Thursday, June 21, 2012

The surface is always changing...

"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.
This is a typical asphalt road in Florida with shells mixed in.
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.
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".
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.
Here you can see how rough the pavers were in Curacao.
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.
You can see the outline of the large squares of granite in this overhead shot.
And lastly, when you get bored, start chalking your body!
Mercedes and Carmen start experimenting on themselves in Naples, Florida.  I think the heat got to them.

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