Sarasota Chalk Festival: An Overview with Lots of Photos (Part 1)

Earlier this month I attended the Sarasota Chalk Festival, which happened to take place just down the street from where I live!

Since it was so close, I was able to walk to the festival every day to see how the art progressed. This post contains a lot of photos and a run-down of the event. (There are actually so many photos to share that I'm going to make 2 posts about the Chalk Festival - maybe 3!  This is the first one.)

From November 1-7, artists from around the world converged on Pineapple Avenue in Sarasota, Florida to create a temporary art exhibit on the pavement.  It was fascinating to visit the festival each day to see the artists' progress.  It was equally exhilarating to see the crowds that came out to watch and interact with the artists, especially to see the crowds swell each day until it was almost impossible to get a good view of the art.  I love to see community support for art and artists!

The picture below shows the first day of the chalk festival.  Most (if not all) artists used grids to transfer their reference image onto the pavement.  If you look closely you can see the grid lines below:

In the photo below you can also see the artist's grid lines. You can also see how she marked out her rectangle with blue painter's tape.  (As a side note, the building in the background was built in the 1920s, which makes it quite "old" by Florida standards!)

Working all day in the sun and heat was not easy for these artists, especially since they had to be hunched over for hours at a time to create their chalk drawings.  Many of the artists sat on cushions, and some wore knee guards. The artist below had a clever way of shielding the sun from his eyes:

Here's how the street looked by the 3rd day.  Note how much the art has progressed:

The chalk drawing below was one of my favorites before it was even finished.  Note the bananas!

And here's the finished chalk drawing:

Remember the image I showed you at the beginning of the post?  Here's the finished piece by Joel Yau. I love the vibrancy of the colors:

Some artists, like the guy below, took some time out to play a few tunes on the guitar.  At various points throughout the week-long festival, bands performed, as well as the opera (which I'll tell you about in my next blog post).

Here's their chalk drawing in progress:

And here is the finished piece:

The astronaut chalk drawing below was another one of my favorites. Looking at the photo, it's hard to believe that this was a drawing done on the ground in chalk pastels!

It was fascinating to watch the chalk painting below unfold.  I could tell right away that it would turn out to be a beauty:

And here is the finished piece.  The artist, Cuong Nguyen, won the People's Choice award.  Visitors to the festival voted for their favorite pieces by dropping money into a bucket next to each artist.  The artist who received the most donations was the winner!

Here's a reproduction of Caravaggio's Bacchus (originally painted in 1597), shown here just over halfway finished:

And here is the finished version:

I have a ton more photos and anecdotes to upload and share, so I will do that in another blog post that I will upload in a couple of days.  I took hundreds of photos throughout the 7-day event, so it's taking some time to go through them all and select the best ones.  I especially want to share the in-progress photos followed by the finished pieces, so you can get a glimpse at the techniques used and the path the artist took to create the piece.

EDIT: Part 2 is now ready to view and read here! ]

In the meantime, I have created a page on Art-is-fun.com about sidewalk chalk drawings that displays some 3-D chalk drawings and explains how they "work". You'll also find a brief history of pavement art along with some links to noteworthy sidewalk chalk artists.  Check it out here: http://www.art-is-fun.com/sidewalk-chalk-drawings.html

Views: 772

Comment by Meg Mackenzie on November 20, 2011 at 8:14pm

Thanks for sharing these amazing photos and the story behind them, Thaneeya. What a wonderful festival.

Comment by Minvi Duncan on November 21, 2011 at 4:50pm

WOW! That is so awesome -- thanks for sharing!

Comment by Maureen Craddock on November 22, 2011 at 4:13pm

Wow ,Looks like a great time .Your photos are excellent. It's amazing how many talented people are out there!

Comment by Jeffrey A. Knight on November 25, 2011 at 4:45pm

thanks very nice

Comment by Suzanne Vadnais Monson on November 25, 2011 at 9:47pm

This is a fabulous trip to the chalk art festival in Florida! Thank you for bringing us with you Thaneeya. I really enjoyed your blog article on Art Is Fun too. I appreciate the time you spent pulling in the background history of anamorphic drawing, along with the examples you included of historic perspective art pieces. I learned a lot!

Comment by Emma on November 26, 2011 at 10:46pm

The images and storytelling of the festival with words and photographs are so inspirational. It is brilliant to see festivals and events happening all around the world and aspire to visit them, start them in our own communities and seek ways of supporting them globally. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Comment by Thaneeya McArdle on November 27, 2011 at 11:38pm

Thanks everyone, I'm glad you enjoyed this blog post!  Just wait til you see the art in Part 2, which I am going to start writing now. :)

Michael, funny you should mention power washing!  The chalk art actually was power washed on the last day of the festival, by city ordinance.  Apparently, an artist from the previous year used paint that didn't wash off easily by natural means, so the city required this year's art to be power washed and the streets returned to normal by 7am (or so) the day after the festival ended. I read that it took 6-7 hours to fully power wash the streets.

There was quite an outcry about this.  Most of the chalk artists were okay with their art being power washed, since they know that pavement art is an ephemeral art form that is meant to disappear over time.  It was the public, and local business owners, who were upset, and rightly so, I believe. Instead of power washing the streets, the city could have required that artists only use chalk that will wash away as normal, and prohibit the use of paint.  Hopefully they'll come up with guidelines like that for future chalk festivals.

On the bright side, this year's festival also included some murals and tasteful graffiti on the walls of several buildings, which will hopefully stay around a lot longer!

Comment by Elizabeth Carter (Letourneau) on December 16, 2011 at 7:20pm

wow this is so amazing I would love to go to one of those chalk festivals, that is amazing art!

Comment by Anne Ch. on December 19, 2011 at 4:15pm

It´s unbelievable! :) and teracota army from lego men is so good. It´s pitty, that in we haven´t it in czech republic, it has to be fantastic, to go along the street and see this picture everywhere around you.. :) 

Comment by Catherine Velardo on December 20, 2011 at 11:53am

For me, I think those are realy artists, they do an amazing job on a rough surface. Every year I go to Daytona beach where they do art with sand, and I enjoy watching them doing there magic. Thank you Thaneeya to share this with us.

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