When I picked sidewalk square number 25, it was before 8am, and it seemed like a very pleasant spot. By 11am, the sun was getting pretty hot.
“Alyssa Mann” is the person who sponsored my drawing. Sponsors paid to have their names worked into the artwork. Most of the sponsors were businesses, but my sponsor was just a kind person who believed in supporting children’s art programs.
While I worked on SPLUHH, I overheard people who walked by, who would say, “Wow!” or laugh. The other sidewalk artists didn’t make Kirby-style giant monsters.
Now that you’ve seen the “ACTION SHOTS,” here’s a break-down of how I did the piece. I brought with me a print-out of my SPLUHH monster for reference:
MY FIRST HOUR: I don’t remember ever doing a sidewalk chalk art piece before. When I checked in, I was given a nice box of really intense-colored pastels. I was also given a sheet of sidewalk chalking “tips.” These tips included using water, spray bottles, or brushes to spread the chalk and bind it to the sidewalk better, and to get a more solid color. I hadn’t been prepared for any of this.
I grabbed my purple pastel and sketched out the SPLUHH lettering to make sure it would fit. Then I grabbed my yellow, and fleshed in a SPLUHH shape. Procrastinating, I colored in the SPLUHH letters, grinding the pigment into the concrete with my finger tip. It made the color look better and more intense, but I could tell my fingertips wouldn’t last long this way. AND, next thing I knew, my purple chalk was gone, used up completely by the lettering. Then I realized I hadn’t yet put my sponsor’s name in, so I hastily squeezed it into the composition. My chalks were going fast, and I realized I wasn’t going to have enough.
Luckily, I have two small boys, so at 9:30 am I made the twenty-minute trek back home, raided their closet, and came back with a couple extra packs of chalk. I also returned with a bottle of water, a small bucket for the water, and some brushes.
I had trouble with the square format. It changed things compositionally. I found I wouldn’t be including a lot of things I’d planned to include, due to space constrictions.
I tried playing with the water and brushes, but ended up not liking the results anyhow. So I just ground the chalk into spaces as deep as I could.
I began just filling areas with color. I filled SPLUHH with yellow. I colored blue areas behind SPLUHH. I colored green areas underneath SPLUHH for grass, and tan areas for hills. I used the cheap pastels from home to fill all these areas. I saved the nice, bright pastels for later, hoarded them like precious things, hoping their diamond-value would help the piece shine, when applied at the end. If I applied them now, they would just get covered over with the cheap, lacklustre filler.
I knew I wouldn’t be drawing any fleeing, running figures in the foreground, but I decided to draw a few palm trees. I had trouble making a mouth shape I was happy with. Notice in the photo above, my “SPLUHH” reference image, and the tips of my shoes, as I took the picture.
I had a conversation with a passersby, who said the piece looked done. He associated “done” with all the areas being covered with chalk. All the areas being filled. I explained I had to highlight and accentuate areas now.
When I make comics, I only use black. Now, here, I only had one black chalk, so I knew this would be a very differen’t looking piece. It would look like a chalk piece. Color-wise, I was reminded of Wayne Thiebaud’s art.
Wayne Thiebaud. Cake Window (Seven Cakes). 1976
I was fortunate to take some classes from him in college. He talked about mixing colors around edges. Edges of objects, edges of shadows. Mix colors that don’t belong in those edges. Oranges and yellows and blues. It gives the objects a luminescence, and inner glow, and energy. So I mixed some pinks and oranges around SPLUHH. Then I butted those colors up against purplish bluish skies, so that the complimentary colors would give SPLUHH an extra pop. If I didn’t like something, I just ground a new color of chalk over the top, and that took care of it. But the overall piece was still very “chalky”. I finally grabbed my darker, nicer pastels, and began highlighting areas of SPLUHH, of the cliffs, of the trees.I reddened the eyes and lips. I put some grass stalks. I felt done at around noon, then visited with other artists, looked around, dickered with the piece for another couple hours without making any real changes, packed up, and called it a day at 2:30pm.