Arts/Literature

Denver Chalk Art Festival 2012: color, perspective, history, and coolness as far as the eye can see

I’m a sucker for chalk art, so I always look forward to the Denver Chalk Art Festival. I’m apparently not the only one, either, as the crowd shot below suggests. The crowds seem to be getting larger each year, too, and I suppose it’s easy to understand why. June in Denver, Larimer Square, fantastic artists – what’s not to love, right?

As always, we saw a wide variety of art this year. For instance, there was some pop culture, like Marilyn above. And Michael.

And Spidey.

Some artists took on more serious subjects.

I always enjoy watching artists at work. The focus and the craftsmanship can be as intense in a temporary medium as they are with paintings made to last centuries.

I got this artist’s card – he’s Mark Cline and he gave me a wall calendar featuring the calendar stone art he’s doing here.

This year’s art featured a good bit of what we’ll call “whimsy,” such as this, which I suppose must be the famed Doggie Lisa.

Sorry, flamingo, but my money is always on the hot woman with the whip and chair.

And this, which may have been my single favorite piece in the entire festival. Kids, huh?

Also, it was only fitting that such a beautiful June Sunday afternoon feature a couple of tributes to the National Pastime.

Something that the average viewer probably never thinks about is the importance of perspective. But these artists have to create works that look right even though they’re flat on the ground and being viewed from the sidewalk. That can be trickier than it sounds. Sometimes you get an artist who ups the ante a bit, producing a drawing that looks distorted…until viewed from a different perspective. Take this:

See the reflection of the astronaut floating in space? Looks about right. But the actual drawing is, well, like this:

Wild, huh?

Then we found our friends Shawn Sapp and Jami Maselli. Shawn (a former winner of the Artistic Merit Award for Creative Excellence) has this year produced a work that’s cool even by his standards. Some time back his family discovered some old photos that had been forgotten. They included WW2 shots of his grandfather, a pilot who flew 50+ missions in North Africa. One shot featured him hanging out of the cockpit at their base in Tunisia.

Which led to this year’s offering from Shawn, ably assisted, I believe, by Jami.

As you can perhaps tell, this piece is made to be viewed from several feet away, and from the preferred viewing line you get this wonderful three-dimensional depth and clarity. If you get up close, though, it seems smeared and lacking in detail. Shawn explained his technique to me and I followed along as best I could. Suffice it to say, this awesome piece of chalk art was considerably harder to execute than it probably looks.

Here’s one of Shawn with his 2012 entry.

Awesome work.

Shawn explains that this shot was one of several, and the trove included a journal that his grandfather kept. It was hinted at – in fact, it was strongly suggested – that the journal and the other photographs might make the sort of documentary piece that S&R readers would find great value in. With luck I can hound Shawn and Jami into sharing this with us.

So, there it is. Another great festival. Congrats to the organizers and artists, and I’m already looking forward to next year. I’ll leave you with one more happy crowd shot.

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