Introduction: Smell Graffiti

Picture of Smell Graffiti

As a part of my artist residency with Paraflows/Monochrom and Quartier21 in Vienna, Austria I've created a new form of street art using scent.

Step 1: Theory

Picture of Theory

Graffiti as a medium has remained largely unchanged since early humans were painting cave walls. The style and purpose has evolved over the centuries, but still nobody has successfully broken free of its visual nature. From this line of thinking smell graffiti has emerged. Harnessing modern chemistry and appropriating technology invented for industry I am working on a new way to make a statement in a public space.

Scent is interpreted by the limbic system which is very closely tied to emotion and memory. This leads me to believe that interacting with people using scent can potentially be a much more powerful medium than paint since people experiencing it can't help but react to it. The goal of this project is to realize the potential of smell as art and to explore different ways of using it to interact with people.

Step 2: Chemicals

Picture of Chemicals

First you'll need to get your hands on some scent compounds. There are a few ways to do this. The easiest way is to do what I have done so far which is sourcing off the internet. There are an assortment of companies that sell scents for aromatherapy, candle and soap making and amateur perfumery. Mass produced esters can be quite affordable. I've purchased from The Good Scents Company and, both of which worked out well.

Another way to get scents is to make them yourself. If this is something you are interested in, i'd suggest reading up on creating your own essential oils, or preparing your own esters by combining an alcohol and an acid.

In addition to the esters, I add isopropyl alcohol to make them thinner and atomize more evenly in my spray setup.

NOTE: Take care to read and understand the handling instructions on any chemicals

Step 3: Spray

Picture of Spray

I had thought of a few ways to release the smells, but to stay true to the graffiti aspect I have been mostly using refillable atomizing spray cans. They are generally used in industry for lubricants and coolants. The particular cans i've been using are made by a company called "Sure Shot" and they come in stainless and aluminum. These cans are great because they are refillable and are pressurized up to 200psi using a standard schrader valve. That means you can just pump it up with an air compressor or a bike pump.

Step 4: In Practice

Picture of In Practice

The scents don't last very long. On the order of 20 minutes to a couple hours if you spray an object. I have found that this is plenty of time though.

As part of this project I've been sourcing natural scents like dirt and freshly cut grass and spraying them in urbanized public spaces where these scents are never encountered.

I can imagine many other ways of using scent as a powerful medium. For example places where scent is strategically used to the advantage of an advertiser can be jammed by overwhelming it with a second, foreign scent. I've heard of vending machines wafting the scent of chocolate to lure in more customers. What if instead of chocolate, the vending machine smelled like smoke.

Another very intriguing possibility I have been playing with is to create synthetic synesthisia by hacking my cans to spray both paint and scent simultaneously.

photo credit:


zomfibame (author)2012-07-27

This scent grafiti is an interesting idea. I never woulda' thunk of it, that's for sure. very creative. ... but I find some of the responses even more "interesting". I started checking out Instructables years ago and I go to the site very often; One of the things I liked about it was the fact that comments tended to be constructive and most times friendly...
but I'm starting to notice more spiteful comments that are simply jabs at others. I guess that's the inevitable outcome of any web-site that allows people to comment, since everybody is a tough guy when hiding behind a keyboard. Just because you CAN get away with being a jerk when there are no consequences does NOT mean you should be that way. .... I mean a site designed to inspire creativity, knowledge and education is not the place to take bullying stabs at other people and there diseases (be they real or imaginary). just because you are able to be a jerk does NOT give you the right to be one.... if a person is looking to be an ass or pick a fight why not go to the millions of mindless sites that revolve around that mentality.
The fact that a person would come to a site like instructables and then insult others who have commented tells me personally that they do not have what it takes to fight in an arena designed for that kinda' confrontation and verbal attack.... in short they are a big fish in a very small pond since this site, up till recently anyway, revolves around a higher mental ability. creativity and constructive criticism. This arena is NOT a mid 90's AOL chat room so don't act that way here. Thank you.

