Family / graffiti

Learning how to become a graffiti artist

By martin booth, Friday Oct 20, 2017

It’s a tough task using a spray can if you’re only two years old, but Lois tried her best. While her elder sister Mersina continued using her stencil, Lois got to grips with her can.

Mersina carried on, swapping her colours to create a vibrant work of art down in the former prison cells that now make up part of The Island.

The hour-long session was organised by Where The Wall, with many of the participants having been on a street art tour earlier in the day and now attempting to recreate some of what they had seen.

While six-year-old Mersina worked on her Day of the Dead design, other budding graffers used stencils inspired by the work of Stewy and some bloke called Banksy, with those not set up on an easel able to draw freehand on a large piece of white paper using Posca pens while they waited their turn.

It was all going so well, and then I looked down to my left to see little Lois’ entire face had turned a vibrant shade of green. She had definitely got the spray can to work.

This being a family-friendly activity, the paints were water-based – unlike the ones you can smell when passing through Mina Road tunnel in St Werburgh’s or one of the underpasses leading in and out of the Bearpit.

Our expert guide showing how it’s done

Graffiti has woven itself so into the fabric of Bristol that it’s now an integral part of the city’s cultural heritage. An hour spent at The Island won’t give you the skills to paint at next year’s Upfest, but it will give you a new found appreciation for street artists’ work and a great souvenir of your newfound talents to take home.

As our patient guide explained to the eight of us on this session, it’s about ensuring the pressure is right, spraying an even amount of paint and to not over saturate the canvas. And especially for Lois (although two-year-olds sometimes find it difficult to listen to instructions), to ensure you point your spray can away from your face.

There may have only been stencils to play with, but there was some serious artistic flair in the room as some participant navigated even the most fiddly stencils with ease, colours seamlessly merging into one another rather than dripping down the paper, as the artworks were laid out to dry at one end of the room – getting ready to take home with the additional help of a hairdryer.

In the former cells where graffiti artists were once kept after being arrested by Bristol’s finest, a new breed of graffiti artists are being schooled.

Spray Street Art sessions take place at Hamilton House every Saturday and Sunday from October 21 to December 17, and cost £10 per person. To book and for more information, visit

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