"What is the surface that I will be chalking on today?" It seems like a fairly simple and minor question, but to a street painter, it is very important. I have been chalking for years, and have completed many street paintings. I enjoy the challenge that each new piece of art and each new surface presents. It's part of what keeps it fresh and different.
Sometimes the surface is rough asphalt. A common practice in Florida is to mix in pieces of shell, which makes it even harder to chalk on, since the chalk doesn't like to stick to shell or large chunks of rock.
And sometimes it is just bumpy. Sealing it (albeit temporarily) with a wash of tempera & water, helps the chalk stick. It makes the colors brighter, also.
This was one of the roughest, bumpiest surfaces I have chalked on. The picture was taken at the end of the day, and you can see how the low sun shows all the bumps in shadow.
Smooth concrete is nice to work on, but it to can present some challenges too. It can have a sharp "tooth" to it, that can rip your fingers or gloves to shreds. Usually, it is a better canvas because it is white or light gray, so you don't have to put down the tempera paint as a base. Occasionally it can be too smooth, which the paint would then be needed.ck here to edit.
And sometimes you end up with a line or crack right down the middle of your art. The best thing to do with this is either make it part of the art, or try to fill it with chalk so it "disappears".
Here you can see how rough the pavers were in Curacao.
Bricks or paver bricks are a challenge because of all the cracks that have to be filled with chalk. When I worked on the pavers in Curacao, I broke a lot of sticks of chalk, trying to get it to cover. The other problem with pavers, is that many times they will be different colors. This may be pleasing to look at, but it can be a bear to work on. The bricks are fabricated of different substances and they all take the chalk a bit differently, so you have to constantly adjust the pressure and amount of chalk applied. One thing to remember is the more porous the surface, the more chalk you will use.
You can see the outline of the large squares of granite in this overhead shot.
The other end of the spectrum is a super smooth surface, like a polished granite or marble. Even unfinished granite can be very difficult to work on. Chalk just does not like to stick to it, and the tempera base is almost imperative. The large pavers in Ireland were granite (below), and we were glad that we had brought paint to prime the area first.
And lastly, when you get bored, start chalking your body! In this shot on the right, Mercedes and Carmen start experimenting on themselves in Naples, Florida.
It was pretty hot that day and I think the heat finally got to them!
This is probably the number one question I get as a street painter. What happens to the chalk when it rains? Besides the obvious smart ass response "We get wet" is that it washes away. And here's what happens to the art...
After one night of rain, a days work is almost completely washed away. This piece was 4' x 6' on concrete, and took about 6 hours to complete at the Italian Family Festa. The original was intense with color and contrast, the results of layers of chalk. But a wicked storm blew through Tallahassee in the middle of the night on Saturday and did a lot of damage. There was a tent over the work, but it didn't help much.
Madonna with child by Italian Renaissance Artist Guido Reni
The day began rather dewy and damp, and it took awhile to get the layer of tempera paint to dry enough so I could start chalking. It was so damp, I couldn't get the duct tape to stick for the border. But we were lucky to have a relatively rain free day.
Here is the finished piece on Saturday.
There is no way to preserve or seal chalk on the street or sidewalk without changing the art. It is what makes the art special. It is but a fleeting flash of brilliance and beauty, like a colorful sunset or listening to a concert. Enjoy the moment! (Then take a picture and share it with all your friends on Facebook!)
This was my first attempt at street painting in 2005 at the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. I have a degree in Design from UCLA, and many years of painting and drawing experience, but this was something I was not familiar with. The medium, soft pastels, and the huge scale, were totally new to me.
My older daughter, Mercedes, and I thought it would be fun to try. We had been the to see the festival the previous two years, and kept saying to ourselves, "We could do that". So we did!
Mercedes, age 15
Unfortunately, these pictures aren't very good. For some reason the color is a bit off. It wasn't large, I think we started with the smallest size (4' x 6'). We were hooked, especially me. The next year we were put in the featured artists section on Lucerne Ave., away from the craziness on Lake Blvd., and have participated each year since.
Carmen, age 9, shows off her first street painting
And Carmen, my younger daughter, wanted to join in so badly. I set her up next to us on a blank area of asphalt, gave her some chalk, and let her go. Little did I know how amazing an artist she would turn out to be.
Award Winning Street Painter & Chalk Artist