Toga_Dan (author)2012-07-27

I like the idea when applied near the trash cans, IF it's your property, BUT I agree with some previous posts. Some folks are allergic to fragrances.

As for it being a brand new idea... well... Territorial mammals have marked their turf for millions of years. But public urination is illegal in most cities ;)

lime3D (author)2012-07-27

C'mon folks, there's no need to debate what is and isn't graffiti, or why you should or shouldn't do this.

An instructable is suppose to share HOW to do something, not WHY.

icecreamterror (author)2009-09-24

Dose calling it Graffiti make you feel a little bit more cool? Cant see to many real graffiti artists switching to Street Perfumery....

radiobath (author)icecreamterror2009-09-24

Graffiti is unauthorized writing or drawing on a surface. Even though it's not writing/drawing, I'd still consider it graffiti, as it's unauthorized, and scent can bother a lot more people than a bit of spray paint. Ever got onto a crowded bus or train and someone decided to marinate themself in the cheapest perfume earlier? OP: I really, REALLY love the idea of fresh cut grass on the subway. In Boston, all you can smell is piss, sewage, stale air, and garbage. And that's ABOVE ground. If you could bottle sunshine and fresh air, I'd get a crop duster and cover the entire city.

icecreamterror (author)radiobath2009-09-24

The only link this has to graffiti is the notion that a Aerosol, and no permission = Graffiti (a fallacy IMHO)

Graffiti is a artform that unfortunetly is being diluted by "street artists" with little knolage of the craft that is free can Graffiti.

You just have to look at how Stencil art has now become known as Graffiti buy the ill informed populace.

says the person with a stencil inspired graphic as their main picture. i mean no disrespect, but i take issue at the comment that stencil art is not graffiti. i don't know if you are saying that because you don't consider it as free as non-stencil graffiti in terms of form, or what the basis of that comment was. but there is stencil graffiti out there that is just as intricate and powerful as some of the best large non-stencil works. again, no disrespect intended.

My picture is based on a Shepard Fairey Screen print poster...not a "stencil". Stencil art is just that, "Stencil art". But you can call it "street art" or "guerilla art" if you want, you can even call it Fine Art....But you cant call it Graffiti. This is illustrated by some of the biggest names in the game that don't call themselves Graffiti artist, Shepard Fairey, Blek Le Rat, SWOON and so on....they are street artists. I like Stencil art, and your right it can be just as intricate and powerful as free can work.

"Graffiti (singular: graffito; the plural is used as a mass noun) is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property."

So all paintings are the canvases are someones property?

If you want to get in silly linguistic games, then (technically speaking) yes. Technically, you're an animal. Technically, you eat rotting organic matter (either plain-old dead bodies or, if you're vegetarian, rotting plants) every day of your life, since dead things start to decay the minute they cease to live.

I think the meaning is quite clear from the definition. 

Well as long as I'm right.

"If you want to get in silly linguistic games" - dont see whats silly about it, and it a amusing response from someone posting a wikipedia quote...... 

Kiteman (author)icecreamterror2010-03-30

You really need to get with the spirit of the site, icecreamterror.

The author is tagging areas without tacit permission.  He is changing the nature of an urban environment by altering the way its sensorium presents to the unsuspecting passer-by.

By my count, that's graffiti. 

icecreamterror (author)Kiteman2010-03-30

Im sure my comments would have been removed if they were at odd with the spirit of the site.

Would you still consider it Graffiti if the means of application was not aerosol, and it was being done in a rural area? 

Unlike you, I don't think graffiti is a site specific art form, and I will passionately defend it from being diluted by piggybacking practices like this that are,  just like so "urban"!

And exactly what are your credentials in the field of Art? 

Kiteman (author)icecreamterror2010-03-30

You should not have to rely on the site admins to moderate your own actions.  Comments are only removed if they are flagged.  Many people choose to leave borderline comments unflagged, as it demonstrates the nature of the poster more graphically than a "removed" label.

Since when have qualifications been required for an appreciation of Art?  Perhaps you would like to check my credentials regarding the site?

