Fleeting Art, Lasting Memories

This past Saturday morning debuted with deep gray thunderheads in the sky and a fifty percent chance of rain in the forecast. This was not welcome news given that it was also the day for "Pastels on the Plaza," an annual fundraising event in my hometown that brings together artists and businesses to chalk the town square. However, tradition demands that the sidewalk art party proceeds rain or shine (within reason) and since rain had not yet fallen, I packed my supplies for the day: soft pastels, chunky sidewalk chalk, spray bottle, water, rags, snacks, sunhat, sunscreen, anti-fatigue mat, camera, and sketchbook. At 7:15am, I headed for the plaza.

Upon check-in, I received a set of pastels and the go-ahead to pick a square. I tried to surmise (optimistically) what spot would be best to photograph once the sun was overhead. I steered clear of cracked pavement and aimed for something close to a bathroom. Once I settled on a square, I got to work.

Soon the plaza was filled with artists on their hands and knees, sketching, spritzing, chalking, smoothing, blending. My plan was to work quickly from the top down, trying to remember to take regular breaks to stand and stretch. It was easy to forget to do that since it actually isn't too painful to be on your hands & knees if you have a quality mat...until, that is, you decide to stand up. The process of sidewalk art is also quite mesmerizing as you aim to get solid coverage, grinding to pastels into the pavement. Entire sticks disappear in a matter of seconds. Luckily, event coordinators provide huge bins of extra pastels sorted by color in case you need more than what's provided at the outset.

I discovered two very curious challenges. First, besides being important for physical reasons, it is necessary to stand frequently so you can gain the proper perspective on your work. Up close, it seems like the bumpy stone will never get covered and that your image is blurry and boring. From a distance  - as these works are meant to be viewed - the image comes together. It was also interesting having a parade of people behind me as I worked. I had to set aside my self-consciousness (every artist's rear end was unavoidably on display for passersby.) It was also interesting to hear a constant stream of commentary and the almost ceaseless click of camera shutters. This event draws many onlookers and so it becomes almost performance art. Luckily, I never heard a negative comment; I did draw the attention of many children which, for me, was really the point of the image I chose to do. I wanted to create something full of color and whimsy, something bold and bright that would make people smile.

It took me about four hours to complete my "square" (which was approximately 3 x 4 feet.) I saved a lot of time by creating the initial layer of color with fat sidewalk chalks. I used the tiny, fragile chalk pastels on top of that to create a more solid layer of color and to add highlights & shadows.

I am very happy that I finally got to participate in this event. Not a single drop of rain fell on Saturday; in fact, the sun poked its brilliant face from behind the clouds on a regular basis. After just an hour or so of working, it was warm enough to strip off my sweatshirt and roll up my sleeves. Sunday morning I woke to a chorus of screaming muscles and the roar of a thunderstorm. Having graciously provided a beautiful day for the bloom of beautiful art on concrete, Nature reasserted herself the next day before dawn, washing the stone clean and sending a rainbow river rushing towards the street drains.


Anonymous said…
Awesome art! And excellent checklist when choosing your square.... 🙂