Even temporary art can last
“There’s going to be a street art festival in October,” a friend told me. “It’s the first year we’re doing it.”
There would be paint throwing, murals, a chalk drawing competition, etc.
“You should sign up!” she said.
The chalk drawing sounded fun, except for the part where the public votes. This would be a stretch for me.
As the day approached, I became more and more nervous. But that morning, I was there. I covered the ground with color. Smiling inside with each stroke. Not caring there was chalk on my face as well.
Was it a good experience? Would I do it again?
Here are 3 things I learned from doing an outdoor art competition.
1) I can make art with people watching me?
When I read the public would be voting for their favorite chalk drawings, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. That meant they would be observing the artists at work. I wasn’t excited about that.
I googled “chalk drawing street art” and saw photos of crowds gathered near artists working on the ground. The more I pictured myself in that scenario, the more nervous I felt.
Could I make art with people watching me?
I had never made art in public. I’m not a performance artist, I’m the one working behind the scenes. I create in my studio until 2 am, when everyone is sleeping.
In art classes, I freeze every time the teacher hovers over me, looking at my work. How could I make art with random people watching me?
And what would they think of my art? Would they like it or keep on walking?
But I surprised myself. As I got in the zone, I was so focused, I didn’t really notice people coming by. I thought that would affect me, but it didn’t.
Even more proof I was in the zone was when everyone around me was cold — everyone but me. The temperature was supposed to be upper 50’s, but it was maybe 40 degrees, and damp from the rain the night before.
When you’re in that place of creativity, you’re oblivious to everything around you.
There were a lot of people around, but I couldn’t pay attention. I had to get the drawing at least halfway done so people could get a good idea of what it would look like before the voting started.
When someone I knew stopped by, they’d say hi, and I was happy to see them. And those who saw my drawing said they liked it.
I smiled as some would stop to take pictures.
One woman said, “Wrap it up, I’ll take it.” That felt good.
Another person said, “I saw your drawing from a distance and knew it was yours!”
People were encouraging, I wondered why I was afraid to do this.
I got so into drawing, I had trouble stopping…as usual. I heard one little girl say to her parent as the end of time neared, “Look, she’s still drawing!”
2) Location matters
I had registered early. They had more artists sign up than they anticipated. Thirty-six people signed up for 28 spots. They set up another area around the corner for extra artists.
I planned on taking a space in the main area, but was led to the overflow area instead. I hesitated a moment and then thought, it wouldn’t matter, there were people all over the place.
And in our area, artists were working on murals. Surely there will be just as much traffic.
But I was wrong.
When the voting began, they tried to get voters to visit both sites so they could see all the drawings. But they were unsuccessful.
Someone came and said, “I didn’t know there were more artists over here, I already voted.”
At that point, there was nothing we could do.
I later found out some of my friends had been at the festival but never even saw me.
One friend said, “Maybe you were bent over and that’s why I didn’t see you.”
Still, I’m pretty sure she would’ve recognized my art.
But I learned for next time, location matters! If I do this again, I need to work in the main area, to ensure the greatest amount of viewers.
The artist needs to be where the people are. It isn’t fair for the artist to go through all the work and not be seen; nor is it fair to the voters; they need to see everything.
3) I don’t like making art that won’t last
I don’t think I could ever be a sand artist. After hours of work, the art is there for a moment and gone with one sweeping motion. The same with ice sculptures.
How can an artist go through all that work just to have it disappear?
A chalk drawing on the ground doesn’t last either. It’s mere dust. Once it rains, it will all be gone. I had even worried, what if it rains while we’re drawing? Or right after we finish?
Am I really going to do all this work, just for the rain to wash it away?
Well, I decided to do it, even if the weather interfered. Although I did almost change my mind about the whole thing.
It rained the day before the festival. I wondered if they were going to cancel. Honestly, at that point, I would’ve been okay with that, I was so stressed.
But the next morning, when the sun came out, I was ready for the challenge and the six and half hours I spent creating.
And two days later, it did rain. And yes, I did go by just to see how much of it remained. And I was so glad I had captured my drawing with my camera.
Everyone’s drawing had faded away, and we all worked really hard on them. But it wasn’t for nothing.
I did it. I made art in public. People were watching, and I still had fun!
And though the rain washed it away, and my body was sore for a week from all the bending I did, I’m glad I experienced the whole process.
Unforgettable. I covered the ground with color. I stretched myself, always a good exercise. And I created a memory that will last forever.
“It’s better to have drawn and lost, than to never have drawn at all.” -Anne Peterson
What about you?
Have you ever done an outdoor art competition?
What experience stretched you?
I’d love to hear from you.