Saturday, May 3, 2014


Today, I did something new for me at the Kansas City Zoo...CHALK ART!  Okay...I guess I have to count drawing on the driveway with my daughters, and grandson.  But nothing like a "real" mural.  I was part of a team of around 500-plus volunteers from Hallmark Cards.  Each year Hallmark sponsors an event called "Wild Saturday" at the zoo.  In the span of about 4 hours, they get a crazy amount of work done for the zoo...mulching, planting flowers and trees...and of course, there's The Artists Project!
I had never participated in this Hallmark event before. When I had inquired of the Hallmark Volunteer Coordinator, Amy, what this year's project was going to be, she said..."We haven't decided yet.  Feel free to brainstorm some ideas."  So I did...several.  The Zoo team voted on my suggestion of trying Chalk Art this year.  So I found myself helping to figure out how to make that happen.  The end results were...I had a blast today! (Though my hip sockets and back are taking revenge on me this afternoon...but it was worth it!!)

As I usually do on my projects, I will show you the step-by-step process of how I made it.  I had no idea if I could complete this big illustration in the alloted time.  All totaled, it took me about 5 hours to finish it.  Most folks quit around lunchtime.  I had to come back and spend about 2 more hours on mine.  But I got it done!!

The chalk drawings were to be created outside of the new Penguin enclosure.  Retired Hallmarker, Larry Greenberg, did a ton of prep work...for 15 years he has been heading up these artist projects.
We chose our spots and got busy.  My area was 7'x7'.  I had prepped my sketches for a 6'x6' square.  Knowing that it would take a lot of effort to cover that much square footage, I made my space smaller.  Then I drew a grid, so I could transfer my sketch in the "old school" way.  I bought a metal chalk holder, and attached it to a long wooden dowel. (Photos of me working were taken by Larry Greenberg.)

Then, I began to sketch out the basic layout.  I had created the sketch at home with Photoshop, compositing a lot of photos to get the right expressions and composition.  I was not going to worry about making it photo-realistic...but needed the details that I would get from photos.
I began to block in the base colors for everything.  We used Crayola "Drawing Chalks"...since Hallmark owns Crayola, it was a natural choice.  I really liked the colors in the box...nice and bright!
I'd like to show you this nifty little rolling stool that I made prior to the Zoo Day.  I used a heavy-duty trash can dolly...added a "knee board"...then covered the top with thick foam from an exercise mat, custom-fitted for the shapes.  I used "tacky glue" to adhere the foam.  It worked great!  I added the strap, last minute, from something I had in the basement.  It was removable, so I wasn't rolling over it.
Okay, back to the chalk drawing!  I went ahead and finished the basic under painting of the animals.
Then I decided to use a little cloth to blend the colors. Looking back, I wish I had not done that.  I lost a lot of time doing it, and had to redo a lot rendering that I liked in the loose application of chalk.  Oh and learn!
The next stage was adding the crisp detail with more intense colors.  I was going for an "Impressionistic" approach, as that is my style when I do oil paintings.

Little by little, the characters started coming to life.  I found that I had to work upper left to upper right, then work my way down, going left to right.  Otherwise, I messed up a lot of details rolling over the finished areas.  The chalk was also very "fragile" on the surface of the concrete.  The texture on the surface was little bit rougher than everyone might prefer.  Therefore the powder of the chalk just piled up.

The reality of a strong wind blowing it away is the risk that comes with this kind of work.  Also, we were watching the weather reports, hoping it would not rain. It was a gorgeous day!! Some folks were distressed by the fact that these are "temporary". But I likened it to building sand castles, when you know the tide is going to wash it all away. Basically...this is "performance art"...the fun is in the doing!

Here is the finished piece!!
Below are some close-ups of my little group:
Silverback Gorilla...
 Giant Galapagos Tortoise...
Golden Lion Tamarin...
And a smiling Crocodile!
And here's a Smiling Warren!  The camera is just about 6 inches off the ground...makes the chalk art look huge!

To end this post, I'll show you a few random photos of the other artists at work.  It was a wonderful day!


Anonymous said...

DAD!!! IT LOOKS AMAZING!!!!! So so so cool!!! - j

Barry said...

WONDERFUL! I'm guessing that you probably collected a few fans and spectators along the way.

gloriadelia said...

Wow! I love it! Thanks for the step-by-step!~

Anonymous said...

Bet lots of those folks wanted to swipe your little rolling stool....This is great! Hope they all had as much fun as you apparently had! Great art work. I'm wondering if you will be able to move out of bed tomorrow morning!


Ruth Guthrie said...

Wonderful. It's a shame it will get washed away.

sarahj said...

That's incredible! Looks like such a fun day!