I don’t know for certain, I imagine as with lots of things it is different for different people. I can understand the desire to create / leave your mark / express your self. Not all people who are artistic / who want to express themselves can make a living from their art. Like people who may want to express themselves writing may, write a blog rather than earn a living out of it.
Who has not written their name or a message on a misty window / mirror, in sand or snow? As parents know, children seem to be born with a desire to write on walls, floors and tables rather than paper so maybe we are all born with the gumption to be a graffiti artist? But some of us grow up or do not dare?
Perhaps we all have it in our genes the urge to write on walls. As this great blog post I read, points out there is evidence of cave painting and hyreglyphics in Egyptian tombs.
Writing on walls can be a powerful communication method. Wilkipedia credits the first modern graffiti artist as being Cornbread who as a student in 1967 wrote on walls in an attempt to get a girl’s attention. In Sheffield on a bridge, that is part of the Park Hill flats the sprayed message ‘I love you, will you marry me’ has been immortalised in lights.
Now a days with the internet is possible to get messages across to a large group of strangers; though posts electronic walls, tweets etc… In times gone by expressing political views or making statements about situations has been enabled by writing on walls such as John Lennon’s wall where peace messages were painted during times of communism and the Berlin wall.
Despite enhanced mass communications methods street art can still be used to highlight topical issue / points of views.
Some art pieces need a large space and walls provide that space.
Some would argue those who spraypaint their ‘tag’ albeit that it may be a moniker rather than actual name reflecting the risks of tagging illicitly; are not so artistic. Perhaps taggers have different aims.
A quote from the following article (also linked above):
The article above also speculates the thrill that the taggers get from the process; the cat and mouse game with police. Then there are so called heaven spots, which is where tags are painted in difficult to reach places. it can be a wonder when you spot some colour , high up on a building; how on earth it was painted. Indeed unfortunately heaven spots are also so called because of the risk to life.
I also wonder whether taggers get a thrill seeing their tag everywhere. I have noticed the Nop tag everywhere in Sheffield and it did cause me to think what it meant,; therefore it has had some impact on myself. It has been suggested the nop tag stands for Norfolk park and it is a gang symbol and that it stands for Not for Profit.
I also see the word Quiet and initials SCS around Sheffield.