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The sight of kids drawing on the pavement with sidewalk chalk is practically guaranteed to induce an attack of nostalgia. As summertime traditions go, getting down on the ground to let one’s artistic imagination run wild is right up there with running through sprinklers and setting up lemonade stands. But what adults swept up in reveries about the long, lazy days of childhood might not realize is that sidewalk chalk art is a pastime that connects us not just to memories of our smaller selves, but to an abundant historical tradition that goes entirely back again to 16th-century Italy.

While people have now been using chalk to create pictures since age cavemen, the Italian traveling artists known as madonnari appear to have been among the initial practitioners of street art. Robin VanLear, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s director of community arts, explains in an article on the museum’s website

In 16th-century Italy various beggars, primarily amputees, began trying to find an edge over one other beggars who proliferated in the plazas and market areas around cathedrals, especially on feast days. Some of them decided to create art , and charcoal from braziers became their first drawing implement. They certainly were rewarded because of their efforts with coins thrown down by pilgrims visiting the cathedrals. Ultimately the more artistic beggars began copying portraits of the Madonna, specifically those by the most popular early 16th-century liturgical artist Raphael. They were dubbed Madonnari, painters of the Madonna.

As the 2011 book Asphalt Renaissance, published by the street artist Kurt Wenner along with B. Hansen and M. Hospodar, explains, madonnari realized they may maximize their earnings by working as traveling artists, moving between towns in accordance with religious festival schedules. The Italian tradition continued for centuries, and soon street art began popping up in countries like England and Germany as well.

The English counterparts to madonnari, referred to as β€œscreevers,” emerged in Victorian London and remained a fixture of the city until World War II. Screevers were less closely related to religious subject material, but like the madonnari, they made a living with their ephemeral art.

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In George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, an autobiographical book about poverty published in 1933, the writer describes his encounter with a screever named Bozo. A self-declared β€œserious screever,” Bozo specialized in drawing political cartoons informed by the day’s news. (β€œOnce a child got its head stuck in the railings of Chelsea Bridge,” Bozo said. β€œWell, I found out about it, and my cartoon was on the pavement before they’d got the child’s head from the railings.”) Orwell suggests Bozo had ample competition among London street artists: β€œIn those days there clearly was a screever almost every twenty-five yards along the Embankment.” But whereas many of Bozo’s peers drew a similar thing each and every day, Bozo distinguished himself by working on something newβ€”a technique that he said paid off. β€œThe best thing’s to keep changing your picture, because once they see you drawing they’ll stop and watch you,” he explained.

Screevers were also memorialized in the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins, emerge Edwardian-era England. In the song β€œChim Chim Cheree,” Bert, the twinkly-eyed chimney sweep played by Dick van Dyke, boasts about his side hustle Today I’m a screever, and as you are able to see

A screever’s an artist of’ighest degree
And it’s all me own work from me own memory

Bert is notably less concerned than Bozo about building a livingβ€”although same can not be said about his hat. β€œNo remuneration do I ask of you,” he sings, β€œBut me cap would be glad of a copper or two.”

As VanLear explains, many European street artists fought in World Wars I and II, which meant that the practice of professional sidewalk chalk drawing faded for an excellent the main 20th century. Then, in 1972, the Italian village of Grazie di Curtatone chose to host an international street-painting competition to honor the real history of madonnari. The competition, known as Incontro Nazionale dei Madonnari, was a good success, attracting hundreds of European artists and assisting to revive fascination with sidewalk painting.

Roughly ten years later, its profile got a further boost from Wenner, who would become the founder of 3D street artβ€”a technique that uses tricks of perspective to make pavement drawings seem to soar from the sidewalk or sink into it. Wenner was studying classical art in Italy in the 1980s and started drawing on pavement as an easy way to produce money. He eventually made his method to Grazie’s festival, where he took first place 36 months in a line, then brought his enthusiasm for street painting back to the US, launching an annual festivalβ€”the initial in the countryβ€”in his hometown of Santa Barbara, California, in 1986.

By the time Asphalt Renaissance was published in 2011, the US was home to between 50 and 100 street-painting festivals each year. Europe has additionally experienced a street-painting festival boom, with events in such varied locales because the Netherlands, Germany, France, England, and Serbia; there are options in Australia, Canada, and Mexico, too. So should you encounter some kids smeared with chalk dust this summer, tell them to help keep at it. There exists a future in sidewalk chalk yet.

Paint your own glass window – Crafty Morning

About Dayana Melton

Dayana Melton
Hello my name is Dayana Melton. I have been working on chalk art for a long time. I will try to explain and show you the experiences I have been working on in chalk art for a long time. If you have any suggestions or questions, you can write to me from the contact section.

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