If you ever found yourself wondering where the idea of street art, specifically that done with chalk got its start, just blame Madonna. No. Not that Madonna. The Madonna. You know, as in the Madonna and Child Madonna. The earliest recorded artists who made their living at creating these masterful artworks where known as “madonnari,” after their storied practice of creating chalk paintings of the Madonna. Beyond their paintings, they were known for their life of travel, adventure and freedom, as they made their living from the coins tossed to them by admiring passers-by.
Unfortunately, World War II made the practice of creating artwork on city streets and sidewalks very hazardous, much less those who created it a vanishing breed. It was not until 1972 that there was a revival of sorts for chalk art as it appeared in the city of Grazie di Curtatone in Italy when it hosted the first International Street Painting Competition, attracting artists from around the world to participate.
Today, artists around the world take to the streets of nearly every city on every continent to create new forms and techniques of this brand of expression. They bring with them homemade versions of pastels as well as traditional chalks that have been used in street paintings for generations. Further, their creations have taken them from mimicking the complicated images of the old masters as well as more modern pieces as well as the latest trend, 3D art and the surreal images produced.
The Latest and Greatest
The creation of street art by using chalk takes many hard hours and is often not nearly as simple as it may seem. First, the artist creates the outline of an original painting. Using pencil or charcoal pastels, the artist creates a rendering of the painting that shows the final painting in true proportion. Then they begin by laying down the base cover of colors. Using the color pastels that he has selected for his painting, he layers the colors, blending each with the other to create images of the subjects, their shadows, contrasts, and depth.
Wherever the street painting takes place, whomever the artist is, the question almost always arises, “Why create street art when it can only disappear after such a short time?” As any street painter will tell you, it’s more than just a painting, it’s a performance. And just as a performance is given to an audience with the knowledge that at some point the performance will end, so is street art created knowing that the winds and rain will carry it away. It’s not the final product that’s important. It’s the performance of the artist that is the most important thing.
People can stop and watch the performance take place, not matter the stage they see or the final product, it’s all a work in progress. It’s also the simplicity of chalk as the medium that attracts so much admiration for the artform.
Violla! Chalk Art
It is, without a doubt, one of the favorite and oldest fantasies that childhood can evoke. Sidewalk chalk is an inexpensive and fun way to liven up any summertime day. All it takes is a small collection of chalk and a driveway or a sidewalk, and viola! Our inner Rembrandt emerges. Perhaps it’s this hidden tendency within all of us that is stirred in all of us when we witness the wonder of street art, whatever type it is, but most dear to our hearts is chalk. Not only is it fun to take part in, but just to watch a talented street artist down on his or her hands and knees as they create their latest, is an awesome experience that draws out the kid in each of us, and can hold our attention in rapture for hours on end.
Whether you’re an old hand at chalk art or just a Rockwell in the making, you will find lots to learn with street art. The good news in this, however, is knowing that as much enthusiasm as you may bring to the artform, you will find that there’s no less enthusiasm from those who have learned that there is no pleasure so lasting as street art, or even street art in the making. Even better is the fact that there’s no shortage of places where you can practice your art while you learn.
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