Graffiti was around for centuries before there was a word for it, and for centuries more before some examples of it became burdened with the title "Art".

If you pay attention, I did not say that graffiti was specific to any site.  I said it was all about changing the way an individual encounters an environment.  Usually, as you are well aware, this is the urban environment, since most graffiti is used to "improve" an otherwise bland or unnatural space.

As soon as you start getting pedantic about the labelling of an art form, you restrict it, you smother it under semantics, and you turn it into rote rather than art. 

icecreamterror (author)Kiteman2010-03-30

"Since when have qualifications been required for an appreciation of Art".....appreciation is one thing, but understanding of a academic subject is a very different thing!

As for your
credentials regarding the site? how is this relevant, unless your saying your opinion is more valid as your more active on here???????

Kiteman (author)icecreamterror2010-03-30

You are the one who questioned the validity of my opinion based on credentials.  I was demonstrating the fact that I am more aware of what this site is about than you appear to be.  What constructive criticism have you offered?

All I see is "I know what Art is and this isn't it", plus a pretence at humility when you cast scorn on two other art forms in a single post.

In case you haven't noticed, this project was part of the authors artist residency.

On what grounds do you consider yourself to be better-qualified to dictate the nature of an art form compared to the author?

icecreamterror (author)Kiteman2010-03-30

Your right, I do question the validity of  your opinion, but that's based on your comments, not your as yet  unrelieved academic credentials on the subject.

"On what grounds do you consider yourself to be better-qualified to dictate the nature of an art form compared to the author?"

Well if you had taken the time to read all my post on this topic, you may have come across my comments on this!

But once more just for you....Been painting Graffiti for over a decade, having had work featured in many publication, while studying Art for just as long achieving a  BA (Hons) in History of Art from CSM London....and am now working on my MA. ...........your turn ;)

Due to you not even being willing to answer ANY of the questions iv asked
its clear to see your not here for a civil debate, but an arguemt  that  I fear has degraded into who can have the last word.

I think everyone puts way too much stock in the fact the having an education and lots of degrees in art, means that you are a true artist. I highly doubt that the artists that made the Nazca illustrations had any degrees.
Most artists consider themselves artists even before getting said degrees, the degrees for the most part seem to make the majority of them more snooty. What education is good for is refining one's art form, learning a better way to do what you do, and unfortunately, according to societal views of this age, lending credulity to the artist in the purchasing public's eye.
There are millions of actual artists that can't afford an education, does this make them any less an artist,or unable to voice an opinion about art? I think not.
As to putting a definition on graffiti, as with most art, it evolves, look at Yarn Bombing and Reverse Graffiti. I do think though, that if it is done in a clandestine manner, it is more popularly viewed as 'Graffiti', and if you have permission, it is then an 'installation'.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Art is anything you can get away with."

flio191 (author)icecreamterror2010-05-09

Dude. Just admit it. you've just been owned by kiteman. OWNED.

man, you really need to lighten up.

Kiteman (author)icecreamterror2010-03-30

"... compared to the author "

(If your qualifications are genuine, and I have seen nothing but arrogance and pedantry to support them, then you should be more than aware of the danger your restrictions would pose to the progression of the art form.  I'm with Whiteoakart and Lissote - stick to your firmly-lodged opinions, safe in the knowledge that the author is on a different continent, and thus unlikely to contradict you in person.)

simonsch (author)icecreamterror2009-10-03

When these artists show and sell works in major galleries are they still "street" or "guerrilla"? Art categories and "rules" are restrictive and allow fools to flourish with semantics. Your argument is weak.
For schooling try above link

icecreamterror (author)simonsch2009-10-03

None of the artists I mentioned sell the work they do on the street in gallery's....they make product for that (usually numbered screen prints)

Stencil artists are up there with mime as a legitimate art form IMHO

you really don't care who you offend here do you? i'm sure that i'm not the only stencil artist on this site. and in the interest of the "be nice" comment policy listed right below the box field in which i'm typing; i'm going to leave it at the fact that you had probably just check your ego at the proverbial door. good luck in life, you self-proclaimed lord god of graffiti.

when did i insult stencil artist? (i merely draw an analogy with mime artists....if you see that as a negative, then that's your issue) I happen to think it takes a lot of skill to cut out holes in a bit of paper.

