Chalk Walk at Home: Tips and Tricks

Kaitlin Binkley, Marketing Coordinator

With this year’s Chalk Walk taking place at home, we felt it prudent to share some veteran advice to help our new chalkers!

Before you begin drawing on the ground, have a plan! Draw from a picture, a sketch, or some other reference to keep with you as you draw. If you’re creating something with a group, this helps to make sure everyone knows their job and the overall vision of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Once you have a plan, try using a grid system to keep your drawing to scale. Most of us are familiar with drawing on a piece of 8.5×11″ paper, but on the ground you can go as big as you want (safely)! This presents some new challenges for scale, and that nose you were drawing is suddenly three times as big as the hands. Check out this post we did on scale for a full explanation of how a grid system works, and how it has helped artists for hundreds of years to ensure their smaller, initial drawings are proportional when placed on large canvases or walls.

A chalker uses a grid to plan out their drawing.
An example of using a grid to complete your chalk art. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

Chalk Walk is all about chalk, right? Sidewalk chalk, chalkboard markers, the “teacher’s chalk” from school, and a material called soft pastels, which many artists use. You can use all of these different types of chalk for your drawings and get lovely shading, vibrancy, and depth. Your base layer, or the layer you’re drawing directly onto, could also have a color like grey or black that affects the colors you want to achieve in your completed drawing. That’s why we allow a base layer of tempera paint to be painted on your chosen surface, to give you an even color to draw on top of. Some people use black and work towards light tones, while others go the opposite way and paint white to add in the shadows. Either works! But tempera paint should not be used for your whole drawing, as then it’s not “Chalk Walk” but “tempera walk”, and that doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely!

Okay, let’s go through the list. Idea, check! Base layer and chalk material, check! Grid laid out if you want, check! Now it’s time to chalk! Here, many people run into another unique aspect of Chalk Walk – long hours on a hard surface in the sunshine. Veterans have picked up tricks to ease the discomfort, like using bunched up blankets or towels for a comfy seat, using gardening kneeling boards or knee pads for tender knees, and bringing a sun shade or umbrella to block the worst of the mid-day sun. With Chalk Walk At Home, you might not have to use some of these if you have a shady tree over head, but they are good tools to know about! It’s also a must to take frequent breaks and re-hydrate. We never want participants to hurt themselves by pushing hard to get something drawn. This year, along with being at home, the event is taking place over nine days rather than two. That gives artists plenty of time to complete any artwork without sacrificing their health. Just be sure to check the weather for any pop-up showers!

A family uses knee pads to sit and kneel on, instead of sitting directly on the hard concrete.
Their initial layer of tempera paint is black, with their chalking on top. Note their use of pads to sit and kneel on. Remember, chalk is messy! So you may also want to wear athletic clothing/older clothing. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

Speaking of rain, what can you do to protect your artwork when you pack up for the night? Some artists trust the weather to hold off while others lay down a layer of hairspray on dry chalk and cover it with a tarp or plastic sheet. The hairspray helps to set chalk to the ground, sticking it in place so it doesn’t blow around in a breeze. Tarps or covers can protect the drawing from any dew that might collect in the morning, or any strong breeze that might blow the chalk dust away. People have blue taped these covers down, used bricks or other heavy material, or lowered a sunshade so it’s close to the ground for better protection. If you’re taking a break and coming back to work on your art again the next day, you might want to think about these protective measures. Always remember though, chalk is not a permanent medium and your artwork will eventually be worn or washed away. It’s best to be accepting of this fact before you put down your first mark.

The ruined chalk art from a surprise, pop-up shower at last year's event.
Last year, a surprise pop-up shower on Sunday meant various artists had to start all over on their work! Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

What if something happens and your art gets messed up despite your best efforts? That’s what happened last year for many artists when a pop-up, early morning rain shower hit on Sunday (see above). Artists had worked Friday night and all day Saturday, only for the rain to come and wash away a lot of progress or even all of their work. It’s difficult to see that happen, but as an artist you did it once, you can do it again! Work with what is left and use it as a jumping off point for a new artwork. You’d be surprised what you can do in a crunch – that’s how I often worked in art school!

So, you’re at the end and are finishing up your artwork: Congratulations! Always be sure to sign your work, even on the ground. Now, new for this year, you need to take a photo of your artwork and upload it to our website. Your art can look fantastic in real life, but we all know what a bad photo can do! Here are some tips for taking good photographs:

1. Get up high: find a ladder, a selfie stick, or even a tall friend!
2. Hold the camera or phone out over the artwork, as close to center as you can get, to take a photo. Unless your artwork relies on viewing it from a certain perspective (like a trompe l’oeil work), taking the photo from above is the best way to capture all of the work.
3. Make sure there aren’t shadows over the art, either from the ladder, the camera, or other people. Shade from trees or other immovable objects will have to be taken into consideration. You may have to wait to take the photo later in the day so that the whole artwork is in shade or when a cloud passes overhead.
Bonus! If you’re able, place your picture into an editing app or software to adjust any perspective warping. Many photo apps on phones have an automatic feature you can click that will adjust perspective of an image for you! This just helps to further convey the artwork in the best view.

Here is an example (above) of a (not finished) square from last year that I edited to show how fixing perspective helps the artwork. In the first image, you understand what is going on but in the second, it’s a bit more clear. You can also see their use of a grid to keep things in scale.

Make sure your camera is focused and above your art (see below, left) and position your ladder (or tall friend!) so that they don’t cast a shadow, unlike in the center picture below.

Good luck, chalkers!

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