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A Practical Street Chalk Drawing Survival Guide

Updated on June 22, 2014

A Practical Street Chalk Drawing Survival Guide

If you’ve ever attended a street chalk drawing event, and wondered how the artists get such outstanding results with just a handful of pastels on a raw asphalt surface, then keep reading. If you’ve also wondered if you have what it takes to create a chalk drawing of your own, the answer is an undeniable yes. With the right materials and the following of some very straightforward guidelines, it is quite possible for anyone to plan and successfully complete a quality street chalk drawing.

Image Choice and Preparation

The first task is the selection of the image you wish to draw. It is important to start with this, since the anticipation of producing it enlarged on the ground will aid greatly in your motivation throughout the process. As you decide, bear in mind that simplicity is key. The more complexity or detail there is in the image you choose, the more difficulties it will present in its rendering. The image should be enlarged to a size that is comfortable for you to refer to, clearly showing it in detail. If the space you will be drawing in on the ground is square or rectangular, make your enlargement proportionate to that shape. Have two equal-sized copies available, one in full color, and one a black and white xerox. Mount both copies to supportive cardboard backings. Protect the color copy in a plastic sleeve, so it will remain unmarred as you handle it while drawing. Now, draw a red line grid over the Xerox copy that corresponds with the size of your ground square. In other words, if your square is 4 feet by 6 feet, then measure out a grid on your drawing duplicating those proportions, with each line representing one foot. This part is crucial to your success, since the grid is your guide to transferring the proportions from your image grid to the ground effectively.

Materials List

Here is an essential list of materials and accessories that you might find useful in the drawing process. You may add or omit, as you see fit.

* Box of pastels

* Several small plastic containers (for separating different colors)

* Disposable latex gloves

* Broad bill hat

* Chalk line reel

* Measuring tape

* Kneepads (a thick square of carpet

or heavy cardboard will work well, too)

* Two inch wide masking tape

* Blackboard chalk

* Small whisk broom

* A few foam brushes (various widths)

* Kneaded eraser

* Charcoal and pastel pencils

* Sunscreen

* Adequate amounts of drinking water

* Muscle pain reliever

* Handkerchief / wet wipes

* Color blending material

* Hand cart (for transporting materials)

* Wing and a prayer

The color blending material can be found inexpensively at a moving supply store. It’s those thin, cushioning foam squares used for padding between dishes when you pack. It’s ideal for blending one pastel color into another, saving your fingers and hands from being abraded into oblivion. The kneaded eraser is used for blending the small detail areas, and can be purchased at an art supply.

Setting up the Square and Beginning to Draw

Sweep your drawing square free of debris, and use your masking tape to lay down a border around the perimeter. Using your measuring tape, mark off every 12 inches around each side of the entire square, with a piece of blackboard chalk. We use this chalk for all measurements and sketching of the drawing, because it can be easily rubbed out, while pastel cannot. Now, using either a chalk line reel or your measuring tape, carefully draw out your grid. When complete, it should closely resemble the grid you have made on your image. Starting at the top of the square, begin using the blackboard chalk to sketch the image, paying close attention that each drawn line corresponds with where it is plotted on the grid. Continue this careful plotting throughout the sketching process, and your chalk drawing will turn out with the same accurate proportions of the image from which you are referring.

Concentrate on the drawing in thirds, top to bottom. Fill each portion of the sketched outline of the image with an application of color. The idea behind applying pastel is economy. The asphalt ground surface will only accept a certain amount of material. The rest is excess, and will generate pastel dust which can easily spread out over the drawing surface, creating problems. Experiment with technique, until you can determine the right amount that covers the surface with a thin, uniform layer of color. What you are trying to achieve here is one near-transparent layer of pastel on top of another. This allows the hues underneath to continue to show through, creating a dimensionality to the surface. Use the lightest colors as base coats, applying successively darker colors as you build up. The objective in the first day is to sketch the image out completely, while applying a two or three layer base coat to the entire surface of the square. This allows the material to set overnight, absorbing into the pores of the asphalt. When you return to apply more finishing color, you’ll have an anchored base coat to build upon.

Completion Details

On the second day, continue with the color layering process, using the same controlled technique. As you reenter the drawing area, try as much as possible to avoid walking or kneeling on the existing layer of pastel. Keep a barrier, such as your piece of cardboard or carpet underneath you at all times, to minimize contact. As you add the top, darker shade colors, be very careful to use them sparingly. If applied too heavily, they have the potential to cover all the other layered colors beneath them, thus destroying the dramatic visual effect you labored so hard to create. You can now use your smaller tools, such as your pastel and charcoal pencils, kneaded eraser and foam brushes to add the fine finishing details to your masterpiece. Remove the masking tape border from the edges of the square, and take as many photographs as possible- because street art doesn’t last forever!


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