Reverse graffiti is one of the most popular art forms that no one knows about, including you. Have you ever drawn on a dirty car window, mirror, or other surface, creating some type of shape, symbol, or words with your fingers on the dirt-filled surface? Then you too are a dust tagging artist.
Reverse graffiti artist Scott Wades made this image by “drawing” on a dirty car window. Credit: environmentalgraffiti.com
Reverse graffiti, also acknowledged as clean tagging, dust tagging, grime writing, clean advertising, and water advertising, doesn’t get as much recognition as graffiti does, but unlike traditional graffiti, it isn’t permanent.
What is Reverse Graffiti?
According to the Environmental Graffiti website,
“[Dust tagging] challenges ideals and perceptions while at the same time shapes and changes the environment in which we live, whether people think for the better, or not.”
Dust tagging is the safest and cheapest way to create art. StreetArtBlog described reverse graffiti as “an art that is created by literally removing dirt from surfaces. It’s graffiti by means of subtracting dirt and creating a temporary image that can be scrubbed and washed away with ease.”
People use reverse graffiti for advertisements, art, and to express how they feel even though the work doesn’t last long. These artists use high compression cleansers, like dusters, and water to create their artwork.
For years, people questioned if participating in dust tagging was a crime. Since it is temporary, the artist isn’t necessarily vandalizing anything. Although in places like San Francisco, Calif., the act of reverse graffiti is banned according to advertising company GreenGraffiti.
An ad for Keen shoes by advertising company GreenGraffiti. Credit: GreenGraffiti website
GreenGraffiti, which is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, uses what they call natural media in their ad campaigns. With this type of media, there is little waste because natural elements are used. When creating advertisements using reverse graffiti, only dirt, templates, water and a power washer are used. Starbucks, Range Rover, LG, and Keen are some of GreenGraffiti’s clients.
The History of Reverse Graffiti: Sketching on Dirty Plates
Dust tagging was discovered by Paul Curtis, or Moose as he is also known, according to the Urban Art Core website. Curtis discovered reverse graffiti during a shift he has working as a dishwasher while sketching images and pictures on dirty, used plates. Dust tagging has become popular in Europe, North and South America and is continuing to rise in other countries mainly for the use of advertising and for entertainment.
The Dust Tagging Artists
Alexandre Orion creates dust tagging as well. His most famous piece is a skull mural inside a car tunnel in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that he created in 2007. According to the Urban Art Core website, “Alexandre’s intent for this artwork was to persuade the leaders of the Brazilian metropolis to clean almost every other tunnel in the city.”
Alexandre Orion draws skulls in a car tunnel. Credit: environmentalgraffiti.com
Besides Curtis and Orion, Scott Wades is another artist. With his specialty being rear windows of dirty cars, Wades uses a brush and pen to remove dust and dirt to create his artwork according to the Urban Art Core website.
Dust tagging has brought brilliant ideas to life. These techniques will continue to expand from place to place for advertisement purposes and the entertainment of others. According to Dolce Vita International magazine,
“Once the artwork is done there is no type of trash left, just the traces of a masterpiece totally eco-sustainable. There is less filth and more beauty with the use of reverse graffiti.”