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Chalk artists enjoy chance to create in public

The slathering of color on Atlanta Street in downtown Marietta this weekend means one thing. Artists will be chalking it all up to inspiration.

That’s because they’ll be in the midst of Marietta ChalkFest, a gathering of artists who specialize in the vibrant and temporary. Located just in front of the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, artists from around the country and local participants will create chalk illustrations each measuring 3 feet by 3 feet.

You’ll see everything from photo-realistic portraits to fine art interpretations to whimsical cartoons. The competition takes place in conjunction with Art in the Park, the annual arts festival located in and around Historic Marietta Square and Glover Park.

Marietta ChalkFest begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Last-minute entrants can sign up that morning, and kids ages 13 and younger can enter the youth division. Each artist will be given a specific space and a 30-count box of chalk, although artists can use their own if they prefer.

Although anyone can participate, Marietta ChalkFest includes a roster of 20 featured artists from around the country. A couple of Georgia-based creators put down the chalk and gave us a preview.


Q: How did you become a chalk artist?

A: The large-scale format was exciting to me, because I’ve done murals for years. But murals are always done behind closed doors and just a few people get to see it. I had never used chalk except when (playing) with the kids on the sidewalk, but not in an art sense. …But it was really the scale that drew me, and the fact it was a public art form. You’re almost like a street performer, and you meet all types of people. You learn their story, they learn your story. So the relational side of it is what brought me to the art form rather than the actual medium.

Q: What type of illustrations do you create?

A: I’m an elementary school principal, so there’s always a kind of (childlike), humorous, funny side. I usually go with something that will kind of make people laugh, get their interest. You’re not going to see me doing a lot of fine art pieces, but what you will see is something that’s cartoonish, comical, bright and kid-friendly, because a lot of these events draw families and they bring kids. The kids get excited about seeing something silly. So I’ve done all kinds of things from a little girl kissing a frog to leprechauns.

Q: Do you struggle with the fact that this type of art is temporary?

A: It’s actually kind of freeing as an artist, because you don’t take it quite so seriously. You can actually enjoy it a little more knowing that you don’t have to worry about selling it. You don’t have to worry about it being absolutely perfect. It kind of frees me up to be a little more creative and do things that are maybe a little outside of the box, things I wouldn’t normally do with art that I would hope to last for many years. So it’s actually a good escape for an artist.


Q: What do you like best about chalk art?

A: I like being outdoors and working with an environment rather than just inside in a studio. It’s a lot nicer to be able to share my art and get the exposure and share it with other people. The chalk pastel medium has always been my preference. It’s fun to blend, easy to work with and your hands get dirty.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the process?

A: It’s kind of a rush knowing that I have this certain amount of time that I need to get this art piece done before it rains or whatever. If it rains, I can come back and do it again. There’s this one piece that I did that was for the Melting Pot restaurant on Peachtree Street. They commissioned me to do one for the “Mamma Mia” show at the Fox (Theatre). They have a charity where they have kids come, eat dinner and go to a show at the Fox, so I would draw for that. The “Mamma Mia” one washed away, so I had to come back the next day and draw it again. Each time I drew it, it was a little bit different.

Q: What are you going to be drawing this weekend?

A: I’m drawing a Civil War scene about Kennesaw Mountain. It’s kind of complicated, so you’re going to have to come out and see it. It’s going to be an Atlanta scene, and I’m going to have a phoenix coming out of the flames, so it’s going to be symbolic as well as visual.

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