The 3D Sidewalk Chalk Art
When you think about making art, the first things that come to mind could be painting, sculpture, or forging. Unless you’re under the age of 8, you might not think about sidewalk chalk until you get into a top 20 list of your favorite mediums.
One of the biggest trends to hit the art world in recent years is professional chalk street art. Some of the industry’s pioneers can trick people when they walk by because their three-dimensional scenes look realistic. Today’s best artists use a technique called anamorphosis to create the desired illusions when someone sees the work appear from a specific angle.
What Is the History of Chalk Art?
Although chalk art started coming around in the late 16th century to some communities, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it became a popular option in the United States. Kurt Wenner is one of the artists credited for that introduction with his three-dimensional pavement art.
Each year, about 200 artists now travel to Old Mission Santa Barbara to work together at the country’s oldest annual pavement art festival. Wenner started the first one back in 1986.
Today, you can find up to 100 chalk art festivals practiced each year in the United States. Although 2020 changed how people could gather for these artistic events, many people found ways to make everything work.
Wenner was born in Michigan in 1958, but he grew up in the Santa Barbara area. He would eventually attend the Rhode Island School of Design and an art school in California. That’s when NASA recruited him to make conceptual art for them.
He would leave his job in 1982 to focus on his art in Italy. Wenner’s works have been seen in over 30 countries.
Why Are People Embracing 3D Sidewalk Chalk?
Sidewalk chalk is one of those artistic mediums that comes and goes as the years pass. About every generation experiences a couple of years where it becomes exceptionally popular.
After the events of COVID-19 and all of the different lockdowns we faced, this medium made an immediate resurgence. If you’re stuck at home with little ones, it’s easy to get outside and create something new when you have an empty driveway to color.
When the cities were empty because everyone was staying inside, the artists came out with their chalk to create some amazing things.
You don’t need to do something fancy with 3D sidewalk chalk to make an immediate impact on the world. If you outline a hopscotch course for the people who walk by your home, you can encourage them to have a smile and a laugh.
Some people were creating hopscotch tiles with 82 different foot locations because of the time they found on their hands. Others discovered that a simple drawing could help to boost the neighborhood morale.
What makes it such a unique option today is that you can turn it into a collaborative effort. One family can start the art, another can bring their own chalk to continue it, and a third might be responsible for finishing the endeavor. You can stay socially distant while connecting with friends in ways that don’t involve Zoom.
Who Are the Best Sidewalk Chalk Artists Today?
If you’re interested in taking up 3D sidewalk chalk as an artistic medium, these are the artists you’ll want to get to know.
1. Kurt Wenner
You can still count Kurt Wenner as one of today’s best 3D sidewalk chalk artists. He’s the inventor of 3D pastel drawings, and most of his pieces serve as the inspiration for others who embrace this work. One of his most spectacular works is called Dies Irae, creating a visual effect that makes it look like people are falling into a plaza.
Another one of his famous pieces is called Phaeton. It’s in the middle of a pedestrian area, showing people and horses falling toward the sun.
Wenner was even hired once by Dunkin Donuts to create a smoothie advertisement with sidewalk chalk. He made a giant container, some bananas, and a picnic blanket for an impressive visua
After Wenner moved to Rome to start working on his art, he discovered the concept of street painting. He started adding perspective to the idea, eventually developing the unique 3D pieces that have made him famous.
In 2010, Greenpeace called for banning genetically modified crops in the European Union. Over one million signatures were presented on a petition to the EU members, making it the first time in history that a vote was forced on the subject. They asked Wenner to create an image about the day the people stood up to tell the government about what they wanted in their food.
Wenner went on to create an enormous 22×22-meter image that involved farming and livestock in commemorating the day.
Even when he creates modern pieces, you can still see the influences of 17th century geometry in the finished pieces.
Although many of his works are shown in Italy today, you can occasionally see him putting on demonstrations to show off the unique street painting style that he continues to practice.
Photo Credits : Kurt Wenner
2. Manfred Stader
If you saw the works of Manfred Stader on the street, you’d probably need to do a double-take to realize that you’re looking at sidewalk chalk. He also gets hired to create advertising images for significant events, but his primary strength is in the creation of visual depth through perspective.
You’ll see his works looking like a massive hole opened in the ground, making you wonder if it’s safe to walk across the piece.
One of his most notable pieces is simply entitled “3D.” It appeared in a shopping complex, making it seem like water was falling into a bottomless abyss. There’s a couple of birds standing at the front of the image to help make you think there’s some actual depth with this illusion.
