If you dream it and believe it, anything is possible. It seems like yesterday that I was chalking for sandwiches in front of local businesses dreaming of a way to make chalk art into something that was more than a passing thought. I was told that chalk art was not real art. I looked up the laws around it in Atlanta and found it was either under signage (if it included words) or graffiti; both of which have heavy laws and restrictions on them. You cannot just go on the streets and draw whatever you want, whenever you want. In the US chalk festivals and personal driveways are our only options; well with a few exceptions and always with permission. I emailed famous chalk artists I found online and asked him how he “got away with it” on the streets of New York. Apparently you can get away with a lot more there – I know that now that I have visited. There are art happenings in the streets and dancers in the subways.
So what is the difference between a US festival and one that is abroad? Acceptance. Artists CAN make a living and the starving artist reputation is not alive and well like it is in the states. Sure there are other professions that make more, but with talent and commitment it can be a very happy and fulfilling lifestyle. There are struggles anywhere but society is not one of them. In Rome, you can get a permit to draw in the street for money. At the festival in Germany it was encouraged to put out a tip jar and the patrons were happy to add to it! The children even had a jar of coins by each square. It was amazing to feel so appreciated and accepted. We are not the weirdos drawing on the street there. We are the artists visiting from foreign lands who are honored. Payment is given to all levels and judgement is discouraged. Art should not be weighed by skill or performance but by the time and commitment you put in. I put in just as many grueling hours in the hot sun as the beginner next to me. All are appreciated and treated equally.
I strive to point out the cultural differences so that hopefully we can improve here at home. I wish that one day all festivals will pay their artists and they will allow for tips to be given. I wish busking was a culturally accepted in our cities and street performers could be free to bring life to the dead grey streets around them. Festivals are our safe place for now where we can let our creativity shine. I appreciate every one that I am invited to and hope to continue to grow as an artist. I am not done growing as traveling to Italy and Germany has only opened my eyes and left me yearning for more.
I have so much ahead of me and can’t wait to see what is in store for the next few years. I know now that there are many ways to do things in many different places. Some people use Coca-Cola and pigment to draw and others crushed coal. Madonnari’s in Italy push sand into their street paintings to blend and make it go further. My French friend Edith has a makeshift umbrella on wheels she pulls around her drawing to block the hot sun. Everyone is so talented in their own ways. Different styles, cartoons, cross hatching, realism, and more. It is amazing to see and I have made so many friends from Italy, Germany, France, Afghanistan, Serbia, and Mexico. I have learned different processes and have tried many brands of chalk. Like all trades and art styles, chalk art is unique based on where you are from and the influence around you.