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Unit plan on hip-hop graffiti, Lisa Willier

Unit: Identity Through Graffiti

Art Unit-Ed 3601
April 1999
Lisa Willier
This unit was developed for students in Grades 7 to 9. This particular classroom in which this
unit was taught consisted of a small group of nine students, the majority being in grade eight.
Some of the distinguishing factors considered in developing this unit have been both Erickson's
Stages of Development in Childhood and Adolescence as well as Lowenfield's Stages of Artistic
Development. Firstly, students at this level would be in Erickson's stage of "identity vs. role
confusion." This stage is characterized by the acquisition and growth of a sense of identity. Thus
adolescents are able to consider and contrast perceptions of themselves by others as well as
various roles they may have and the expectations of such roles. An adolescent's most general task
is to integrate these various perceptions and roles into a coherent identity. This growth of identity
carries into high school life but can be a struggle should parental expectations conflict with those
held by peers, who at this point become a great influence in identity development.
It is one of my beliefs that art is a wonderful and safe outlet for personal expression as well as a
window to expand views of the world. Students at this level, though striving for independence,
need much guidance and stability in a time of life which can be confusing with its increasing
influences. Guidance, however, can only be provided when one acknowledges those influences
and interests of youth culture.
Graffiti was chosen as it is essentially a product of youth culture which allows for both
exploration. and expression of identity. Its most basic philosophy is the constructing an identity
through the creation of a "tag." Lowenfield's Stages of Artistic describe this stage as
characterized by attention to detail and popularity of cartoons and caricatures. This ties in
perfectly with Graffiti's formal components in which lettering styles are explored and detail is
vital for originality. Color theory and drawing skills are as well important components of Graffiti
which can be used to motivate to students to constantly explore color and develop drawing skills.
Another common aspect of contemporary Graffiti is that of cartoon type characters, hence
students are able to explore "portrait" in an area in which there is an interest.
Graffiti's fundamental ideology of "respect for skills" and uconstant upgrading of skills" provides
the perfect balance of both competition and respect within the classroom. Students can thus be
motivated to continually sketch and upgrade their skills but at the same time be encouraged to
respect and learn from the work of their peers. It is my wish that students enjoy and become
motivated to pursue art making through this unit as well as expand their ideas of art.
(Supplementary skills and concepts can be identified by*)
#1 -Exploring line, mark-making







- Using line to record information

- Develop hand eye coordination
- Use line, color shape to illustrate the meanings of words
- Vary the weight direction and style of line
- Use varied weight to produce a tonal scale in pencil
- Sketching a still-life of rounded forms use value to indicate
differences of light
- Blend values for smooth transition
- Observe video "Elements of Design"
- Encounters with Graffiti
- Observe Graffiti through slides
- Design a tag
- Explore through sketching various lettering styles
- Employ various color combinations
- Employ color blending with oil and chalk pastels
- Encounter with Graffiti and Graffiti artist through watching
- Cut out stencil and spray-paint overtop
- Draw a portrait through cartoon
- Putting component together through cutting and pasting

- Identify line as an element of design
- Identify contour-drawing as a drawing technique
- understand how various types of line can convey a mood
- understand that the weight, style and direction of a line can
- understand that line/shape and color are used within
advertisements to illustrate products
- analyze and identify design elements used within ads
(Supplementary concept)
- analyze the use of line in contemporary and historical works
- Understand that value contrast can be obtained by varying
the weight of the pencil
- understand value as varying degrees of lightness/darkness
- increase the awareness of dark/light values in drawings




- identify seven elements of design

- Identify primary, secondary, warm/cool colors
- Learn history of Graffiti
- Understand philosophy of Graffiti
-Learn terminology used within Graffiti culture
- Create own personal identity through a tag *- Begin to
consider their own interests/ identity in creating a tag
- Understand the complexities of the Graffiti process (spraypainting art)
- Understand discussion as an important component of art
- Understand to use stencils in creating silhouette forms
- identify positive/negative shapes
- understand cartooning as another form of portraiture
-Understand that self-portrait can include fantasy depiction
- Understand that symbols can be used for identity depiction
- Understand balance of positive and negative space for a
unified composition

