If you live in a decent-sized city, chances are you’ve come across some form of street art in your neighborhood. We’re not talking about graffiti here – street art is a legitimate practice that includes everything from large scale murals to small canvas pieces. It’s not just made with spray paint either. Street art involves a variety of tools, including all types of paint markers. While some street art draws aesthetic influences from traditional graffiti, it’s a highly varied form of artistic expression in urban spaces, especially outdoors. It can range from abstract geometric designs to figurative pieces such as landscapes and portraits – often mixing both ends of the spectrum.
Street art is extremely popular in contemporary urban culture, especially in North America and Europe. From album covers to t-shirts to festivals, you can immerse yourself in street art style 24/7. You can even sign up for an AirBnB experience to make your own street art with a real street artist!
That being said, even as millions of people pass by murals on their daily commute, they might not be aware of who the artists are. Unlike other forms of art, street art isn’t presented in a way that informs and structures the attention of the audience. While there are a few extremely high-profile street artists, (Banksy comes to mind) the vast majority are unknown to the average person even if their work is displayed in high-traffic areas.
We’re here to do our part to change that. Below are 5 street artists from around the world doing amazing work that you should know about.
Labrona is a Montreal-based street artist with an iconic style. He’s a Canadian street art veteran, refining his craft over 20 plus years. His art brings together a variety of influences, from German expressionism to skateboard art to religious iconography.
Labrona’s work often features Monalisa-esque faces and bodies in characteristically ambiguous poses, colourful stylized figures of animals, and surreal hybrid creatures. His work is either monochromatic, or uses a few bright colours. His faces and figures are often depicted from strange and impossible angles, reminiscent of Picasso paintings.
While his background in traditional street art (skateboard painting, graffiti) informs his work, Labrona currently works on studio pieces and mural commissions. He normally uses a combination of spray paints and specialized tools similar to paint crayons in his projects.
You may have seen his artwork around Montreal – his signature colourful faces are a striking contrast to the backdrop of urban brick and concrete.
Another Montreal-based artist, Kevin Ledo is perhaps best known for his urban murals. Kevin is an example of a street artist who is influenced by classical painting and graphic design, and is equally at home in the studio as he is on outdoor canvases. Having studied illustration and design and worked in a variety of professional art capacities, he is able to seamlessly blend a traditional fine arts background with contemporary perspectives.
Kevin’s best-known work features portraits of real models or public figures interlaced with abstract graphical shapes. He has developed a unique style reminiscent of religious iconography mixed with photo realism. His murals are often huge, involving several layers of paint applied with rollers. He also uses paint markers for outline sketching.
His current work sees him travelling all over the world, creating commissioned murals in countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Mexico, and New Zealand. He’s also no stranger to media attention, having been featured on major outlets like the LA Times, the Guardian and the CBC.
If you’re a Montrealer, you are most likely familiar with Kevin’s most famous project: the iconic Leonard Cohen Mural in the Plateau neighborhood (not to be confused with the one on Crescent Street, which he did not paint).
London-based Dan Kitchener is a British artist who also specializes in murals. Throughout his decades-long career, he has explored a unique street art take on gritty, futuristic urban landscapes. His fine arts background sees him blending a variety of tools and techniques to produce strikingly epic murals and studio pieces.
Kitchener’s work is instantly recognizable for its Japanese-inflected sci-fi tropes, reminiscent of the classic film Blade Runner. He blends dark tones with brightly coloured lines to convey a sense of sensory-overload and dystopian environments. You can find everything from rainy neon nightscapes to futuristic geishas and cyborgs in his pieces.
Kitchener uses a variety of tools in his projects, most notably a wide range of paint markers and paint pens. Rather than use them for simple outlining, he incorporates paint marker strokes into both his outdoor murals and studio canvas pieces to create sharp lines and accents.
MadC is a German street artist known for her large-scale outdoor painting, some of which cover entire buildings in a dazzling array of colours. Like many street artists, she started off as a graffiti writer then branched into fine art and design. Her formal training (Masters’ in graphic design) and street experience inform her urban art pieces, combining masterful technique with vibrant and creative ideas.
MadC’s style is reminiscent of angular, interlocking graffiti lines, but brings out a deeper understanding of perspective, texture and shading. Her colourful abstract designs feature some signature elements such transparent bands of colour which simulate glass or plastic materials. She uses a variety of media such as transparent spray paint, ink and acrylic paint markers in her pieces.
While she is perhaps best known for her stunning outdoor work, MadC has accumulated a long list of gallery exhibitions, mainly around Europe and the U.S. Through both endeavours, she continues to re-contextualize the street art subculture using her own aesthetic universe.
Netherlands-based Does is a multidisciplinary artist whose roots lie in the graffiti world. He works on a variety of pieces, from murals to illustrations to prints and canvasses. His pieces are characterized by bright, angular graffiti shapes which are often combined with dripped or watercolour effects.
Whereas most traditional street art based on graffiti writing has a sharp quality to it, Does has crafted a signature style that seems to draw from surrealist influences, warping shapes and letters into fluid designs that evoke movement and transformation.
While they often draw from classic tropes like wildstyle graffiti, Does pieces are easily recognizable for their bright, energetic effects and meticulous attention to detail. He uses a variety of techniques and tools, including paint markers and paint pens, to craft his unique style.
Whether they are displaying their work in a gallery or on urban buildings, these artists are pushing the development of street art in exciting new directions. Through their use of new tools like acrylic paint pens, paint markers and paint crayons, they have shown that contemporary street art can go well beyond the confines of traditional spray-painted pieces.