Portrait Street Art by Vhils

Street Art by Portugese artist Vhils. Vhils uses a drill to make relief portraits from brick and mortar walls.

Street Art

This is a post about street art, including its history, characteristics, and more. If you’re looking for a collection of street art available on Rocart, follow this link to our street artwork page.

What is Street Art?

Street art is a visual form of artistic expression that’s created in public spaces, often using spaces like sidewalks, walls, manhole covers, and more as the ‘canvas’.

While artists can be commissioned to create public artworks, the nature of street art - much like graffiti, is guerilla in nature.

Street art is very common in metropolitan areas. Not only do the buildings, trains, and signs serve as sprawling canvases, artists are also drawn to the high visibility of working on such spaces.

For the artist, creating street art means reaching a much broader audience than if they were to display their art in a gallery.

As artists know their pieces will be seen by the general public, street art often takes the form of “positive vandalism”, where artists raise awareness about a social, political, or economic issue.

Humble Origins

Street art’s origins are traced back to graffiti, which revolved around displaying slogans of protest of governments or corporations.

Some early examples of American street art include the ‘Kilroy Was Here’ graphic in World War II.

American soldiers in the European campaign would draw a simple figure of a man with a long nose peeking over a wall, with the expression “Kilroy was here” to indicate that US troops had already passed through that location.

While it can be also categorized as graffiti, the addition of the drawing proved as humble beginnings for American street art which would boom in later decades.

Street Art vs. Graffiti

In short, Street art is image-based whereas Graffiti is text-based.

The two styles of art are often overlapping, as there are countless examples of works of art in the public domain that contains both image and text.

Additionally, both genres of art are full of artists who appreciate the challenge involved with working on their art in places where it may be considered unlawful.


First and foremost, street art needs to take place in a public domain. It’s very common in cities given the amount of highly visible structures that serve as canvases to artists.

The sides of buildings, signs, trains/subways all allude to painting, posters, stencil art, and more. Therefore, it is most commonly done with paint or printed images, though video projection or tangible materials have been utilized lately.

More natural examples exists, such as rock-balancing, but those are often regarded as sculptures out in nature.

Artists know, and are drawn to, the fact that the general public will see their artwork. This inspired artists to adapt popular characters and symbols in their art to communicate their message with imagery that’s relatable to the masses.

Perhaps the most mainstream example of this is the artist Banksy, who’s works often depict Disney characters or Corporate icons engaging in illicit or illegal activities. These pop icons reflect the identity of the corporations that created such characters.

Most street artwork is considered vandalism, much like graffiti. This element draws artists who are protesting the restriction of art, or the entities that are acting against a virtue that the artist values.

Perhaps the most famous example is the Berlin Wall in Germany. The Berlin wall was a prime target for Artists to add beauty to an otherwise unwelcome sight.

A Growing Revolution

Cities around the world boast a plethora is vibrant, expansive, and ever-changing street art scene. As cities grow, so too does the influence that artists have on the landscape.

Above all, street artists are always looking for creative ways to use city surfaces in ways that enhance or inspire its inhabitants.

You can browse the collection of street art on Rocart here!

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