#1 - perceive signature as own personal style of mark-making
- Begin to trust own observational abilities as well as hand-eye
#2 -Feel connection between drawing and emotional expression
#4 - Gain confidence in drawing abilities
- appreciate time and skill required to capture various values
#6 - Appreciate all forms of art
*- Appreciate philosophy of skills and respect for skills
#7 - Build confidence through exploration of lettering styles
-Feel pride in own personal style of lettering
#8 - Appreciate the skill required for Graffiti
- Begin to view themselves in new ways and by their own
*- Perceive themselves as having knowledge of Graffiti as well
as being Graffiti writers

Abbreviated Lesson Overview

Slides/Encounter with Art: Line/Mark-Making
Lesson One: Contour Drawing/Mark-Making
An introduction to the unit will be given to students through a slide show and discussion about
the various components of the unit. Following the presentation students will be shown overheads
of various signatures discussing the style of the signature and personality conveyed from the
signature. This will be connected to the students own signature and the style of line which they
use. Students will then copy each others signature both right side up and then turned upside
down. The tendency to make lines the way we are used to versus observation will be discussed
and connected to contour drawing. Students will then do an exercise in blind- contour in which
skills of observation and hand-eye coordination are encouraged. (One-class)
Lesson Two: Line As Expression/ Element of Design
This lesson will be connected to signature exercise and style of line. This will then be carried
over to characteristics of line and how different types of line/mark-making can suggest
mood/emotional expression. This will be done by giving a demonstration on the board as to how
line can suggest mood by varying the direction, quality, location, emphasis and movement of
line. Students will be given a example/s on the board and asked what the particular style of line
suggests emotionally (joy, anger etc.) The students will then be given a list of adjectives which
they will convey through various types of line. The teacher will close the class with a slide
showing of various historical and contemporary art in which they will compare and contrast their
own mark-making to that of others. (one class)
Lesson Three: Illustrating A Word
The class will be opened by observing and discussing various magazine ads. Students will be
asked how the artist used
lettering styles to advertise the particular product and why this style was used. An example will
be shown on the board of how to illustrate a particular word. The focus of this will be on the
shape and style of lettering as well as color and how these can be used to illustrate the meaning
of the word visually. Students will be given a particular word to illustrate from the teacher to
avoid using the same words and will also be given to option of adding small images for further
effect. (2 classes)
Lesson Four: Tonal Scale and Drawing Rounded Forms
This class will be opened with a brief exercise in value. Students will be given stripes of paper in
which they will make a value scale with pencil from the purest white of the paper to the darkest
dark. Students will then do a still-life drawing focussing on capturing the various values on the
objects. Blending of the values will be encouraged to produce three dimensional effect. (2
Lesson Five: Elements of Design
Students have thus far had exercises in line/shape and value. The purpose of this lesson was to
have students become familiarized with the elements of design particularly color before
beginning work on graffiti. Students will be shown a video called "The Elements of Design.
Students will beforehand be given some questions on the board and told to answer these

questions from the video. After the video a review will be given on the elements of design. The
rest of the period will be used for finishing previous work. (1 class)
Lesson Six: Introduction to Graffiti
This lesson will be opened with a lecture of Graffiti. It's history, philosophy and terminology
within Graffiti culture. The teacher will then give time for question and response. Following this
a slide show of Graffiti will be given in which the teacher will note characteristic's of Graffiti as
well as it's formal
components such as lettering styles, coloring and cartoon type characters especially within
contemporary graffiti. A review of the lecture concepts will be given during the slide show to
ensure a visual understanding as well. Students will then begin to explore various lettering styles
with their initials. The students will also be told to think of a tag for next class. (1 class)
Lesson Seven: Creating a Tag
This lesson will be opened by reviewing some basic lettering styles from bubble-style to threedimensional type letters. A demo will be shown on the chalkboard of various techniques the
students might use in creating their tag. Students will be given an assignment of producing three
different lettering styles of their tag and then one in good copy with color. (Two classes)
Lesson Eight: Graffiti Video/Philosophy/Discussion
This lesson will be focussed on Graffiti as an art form as well as its philosophy and ethics. Since
Graffiti spray-painted on walls is an illegal activity a discussion will be held on the ethics of
Graffiti to encourage critical thinking. Through discussion students will become aware that
Graffiti can be learned without spray-painting walls. The teacher will as well stress the "respect
for skills" concept connecting this to respect for the work of their peers. The rest of the period
will be used for finishing their tag or other unfinished work. (1 class)
Lesson Nine: Creating A Background For Tag
This lesson will be opened by reviewing the composition of some contemporary Graffiti in
which the tag exists within a background student at this point know that the complete projects
will consists of a tag and a character within a background which may be a landscape or an
environment which illustrates the mood of the piece. The student will brainstorm ideas for
places they might use for a background. The assignment will be given in which students will
design a stencil using silhouette forms for their background. This will then be spray-painted with
black spray-paint the positive shapes being the color of the bristol board which they choose.
Students will be reminded that all elements should be unified by color arrangement as well as
meaning. (Does the tag, background and character all convey to the message of the piece) (3
Lesson Ten: Creation of a Character
This lesson will be opened with a slide show of some cartoon- type characters seen in Graffiti.
Following this the teacher will show by example on the board techniques for the basis of figure
drawings especially concentrating on movement of figures. Students have the option of depicting
themselves (in relation to their tag) as an animated object, person or animal. Students also have
the option of realistic portraits and do not have to do a full-body portrait. The focus of the

