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 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:

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Comment by William Shaw on October 3, 2014 at 4:11pm

Wow! what beautiful vibrant colors for a chalk drawing done on the street! I really likes the 50's era looking woman.It's hard to believe these are chalk drawings.Beautiful art! I love the Gorilla driving the car,it's just amazing that this art was done on concrete with chalk.I very curious how long some of these drawings took?

Comment by Fran Hoffpauir on March 30, 2015 at 3:09am

This is a wonderful blog, Thaneeya.  These are some wonderful artists.  I don't think I'll be trying it.  Looks like you have to be a contortionist to do it.  I do love to look at them, though.  Thanks for sharing this.


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