded-up stores and businesses, now gone, or almost – I see there’s a display in an alley along the railroad tracks in Gastown. They have also sponsored 60+ permanent murals in nine neighbourhoods so everyone gets to enjoy art!

      • Vancouver also has a Muralfest which was originally working in one neighbourhood – there are so many murals now I think they have run out of walls. For 2020, with most people restricted to their own neighbourhood, they have spread out the festival starting in March going to September 7, and opted to place murals in nine different neighbourhoods. The 2020 murals are not yet posted but looking at 2019 murals I see there are a fair number of illicit graffiti artists in the mix with names like ‘Cool Combo One’, ‘Uncle O’ and ‘Slate’, and most of them have Instagram accounts! https://vanmuralfest.ca/murals/2019murals

  2. This is a great selection of street art Elizabeth! I had never heard of yarn bombing before. It must take a long time to pull together and isn’t as easily dismantled or covered up.
    Is it art or vandalism? Depends on intent, skill & place I think. I wouldn’t appreciate anyone spray painting my private space and ugly tagging on public places are eye sores. But I always appreciate pieces where there was inspired creativity and skill. Pieces like that say something about both the artist and the place.
    Thanks for taking part in the challenge!

  3. Pingback: Little Discoveries – The Sandy Chronicles·

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