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Banksy and Scott Wade: The Impromptu Artists

Most official art aficionados do not consider graffiti to be a recognized form of art, but they are missing something important and energetic that is occurring among the populations of the world as some graffiti is definitely qualified art. A case in point is the graffiti art of an artist who goes by the name of Banksy as can be seen in his English maid image. This is a two-dimensional work of art that has been created on the side of an abandoned building in Camden, England using spray paint and stencils. As unsanctioned art, the image was designed in the artist’s studio, large stencils were produced and the artwork was sprayed on the wall as quickly as possible so as to avoid detection from the authorities. The image is the picture of a uniformed maid stooped over to lift the white façade of the building to expose red bricks beneath as she prepares to empty her dustbin out of sight. Her broom rests against the wall behind her. Colors used to create this artwork are kept simple in white, black and red but the image takes on the shape of a trompe l’oeil, intended to fool the eye into thinking the maid is almost real, and is therefore representational.

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The artist’s work speaks on an individual level with those who live at the street level and perceive that they are being asked to adapt to a world-view that is outside of or in opposition to their own sphere of experience. Journalist Simon Hattenstone (2003) explains the way in which this is accomplished: “When I do come across [Banksy’s images], surreptitiously peeping out of an alley or boldly emblazoned on a wall, I find it hard to contain myself. They feel personal, as if they are just for me, and they feel public as if they are a gift for everyone. They make me smile and feel optimistic about the possibilities of shared dreams and common ownership.” A combination of inside jokes with the realization that just about everyone ‘gets’ the joke is itself a slap in the face of a commonly presented ‘official’ ideal that has obviously failed.

The same can be said about the work of another ‘impromptu’ artist, Scott Wade as expressed in his ‘dirty car art’ “Elephant Ears.” This artwork is two-dimensional and monotone, worked into the white dust that had accumulated on the back window of a dirty car, thus the ‘canvas’ is actually the glass window. The artist uses traditional artist’s brushes to pull the dust away from the window and thus reveal the image. Within this piece, the artist has created a happy, almost impish depiction of an elf complete with wild hair, large and pointed ears, a goatee and large, elephant-ear leaves around him. The elf image appears on one side of the window while the leaves are used to balance the image on the other side. As representational art, “Elephant Ears” is intended to introduce a note of humor into the boring commute to and from work while also taking a new approach to the common problem of people neglecting to wash their cars. This gives them the excuse to put it off longer and takes advantage of the natural material nature provides. In naming the piece, the artist makes a pun out of the name of a popular type of plant, adding to its humor.

Although neither of these artists are likely to be found within the context of a museum, they are seen to be fulfilling at least three of the four traditional roles of the artist. In his depiction of a traditional maid, Banksy provides “a visual record of the places, people, and events that surround them” (Sayre 11) as he is an artist working in England among the ‘common’ people. He gives “visible or tangible form to ideas, philosophies, or feelings” (Sayre 12) in the way that he points to the need for the city to clean up its decaying parts and its tendency to sweep the dirt under the rug rather than actually clean it. Finally, he helps us to “see the world in a new or innovative way” (Sayre 15) by surprising us with an image we don’t expect to see on an old, crumbling building. Scott Wade’s image is a bit less traditional, but it addresses the issue of ideas in its attempt to bring a smile to busy commuters at the same time that he encourages us to look at dirty cars as artworks that just haven’t been completed yet.


Banksy. “Clean Sweep Maid.” 2009. Web.

Hattenstone, Simon. (2003). “Something to Spray.” Guardian Unlimited. 2009. Web.

Sayre, Henry M. (2007). A World of Art. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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Wade, Scott. “Elf’nt Ears.” 2009. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Banksy and Scott Wade: The Impromptu Artists." October 31, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Banksy and Scott Wade: The Impromptu Artists'. 31 October.

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