complete project is synthesis of identity hence students must find a way to illustrate the character
that reinforces the meaning/message of their tag. (2-3 classes)
Lesson Eleven: Putting it all Together/Touch-ups
The students will have finished all three components of the project and may have had to change
the size of the components for a balanced composition. After careful arrangement the tag and
character will be glued down onto the silhouette background. The teacher will show by example
framing and color choice that enhances the coloring of the composition. As well any touch-ups or
finishing details will be made before displaying the piece. (1-2 classes)
Lesson Six: Introduction to Graffiti
* Student will learn history of Graffiti.
* Students will learn some of the characteristic's of Graffiti.
* Students will learn the philosophy and terminology used within Graffiti culture.
* Students will encounter Graffiti art.
It is my wish that students not only understand the formal components of Graffiti but understand
the history and philosophy of Graffiti as well. The ideology of respect for skills and upgrading of
skills will be encouraged within the classroom.
Resources/References /Materials:
Slides of Graffiti art made by Janice Rahn
Rahn, Janice. Structure of Hip-Hop Graffiti Culture
Sketching Paper and Pencils.
Lesson Sequence:
* A lecture of Hip-Hop Graffiti will be given, it's history, philosophy, terminology and
techniques will be covered.
* Slides will then be shown to students, visually. reinforcing concepts of lecture.
* Question and answer during slide show.
* Students will then be given the assignment of creating their own tag however rest of the
period will be used for practising lettering styles with their own initials.
* Students will be told to have their tag/name chosen for next class.
Closure: Show some examples of student work, discuss.
Evaluation: Review of concepts/terminology with question and answer periodically.
Lesson Seven: Creating a Tag
* Students will create their own tag.
* Develop their own personal name/identity.
* Explore various lettering styles.

* Learn Color blending with pastels.

It is my wish that student explore with lettering styles first to find which best illustrates their tag
as well as discover which types of line/design that they are attracted to. Find freedom in giving
themselves their own name.
Slide made by Janice Rahn
Paper, pastels, chalk pastels, and pencils.
Lesson Sequence:
* Students will be given an assignment of designing their tag using three-different
lettering styles as well as different color combinations and then one in good copy.
* A demonstration will be shown of different techniques characteristics of Graffiti such as
bubble-style and three- dimensional type lettering and overlapping of letters.
* Give a rough estimate of size of tag, encourage students to fill the paper for the good
Closure: Show examples of student work, encouraging originality, details in lettering styles.
3 rough sketches /5
Color conveys to mood /5
Style of lettering conveys mood /5
Details/Professionalism /5
Total /20
Lesson Eight: Graffiti Video/Philosophy/Discussion
* Students will observe through video a graffiti artist at work.
* Student will understand the process and complexities of Graffiti.
* Think critically of Graffiti, it's philosophy, ethics, and implications.
Goals: It is my wish that through viewing this video and class discussion students become
aware of their own views toward Graffiti and it's implications in the illegal aspect of the activity.
It is hoped that students will understand that Graffiti can be something they can learn and do on
paper like some Graffiti artists. Some student may feel confused as to Graffiti's illegal
component, it is hoped that through this video and discussion such concerns will be alleviated.
Video: "Lost" produced by Janice Rahn
Lesson Sequence:
* Give an overview of the video (stress listening to what these artists have to say).
* Watch video.

