Chalk Drawing Tips

  • What you will need: artwork previously prepared, clean street surface that is not too smooth or too rough, chalk (artists chalk like Koss has great colors and covers the street better), tape measure & chalk line, ipod, hand wipes, some people use plastic gloves, some people use cardboard or pads to sit on, sunscreen, hat, and a camera.

    1)    Selecting an image. Start off with something that you can handle. Each time you create a chalk drawing you will get better and be able to pull off larger and more complicated images. It’s better to win with a doable piece than have a disappointing first experience.

    2)    Old master’s artwork are great to copy. You get a direct lesson, you learn how they worked, how they used line, color, composition, and form. They are called the masters and in the art history books for a reason.

    3)    Street painting / chalk drawing festivals connect to an old tradition of artists drawing pictures of Saints on the street for the public to enjoy and learn from. The artwork connected the viewer through the art to spirit. As you continue to chalk drawing, think about what people need to see.

    4)    I use the computer and photoshop. Try using a filter called “cutout” that separates the image into individual shapes. This is very helpful as it allows you too see the shapes more clearly and helps with drawing on the street.

    5)    Use the grid system to size the drawing from the art you are using to the size of the street. First know the size of the street piece, example 4 x 4 ft. Make your artwork also in a square format. Draw squares on a Xerox or on the computer, print out several sheets, close-ups for the details, place is plastic sleeves.

    6)    Sweep the street from any pebbles and dirt.

    7)    Use a tape measure to measure out your piece using a 12 in. grid. Then use a chalk line, ask for help, and snap down the lines.

    8)    Name the squares on your print outs, down with letter or numbers, and across with the other creating 1A, 1B, etc… Name them the same way on the street.

    9)    Begin to outline your piece using a medium dark piece of chalk. Umber or burnt sienna works the best. Move through one square at a time looking at your drawing and drawing in the same square on the street. This way you are only working on one square at a time, which helps you stay focused and not get lost.

    10) Stay away from white chalk until later, use it sparingly.

    11) Try using a long stick with a piece of chalk taped to the end so you can stand and draw your outlines. This phase is simple out line, it’s only to get your entire drawing down so that when you get to the squares to fill in they are already drawn in the correctly. It’s also helpful if you have other people that will be helping you, they can just jump in on a square or section.

    12) Chalk is a medium where you build on top of what’s underneath. Chalk will only adhere to the street in a certain way. Once you cover the area, there will be a point where the street won’t take anymore chalk. If you add more it will just lay on the top and eventually get blown away which makes a mess for you and for whoever is working beside you.

    13) Ever see the movie, Karate Kid? Wax on wax off? It’s a circular motion that goes both ways. After you put down the first pass of chalk, use this technique to push the chalk down into the street. The goal is to totally cover the street with chalk. This also works well with blending colors together. If you want a color that is not in the box, use two different colors of chalk at the same time and smear them into the street to make a new color.

    14) Step back from your drawing to give your perspective from how it looks up close, walk around, climb on something, take your camera.

    15) Add line work, dark lines work the best. Lightly blend them it into the drawing. Add highlights, don’t smear these in, leave them just sitting on the top of the pavement.

    16) It’s helpful to work on a difficult area of the drawing first, like a face and eyes. If you can pull off good eyes, you’ll instantly have people’s attention! By handling a difficult area first, you will feel better about the drawing and the process, you’ll feel better about yourself and can relax. It also shows the audience/viewers that you can draw, so as you continue to work on other parts of the drawing that still looked messed up, you’ll know that you have already done something good and people can see this too. Basically impress them and yourself early!

    17) At larger events there are lots people around. It’s fun to stop and talk to people. They are there to see artists work (we usually work alone in our studios) and it’s a great way to share the creative spirit and to network. Make sure you bring business cards or a way that people can get in touch with you, they may want to hire you later. If you have any copies or prints of your other work, bring that along and have it available for others to see.

    18) And then there is time to not be social and just work, stay focused, concentrate – time for the ipod!

    19) Use your camera often, take pictures of your drawing throughout the creation. It’s a wonderful thing to have, show, and use on your web site and blog. It also records the process, helps you remember all the steps it takes, and then can be used later in teaching. Street painting is a temporary art form, many street paintings are washed away in a day or two so the photographs are the only record of the art.

    20) Stretch often, your lower back will take a beating. Take good breaks, sometimes the sun on the street is really hot, drink lots of water, take a hot bath later. Advil or Tylenol are helpful during the drawing process to keep the body stress lower. You will be sore the next day, keep stretching.

    21) Have fun, make a mess, keep the chalk out of your eyes, let the chalk and the drawing teach you, draw as if you are guided, trust the process. Even if you really make a mess or you don’t like your drawing, relax into knowing that everything is good, that it’s each piece of art that you create makes you a better artist and builds confidence.

    22) Be careful not to judge or make yourself wrong. Draw from your belly, breath, see if you can loose yourself in your work. You will amaze yourself before you are half way through, and when you are done it will feel like you just climbed a mountain. You will be your own hero!

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