Has the possibility of dropping this subject ever occurred to you?

radiobath (author)icecreamterror2009-09-25

I'm sorry, when are you going to give us your definition of Graffiti? You say that true Graffiti artists would know the definition, but since you started drawing lines and saying what isn't Graffiti, I'm not exactly sure if you are. You consider Shepard Fairey a street artist, when the only street art he's ever really done is a stencil. Unless you count the thousands of Obama posters plastered all over every blue state. You argue those who are saying that art is art, regardless of what medium, style, or sense. I think that you have a right to your opinion on what exactly "Graffiti" means. Unless you were the first kid to ever pick up some Krylon and tag a wall (though I don't think it was "icecreamterror was here", nor do I think you were alive in the 70s), it's pretty pretentious of you to say what isn't Graffiti.

icecreamterror (author)radiobath2009-09-25

No disrespect radiobath, but Shep is far better known for post-ups, and stickers right back to the early Andre the Giant Has a Posse i dont know where you get the the impression he is a stencils artist? And its intresting that you own definition rules this out as Graffiti "Graffiti is unauthorized writing or drawing on a surface." Art is a a emotive subject so people are going to disagree...but its also worth pointing out its a academic subject too, so maybe not everyone's opinions are equal. oh and i was born in was born in 79 if that counts ;)

radiobath (author)icecreamterror2009-09-25

My bad. I was referring to the original "Graffiti" artist, Killroy. And I got my facts wrong, this was back in the late 1930's. As for the definition, that isn't my own personal definition. I never said it was. I Googled "define graffiti", and almost all dictionaries--including Merriam-Webster--said essentially that. Nothing having to do with the art movement.

Icecreamterror, you are wrong here. Graffiti goes back long before aerosol spray cans. In fact, the word graffiti comes from the Italian, graffio, which means "to scratch". Graffiti is the illicit marking of a surface, whether through scratching, drawing, painting, or whatever. Since a dog is said to 'mark it's territory' when it leaves its scent, I think it is fair to characterize "scenting" a wall, as graffiti. David: Lover of etymology

simonsch (author)whiteoakart2009-10-03

Right on.

whiteoakart (author)simonsch2009-10-03

This reminds of the ongoing debate over the definition of "Fine Art". I appreciate what IceCreamTerror is saying. As a "Graffiti Artist", he has a responsibility to try to keep a clear definition. Otherwise, the name loses all meaning. At the same time, the word, graffiti (with a small g), has a long and distinctive history of use to describe the unsanctioned marking of public property.

My comment about aerosols was in response to the text in the instructable "but to stay true to the graffiti aspect I have been mostly using refillable atomizing spray cans." You can argue semantics as much as you like, but I think everyone reading this instructable will interpret 'Graffiti" in this context to mean the Art moment post 1974 known as The Golden Age. Iv painted for a decade, on different countries to continents, and IMHO very few, if any of the people iv painted with would call this Graffiti..... and in these circumstances (and without opening the can of worms that is Duchamp's notions "of the artists hand") up to them to define if its graffiti, not the role of a Sifaka Dancing Lemur come etymologists.......OR someone trying to subvert the movement ;)

Lissote (author)icecreamterror2009-09-24

It really depends on your age and your knowledge of art history. Graffiti has been around for much longer than 40 years, and has been done with many mediums. I don't think that your assessment that "everyone reading this Instructable" is that accurate - after all, there's already a few people who disagree with you. :) I'm not really sure who the "Them" you're talking about is - is there an actual panel of artists who we'd put this to in order to determine if it's actually graffiti? In art, there's a lot of disagreement about just what genre different styles fall into, or if they're even art at all. I don't know if you can say that this isn't graffiti just because it doesn't fall into your traditional view of it.

