Earlier this month I got to see some really cool 3-D chalk art at the Sarasota Chalk Festival, such as this large drawing by a team of Dutch artists led by Leon Keer:
The amazing thing about these "anamorphic" sidewalk paintings is that they look totally skewed from nearly every angle - but when you view the art from the perfect angle, then the 3D effect is striking. I walked to the Chalk Festival every day and took pics of the progress, so in this blog post I'll show you some of the process photos and explain more about the meaning (and evolution) of anamorphic art.
On the first day of the Chalk Festival, 4 Dutch artists (who collaborate as Planet Streetpainting) began work on this large 30ft x 40ft painting by drawing a chalk grid on the pavement:
The perspective looks pretty normal from this angle, right? Wait til you see it from another angle! The photo below was taken just a few feet to the left from where I took the photo above:
Even standing just a few feet away from the "correct" spot, the chalk drawing already looks quite skewed. From this angle, you can see how the figures are elongated.
If you look closely, you can see some long red strings on the ground. These long red strings were secured to the corner of the drawing, and stretched out diagonally to help the artists draw the straight lines of the figures at extreme angles.
Here's how the pavement painting looked on Day 2, with some of the figures painted in:
From these photos you can get an idea of how the artists painted each figure to a state of "completeness" before moving on to the next figure. It looks like those rulers were helpful for keeping those lines straight!
The photo below is one of my favorites because it shows just how skewed the artwork looks when viewed from the side:
The photo above was taken while standing on the right side of the artwork, near the middle. It looks practically abstract from this angle! Also note how dirty the artist's jeans are getting from all the paint!
Here's a photo of the artist putting the finishing touches on the street painting, taken the next day from nearly the same spot:
Here's how the painting looks when seen from the opposite angle from which it is meant to be viewed:
It looks pretty weird from the "wrong" angle, doesn't it?! This is one of the characteristics of anamorphic art. Anamorphisis is a type of perspective employed by artists from the Renaissance to Baroque eras, when they painted cathedral ceilings that seemed to rise skyward, with a swirling array of angels and other figures looking down upon the viewers.
The past few decades have seen a revival of anamorphic art, but with a modern twist: instead of depicting religious scenes on ceilings, anamorphic perspective appears in pavement art, where chalked figures appear to rise up from the ground.
You can learn more about anamorphisis, and read a brief history of chalk art, on Art-is-fun.com: http://www.art-is-fun.com/sidewalk-chalk-drawings.html
Back to the Lego Men, here is a photo of the finished painting:
So, what does this artwork mean? Who are these ochre-colored Lego men?
This work of pavement art is a fun play on the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, discovered in 1974 while farmers were digging in a well in rural China. What they unearthed was monumental: four large pits containing nearly 10,000 lifesize terracotta sculptures of soldiers, chariots, and horses, created over 2250 years ago and then buried with the emperor to protect him in the afterlife.
Here's a photo showing some of the terracotta soldiers, courtesy of Maros Mraz via Wikimedia Commons:
Planet Streetpainting brought this historic discovery into the present by adapting the terracotta army to embody our current culture. Why they specifically chose to depict Lego Men is a mystery, although they claimed to be inspired by the 8ft tall Lego Man that washed up equally mysteriously on the shore ... just a few days before the Chalk Festival began.
Many speculate that Dutch artist Leon Keer was actually the one who "planted" Ego Leonard (the name written on the back of the Lego Man's shirt) on Siesta Key as a publicity stunt, but as far as I have read, he continues to deny all links to the giant Lego man. Ego Leonard remains in police custody.
Two More Anamorphic Street Drawings...
There are 2 more anamorphic street paintings from the Sarasota Chalk Festival that I'd like to show you quickly:
Here's a side view of a large chalk drawing by Gregor Wosik. Can you tell what it is? This chalk drawing is meant to be viewed through a special glass. Here's how it looks through the glass:
It's a scene from Jim Cameron's Avatar, whose imagery lends itself well to the floating effect of anamorphosis.
Last but not least, here's a whimsical chalk drawing by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra. Here's how it started:
Here's a side view taken the next day, showing the elongation of the artwork:
I love the progress photo below because it looks like the artist is floating above the scene:
And here is the finished drawing:
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about 3D / anamorphic street art!
If you want to read more about the Sarasota Chalk Festival and see photos of more of the art, check out my previous blog post about the festival, and my next blog post about the festival. You can also learn more about sidewalk chalk drawings on Art-is-fun.com!
Believe it or not I've still got more photos to show you from the festival (because there was so much great art to share!) so I will write Part 3 in the next few days [EDIT: Part 3 is available here!]