The origins of modern street painting can be traced to Britain. Pavement artists were found all over the United Kingdom and by 1890, it was estimated that more than 500 artists were making a full-time living from pavement art in London alone. In the 1980s, Kurt Weener practiced ‘3-D pavement art’, or one-point perspective art, otherwise known as anamorphic art, a 500-year-old technique, which appears in proper perspective only when viewed from a specific angle. Looking at these pictures you really do see that it is all a matter of perspective.
The British term for pavement artist is “screever”.
Street painters or chalk artists is the name these performance artists are most commonly called in the United States.
In Italy they are called ‘I Madonnari’ because they recreated images of the Madonna.
In Germany, they are called ‘Strassenmaler’ (street: straßen, painter: maler).
The first recorded street-painting competition and ‘festival’ was held in London in 1906.
In 1987, Wenner and Manfred Stader introduced street painting to Old Mission Santa Barbara, California.
One of the largest events in the United States is the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival, held in Lake Worth, Florida. Started in 1994, it attracts 100,000 visitors over the weekend to see 250 works of art by over 400 artists.
In 1993, Rosy Loyola created Festival Bella Via in Monterrey, Mexico, which has launched several Mexican artists into the international street painting field. Within the years, it has become the most important street painting festival in Latin America.
In 2008, Mark Wagner and 6,000 people (over 4,000 elementary school kids from Alameda,CA) set a Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Pavement Art covering over 90,000 sq. ft. (8,361 sq. meters). A satellite photograph was taken of the artwork.
There are several different types of sidewalk chalk, typically coming in solid-colored sticks. 3-D sidewalk chalk sets, in which each stick of chalk is created with two particular colors that appear 3-dimensional when viewed through the 3-D glasses that come with the chalk also exist.
Although sidewalk chalk is created to allow people to draw on sidewalks or pavement, some law enforcement agencies may prohibit sidewalk drawing in certain areas without first being requested for authorization.
Some teachers promote use of sidewalk chalk on a carpet as an interactive teaching tool.
More info: Kurt Wenner
The works of chalk artists are sometimes accompanied by poems and proverbs, lessons on morality, and political commentary on the day’s events. Back in the day they appealed to both the working people, who (on the whole) could not read or write, but understood the visual images; and to the educated members of the middle-classes who appreciated the moral lessons and comments. It was important for a screever to catch the eye of the ‘well to do’ and in turn attract the pennies donated for their efforts.