Sidewalk Chalk Mosaic Art with Words and Shapes โ€ข Keeping it Simple


The sight of kids drawing on the pavement with sidewalk chalk is practically guaranteed to induce a session 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 creating 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 really a pastime that connects us not merely to memories of our smaller selves, but to a wealthy historical tradition that goes entirely back to 16th-century Italy.

While people have been using chalk to generate pictures since the age of 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 looking for an edge over the other beggars who proliferated in the plazas and market areas around cathedrals, especially on feast days. A number of them decided to generate art , and charcoal from braziers became their first drawing implement. They were rewarded for their efforts with coins thrown down by pilgrims visiting the cathedrals. Ultimately the more artistic beggars began copying portraits of the Madonna, in particular those by the popular early 16th-century liturgical artist Raphael. They certainly were dubbed Madonnari, painters of the Madonna.

Whilst the 2011 book Asphalt Renaissance, written 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, called โ€œscreevers,โ€ emerged in Victorian London and remained a fixture of the city up to World War II. Screevers were less closely connected with religious subject material, but like the madonnari, they made a coping with their ephemeral art.


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 โ€œserious screever,โ€ Bozo specialized in drawing political cartoons informed by the day’s news. (โ€œOnce a child got its head stuck in the railings of Chelsea Bridge,โ€ Bozo said. โ€œWell, I learned about it, and my cartoon was on the pavement before they’d got the child’s head from the railings.โ€) Orwell suggests Bozo had ample competition among London street artists: โ€œAt that time there clearly was a screever almost every twenty-five yards over the Embankment.โ€ But whereas a lot of Bozo’s peers drew the same thing each and every day, Bozo distinguished himself by focusing on something newโ€”a strategy he said paid off. โ€œThe very best thing’s to help keep changing your picture, because when they help you drawing they’ll stop and watch you,โ€ he explained.

Screevers were also memorialized in the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins, occur Edwardian-era England. In the song โ€œChim Chim Cheree,โ€ 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 making a livingโ€”though the same can’t be said about his hat. โ€œNo remuneration do I ask of you,โ€ he sings, โ€œBut me cap could be glad of a copper or two.โ€

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 a good the main 20th century. Then, in 1972, the Italian village of Grazie di Curtatone decided to host an international street-painting competition to honor the real history of madonnari. Your competition, known as Incontro Nazionale dei Madonnari, was a great success, attracting a huge selection of European artists and assisting to revive curiosity about sidewalk painting.

Roughly ten years later, its profile got an additional boost from Wenner, who’d become the founder of 3D street artโ€”a technique that uses tricks of perspective to produce pavement drawings appear 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 three years in a line, then brought his enthusiasm for street painting back to the US, launching an annual festivalโ€”the initial in the countryโ€”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 in addition has experienced a street-painting festival boom, with events in such varied locales while the Netherlands, Germany, France, England, and Serbia; you will find options in Australia, Canada, and Mexico, too. So in case you encounter some kids smeared with chalk dust this summer, let them know to keep at it. There exists a future in sidewalk chalk yet.

Sidewalk Chalk Mosaic Art with Words and Shapes โ€ข Keeping it Simple

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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