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Temporary Art » Chalking Up a Masterpiece

side walk chalk

You probably haven't picked up a piece of chalk outside of doing arithmetic on a blackboard in school. We're not advocating the advancement of mathematics, but chalk has an interesting appeal in other areas, down more artistic venues. Take chalk to an outdoor medium. It's fast, cheap and temporary - in short it becomes temporary art. The very nature of its non-permanence makes it unlike most art forms.

If photographed, it's lasting. Left in the harsh conditions of mother nature... who knows? It may last a few days or it may wash away with an afternoon rain. Chalk art is in the moment - never more pristine than the seconds after it's completion. No guarantees. If you're there to see it, you win. Otherwise, it may just be a story you here about a great masterpiece that lasted 4 hours. It's that unpredictability that fascinates me.

Inspirational excerpt from The New York times | December 10, 2005

Tracing Shadows

It began this spring without explanation: fire hydrants, street signs and bicycles all over Park Slope and Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn were suddenly standing watch over their own distorted chalk outlines, as if anticipating some violent demise. Whoever did this left no clue other than an ambiguous signature: "© Ellis G. 2007," scrawled next to the chalk etchings.

During daylight, the outlines did not make much sense. Shopkeepers and bar owners had little information. Deliverymen muttered to themselves as they moved their outlined bicycles indoors. Parents were just as confused as their young children.

But under the orange glow of the streetlights, the intent became clear: the outlines are shadows, burned into the sidewalk.

The man behind this mystery, who in the last six months has outlined thousands of objects throughout Brooklyn, is "Ellis G.," or as his parents know him, Ellis Gallagher, a Brooklyn artist. His chalk drawings are a private joke between him and anyone in Brooklyn who takes the time to look at his work before the snow or rain washes it away.

For Mr. Gallagher, 32, keeping his art on the right side of the law is a relatively new endeavor. He spent many years putting graffiti on New York's train tunnels, walls and other public spaces. But graffiti "missions," as they are known in some circles, took their toll on Mr. Gallagher, who works as a waiter when he is not making art. There were the fines, the frantic foot-races with police officers (when he was lucky) and the nights in jail (when he was not). A 1999 arrest resulted in a community service sentence and probation, court records show.

Ellis Gallagher shadow art

Earlier this year, Mr. Gallagher was mugged on his way home from a shift at Bar Tabac on Smith Street, where he worked as a waiter. "I turn around and this guy's got a two-foot machete in my face," he said.

Mr. Gallagher was unhurt and the mugger was later caught by the police, but one night soon after the mugging, with the image of his attacker's dark silhouette still burned into his memory, Mr. Gallagher was mesmerized by a shadow on the sidewalk. He reached into his pocket and felt the chalk he had used to write the outdoor menu at Bar Tabac, and he dropped to his knees to outline it.

Shadow art was born.

Now Mr. Gallagher heads out on foot or on his bike with a backpack full of chalk, looking for shadows to trace. When he tells you that "everything is fair game," he means it. He has traced everything from hydrants to whole city blocks.

While most people in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope have never seen him, many know his work and they seem to like it. (While the city's administrative code says defacing streets is illegal, it is unclear whether that holds true for sidewalks.)

More than anything, Mr. Gallagher will tell you, his work is meant for pure enjoyment.

"All of my chalk drawings are like graffiti," he said. "It's putting out public art for people who normally wouldn't go to a museum."

Before you know it, he's back on his knees, tracing another shadow.

3D Chalk Art

Julian Beever is an English artist who is famous for his art on the pavements of England, France, Germany, USA, Australia and Belgium. Its peculiarity? Beever gives his drawings an anamorphosis view, his images are drawn in such a way which gives them three dimensionality when viewed from the correct angle. It's amazing!

side walk chalk side walk chalk

Using an alternate perspective while drawing, Beever is able to achieve an incredible 3D illusion.

side walk chalk

Hit the Streets!

Somewhere between Ellis Gallagher's shadow art and Julian Beever's three dimensional illusions, don't you want to get out there and leave a temporary mark that could last a lifetime in a stranger's memory?

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