icecreamterror (author)Lissote2009-09-24

Yes there is a panel of artists who we'd put this to in order to determine if it's actually graffiti...and that panel consists of everyone who has risked their liberty in dirty latex gloves. If you have never painted, Im not going to take your opinion seriously....just like I wouldn't take the diagnosis of someone with no medical training seriously. ("It really depends on your age and your knowledge of art history." - 30, BA (Hons) History of Art CSM London......just for the record)

Lissote (author)icecreamterror2009-09-24

O_o So your automatic assumption is that I've never practiced the art, nor do I know anyone who has? And that further everyone who has ever done so, the world over, will agree with you? Yeah, sorry, that's more than a bit arrogant. Like whiteoakart said, I think you're just not open to any opinion but your own on this.

icecreamterror (author)Lissote2009-09-24

Nothing automatic about my assumption, I read your posts, and it clear you are not a writer. (its phrases like "practiced the art" that give it away) And yes, I think the majority of Graffiti Artists would agree with me, this is not arrogance, its years of conversations with other writer about the subject "what is Graffiti" But if I'm wrong, feel free to post some of your work....... :x

I have a feeling you have most of these discussions only with people who agree with you. And the only people you'd call Graffiti Artists are the ones who agree. Here's to new ideas, cool ideas, bad ideas, art, graffiti, Graffiti, painting, street art, and doing what you believe needs to be done.

Im more then willing to have the discussion with you.

soul1355 (author)icecreamterror2009-10-01

than* you seem to have quite the vendetta here... (just that you bother to make so many posts) I'd just like to propose a compromise, we'll call it "smell graffiti" not just "graffiti" and we won't go into the total bastardization of the rest of the English language from a "patch" here on instructables to the "wall" on face book. its meant as a metaphor, and its only used because it rolls of the tongue better than "smell street-art." and I don't mean to argue with you, I agree its not graffiti, but there is at least enough in common that calling it that (for lack of a better term) is not something to get quite so indignant about. I mean, you hear it and you know exactly what it is, right?

icecreamterror (author)soul13552009-10-01

Yes I have a vendetta. I think there needs to be a clear seperationt between Graffiti, and Street Art. The scene are very different......and mislabelling purely to gain a cachet doesn't help. There is no logical reason the perfume has to be dispensed though aerosol...other then to give it a self serving tenuous link to real Graffiti.

soul1355 (author)icecreamterror2009-10-01

well, I hate to say it, but it's kinda like trying to explain computer to your grandmother doing it here... the closest most of the people here get to either scene is throwing those little LED things around and calling it some kind of light graffiti.... which, I hate to admit, even fits the definition... but anyway, are you trying to say it'd work half as well to prance around dabbing the stuff everywhere? and what exactly do you want to call it? because, just so you can keep the name graffiti (if you can wrestle it away from that "sound graffiti" thing on here too) is not a great reason to change the name to something like "guerrilla perfumery" so it just sounds like you want to make everything smell like roses...

Lissote (author)icecreamterror2009-09-24

I find it extremely funny that you feel okay critiquing someone else's writing when you've made so many spelling and grammatical errors.

icecreamterror (author)Lissote2009-09-24

Good to know I at least made you smile :) but lets get back on point, was i wrong with my assumption?

Hey, BTW, it's not a dancing lemur. It's a vulture hatchling. It was growing up in a big snag by our farm. Crazy looking thing.

I think you are confusing the word 'graffiti' with the term 'graffiti artist'. But you are clearly not one open to discussion. You have your mind made up. You should know that the word graffiti is used by anthropologists to describe the writing of early pioneers of North America on structures. I doubt they were thinking of post 1970 subway taggers. I should mention that one of my school mates at the art school I attended was one of the early (not first) subway artists in NYC, early 1980s, long before it was cool. He was a verifiable criminal, risking his skin to express himself. Not some wannabee like today's posers.

I think there is possible some confusion over Graffiti (the art moment with a capital G) , and graffiti (the word with a little g)..... And thanks for the love on the bug house.

BTW, no offense to you personally as an artist and maker. I love your bug house.

"buy the ill informed populace." anyone else see the irony in this statement?

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