Mark Cline talks chalk and the temporary nature of sidewalk art

Mark Cline was genuinely surprised that we were asking about his chalk art. "That's not even my best medium," he laughed. "I just enjoy it a lot." Cline's main focus is on murals and painting, but he first decided to try chalk art after he went to the first Denver Chalk Art Festival, and he's taken part every year since. He's also participated in the Belmar Festival and La Piazza Italian Chalk Art Festival. Cline took some time to talk with us about his recent projects, the temporary nature of chalk art, and how the process works.

What have you been working on recently?

Recently I was asked to be a Blue Moon community muralist for a promotion that they are doing. I'm also doing a Stanley Lake High School mural, which is coming up at the end of March or the beginning of April, near spring break.

For the Blue Moon promotion, I go to bars and help people paint an illustration, emulating their Blue Moon's fine art posters. They are gong hang them in the bars that they are painted in, so everyone gets to have their art shown in a bar. I don't yet know where I am going to help the patrons paint them. I also get to coax people into painting. It's a great opportunity.

What's the most challenging aspect of working in large dimensions?

Keeping away from the really fine details is hard for me to do. You're doing chalk art on the ground, and really close up, and it doesn't look that good that close, but if you step back it looks fine. I did a mural of a taxi and I kept wanting to step back but there was no way to step back but as long as you can step back it is pretty easy. It actually helps to look through the lens of a camera. Another thing about doing these pieces is that you can do if from a draft, or free-form. Lately, I've been trying it without a draft and it's been working alright.

What is the significance of a chalk art? Why are people so attracted to it as an art form?

I think people like seeing it created. I think that what gets everyone to come back. People will come back a couple of times in the day, so it's the process more than the piece. You can't take it home with you and it gets washed off the next day. Another artist and I are working on an idea where pieces could be sold or auctioned off, though. So we'll see.

Do you ever get sad when a piece is washed away?

I really regret if when I do a piece and don't have a camera, because there are pieces I did early in my career I don't even have photos of and that's a bummer. But if you have a a camera, a picture seems to suffice. It's a bummer when it rains and washes everything away before you're finished. That's happened to me a few times.

How long does it take to complete a chalk art piece?

Usually you have a time limit, like it's under four hours on an art walk, and then a two-day festival is probably the longest I've ever had. One piece I did was about ten hours and I was dying at the end of that.

How do you choose your location?

They are pretty much chosen for me - like at the festival or the art walks. But, as an artist, you deal with the location -- it adds character to the piece. Usually the artists aren't worried about the cracks in the walls or sidewalks that become a part of the piece. The worst thing for me sometimes is the texture of the sidewalk - it will just eat your chalk up

How much chalk does it take?

Quite a bit, actually - I have to buy a whole new set every two chalk drawings. Each set has a thirty-six count. It's cool though, that at the festival they do like an exchange things where if someone's using a lot of blues they can trade in their yellows for blues.

What do you like most about working with chalk?

I enjoy how much people love watching the work. When a kid comes down and they really just want to get into your chalk and are so fascinated by how its done, that's its own reward -- getting a child interested in it.

For more information, or to contact Cline, visit his web page.

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