* Class Discussion (start with teacher-directed questions).

* What are some of the things these artists talk about? (drawing skills, painting on
abandoned buildings not on houses, graffiti as art respect for skills).
* Is Graffiti art?
* Are you're own tags art?
* Students will be encouraged to voice their own opinions concerning Graffiti.
Closure: Discuss learning about Graffiti, sketchbook drawings without spray-painting walls,
still considered Graffiti.
Evaluation: Participation
Lesson Nine: Creating a Background For Tag
* Student will create a background from silhouette shapes.
* Design a stencil.
* Apply spray-paint over-top of stencil.
* Understand balance of positive/negative shapes.
Goals: It is my wish that through applying spray-paint students will become aware of how
complex spray painting Graffiti is. It is hoped as well that through this lesson students will only
better identify with the process of Graffiti but begin to view themselves as Graffiti "writers"
Black spray-paint, scissors, tape, bristol board, pencils.
Lesson Sequence:
* Show student an example of a background.
* Brainstorm for ideas of possible backgrounds (i.e. cityscape, mountains, etc)
* Tell students that the background does not necessarily need to be a landscape but can
also be symbolic images which add to meaning of their tags.
* Do a background piece together (point out that the color choice of the bristol board will
be the color of the positive shapes.
* Have each student make a small cut-out (trees, building, clouds).
* Stress arrangement of cut-outs before taping down.
* Spray-paint over top of stencils.
* Show students application of spray-paint (Less paint for softer ages.)
* Have student begin their background piece.
Closure: Show some examples, discuss.
Place /Background /10%.

Color and shapes convey to meaning of overall piece /5

Technique/Professionalism /5.
Lesson Ten: Creation of a character
* Students will create a character to incorporate into Graffiti piece.
* Students will depict this character in relation to their tag.
Goals: It is my wish that students not only analyze the three components of the piece in relation
to each other but become aware of the many different ways of portraiture.
Slides of Graffiti made by Janice Rahn
Paper, pencils, pencil crayons
Lesson sequence:
* Show some slides of Graffiti which contain cartoon-type characters (discuss options).
* Tell students they have the choice of animating themselves, or themselves as object or
animal or even symbolically.
* Show by example on the board techniques for figure drawing (especially showing
* Remind students to consider size relationships between all components.
* Have students to some sketching of ideas before good copy.
Closure: Show some examples of student work discuss.
Character /15%
Details/proportion /5
Balance of Light/Dark /5
Adds to meaning of tag /5
Lesson Eleven: Putting it all Together/Touch-ups
* Student will arrange and glue down tag and character onto the background.
* Students will learn framing techniques.
* Make any necessary touch-ups for professional look.
Goal: It is my wish that after touch-ups and framing students find great pride in their work.
Bristol board, scissors, glue

Lesson Sequence:

Show students how to frame the piece using tow colors of bristol board.

(Inside color should enhance coloring of the piece.) Stress careful arrangement before
gluing down tag and character.

Have students frame their work.


Closure: Have a critique of finished pieces.

Overall composition /10%
Unity of components /5
Technique/professionalism /5
Design Pro
Hey class! Check this out>>> Rules of the Room
Don't> interrupt others
Don't> Throw things around
Don't> wreck anyone's work
Don't> hurt anyone (including their feelings)
Do> your work
What does all of this mean
You ask? > > > > RESPECT (< good stuff!)
Also here is an evaluation checklist that you can keep to help you keep track of your marks,
remember that participation counts for 20% (<<WOW!!!)
Unit: Graffiti
Participation/20% Exercises/15%
Working/ on-task Drawing of object/s
Effort (were you really trying)
Good attitude (respect/rules of the room)
Checklist items
Tag/Piece /20% Place/ Background/10%
color>mood Details/technique
Style of lettering>mood Color>mood Details/prof essionalism
3 sketches

Character/15% Overall composition/10%

Details/proportion Unity/balance
Balance of light/dark Detail/professionalism
Congruent with overall piece