Lawrenceville Stencil Graffiti

stencil graffiti of rabbit jumping, Pittsburgh, Pa.

This law-abiding blogger has never committed an act of graffiti in his life–but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think about it! All the time, as a matter of fact. If I were going to get into the wall-scrawling business (don’t get your hopes up: the chances are extremely low), I’d follow a very strict code of ethics: I wouldn’t touch anyone’s personal property, I wouldn’t write some dumb, regrettable message or invent a cheesy “tag” like, say, 0rbi7, I’d make damn sure the graffiti was only an improvement to the visual landscape, and I’d perpetrate with a stencil.

Why a stencil? I’m glad I asked for you. Mostly because if they’re created with any dignity, stencils just look uniformly good, without looking uniformly, uh, uniform. They have the beauty of any hand-run print process that provides great repetition of image, but with each rendition some warm distortion and subtle variation.

All of these stenciled pieces come from a relatively small area of Central Lawrenceville–mainly 42nd and Harrison Streets (I think). I’m sure there are plenty more where these came from, so hopefully The Orbit can get a few more pulls out of this particular template.

stencil graffiti of figure in wheelchair with the word "equal", Pittsburgh, Pa.


With all due respect to The Orbit‘s female, LGBT, and people-of-color brothers and sisters, the disability community is the minority group that has by far the least public exposure and the largest and longest denial of basic human rights. No Hollywood stars are lining up around accessible transit issues, Iggy Azalea is not getting uninvited from any giant downtown deaf pride events, and no one is burning retail stores over the unemployment rates of blind people. I’ve seen these Equal graffiti splashes in Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, and Bloomfield, which is a great sign of some small amount of awareness at a very literal street level (and my wife reminds me that there are a lot of very positive changes happening in this space). Now, why the person in the wheelchair looks like Pac-Man with a torso…

stencil graffiti of hand grenade, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Hand grenade (?)

This one violates my above-stated personal rule against “bombing” personal property. But if I was the owner of the row house whose cement foundation wall had this illicitly added, frankly, I’d be fine with it. [That is not an invitation!] So far, no one has busted out the Zinsser to cover it up, so perhaps these neighbors are on the same wavelength. Bonus points for the paint run (the stenciler’s equivalent of a beauty mark) in the bottom left corner.

stencil graffiti of man with top hat and the word "kween", Pittsburgh, Pa.


According to the computer internet, “Kween” can mean umpteen different things, none of which we’ve ever heard of. So it’s hard to know what the profligate who sprayed this one was going on about. [Enlightened Orbiters: straighten us out.] But sure: top hat, weird spelling, stencil on concrete–that’s good enough for us.

stencil graffiti of a dove on a street pole, Pittsburgh, Pa.


Lay a flat stencil on a round surface and you’ll lose line definition somewhere. Whoever committed this one got that and more with a blurred leading edge so fuzzy it looks like this particular winged creature has just engaged hyperdrive. That, coupled with some oxidization and the pre-existing copper-colored lines it’s competing with and the results are a really beautiful addition to this particular streetlight pole.

Vacation notice: If you’ve gotten this far (and I’ll bet you have!) then, Mom: call me! No, seriously, Pittsburgh Orbit will be on a week-and-a-half vacation break wherein we’ll try to figure out what to do when we get back on Pittsburgh time. In the words of the late, great George Willard, “All of the sudden, her eyebrows were too intense.” Be good.

2 thoughts on “Lawrenceville Stencil Graffiti

  1. davidc5033 says:

    Great to hear about George Willard the tanner although I’m guessing he never wrote a line about eyebrows. There are and have been many George Willards out there. In Blacksburg, Virginia, George Willard delivered Washington Post newspapers and was the landlord for the apartment behind the Hokie House. George Willard was also the star of the book Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson and the name used by a lo-fi musician/recording artist in the 90’s.


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