Stader began his street painting career in the early 1980s. He would eventually achieve the title of Master Madonnaro, which is only awarded at the largest competition of its kind in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy.
He continues to use the older techniques that create plasticity and illusion when seen from far away. The goal is to build higher audience engagement levels, with most of his works appearing on the ground.
Stader also takes commissions, allowing you to get what you want on a mural or a billboard. In addition to sidewalk chalk, he also uses removable stickers, paint, and vinyl to create his illusions.
A fan favorite of his is a cup of coffee that he created on an old brick street. There’s a picture of him making it appear that he’s on the edge of the dish, tapping some grinds into the top of the foam to create a fun image.
His works tend to follow some of the same patterns instead of having a diverse perspective as some other artists, but that doesn’t take away from his talent at all. His fun paintings and presentations are always turning heads.
3. Tracy Lee Stum
This sidewalk chalk artist has always been creating, even when she was a young child. Some of her earliest memories are of clutching a Crayon to make something. Her parents allowed her to study privately as a child, eventually taking her to an undergraduate degree from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
In 2006, Stum was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest street painting by an individual. She’s also won awards for her advertising efforts on behalf of Honda.
She served as a cultural ambassador for the United States, touring Tajikistan and India while creating three-dimensional pieces and teaching workshops. Stum continues to promote cultural awareness, education, and communication through her work as a chalk artist and a street painter.
In 2013, Stum curated the first DO/AC 3D Chalk Festival in Atlantic City. This event showcased more than a dozen of the world’s best artists in this medium.
When you take a look at her portfolio, what makes her pieces so unique is that they’re meant to be interactive. Most artists who work in this area tend to keep people away from their work because of its fragile nature.
Stum has done everything from making Wreck-it Ralph pavement murals to winter canyons in shopping malls. One of her most recent pieces is of a Van Gogh Funko figure with the color and style of the original artist.
She currently takes commissions for her services. Stum also stays busy working with her 3D museum and other projects. Her client list is massive, with some of today’s most prominent companies bringing her in to accomplish results.
Photo Credits tracyleestum.com
4. Julian Beever
Beever is a Belgium-based English artist who uses different perspectives to trick the eye. One of his most famous works is called “Treasure Hunting.” He starts with a small hole he’s created using 3D perspective, hovering over the item with a metal detector.
As the pieces start getting bigger, so do the gold piles. It even looks like he’s getting deeper into the work.
By reaching down to grab a bag of “gold” coins, Beever creates doubt in the viewer’s mind. Is that real art, or is there something more extensive to behold?
Many of Beever’s pieces try to blend in some reality, although his approach doesn’t usually consider every perspective. With his work called “Swimming Pool,” the woman’s leg stretches far beyond the barrier in reverse, making it look like you see a strange flagpole.
Having been active since the 1990s within the three-dimensional art scene, Beever’s illusions typically strike a chord with others. He got his start as a busker, eventually evolving his work to anamorphic pavement illusions in the 1990s. The first commercial commissions started appearing in the mid-2000s.
He’s also a published author, putting together three editions of “Pavement Chalk Artist.” Beever was also part of a TV series from ElectricSky Productions in 2007 that featured his work.
One of the nicknames that he’s gained over the years is the “Pavement Picasso.” Although some people see the similarities in Beever’s work, he finds the name flattering at best.
Having worked in 35 different countries during his career, you can still find Beever making time to create artwork that he loves. You can even see him on the street busking every so often.
His observation is relatively simple with sidewalk chalk art. Beever says that when others see that you could make things seem like they could fall into the pavement, it was also plausible that items could appear on top of it.
Because of that perspective, you can often find Beever creating rocking cliffs, wells, towering clocks, and much more.
You’ll just want to make sure that you’ve got the proper perspective.
Photo credits: Julian Beever
5. Eduardo Rolero
This Argentina native travels around the world to create incredible three-dimensional images with detailed graphics. You’ll find that the balance between reality and surrealism gets bent in numerous ways, with Rolero often using people and animals to create a blending visual experience.
His works often take a charming, almost funny tone when they are finished. He’s created everything from human chicken legs to elderly adults having a chat.
What makes Rolero unique is that his works are closer to Dali than they are traditional street art. One of his famous pieces involves a nude man who has large ears protruding from his sides. He’s standing in a fountain, covering his regular lobes to give off the impression that everything is too loud.
Rolero currently lives in Spain, where he often uses his artistic ability to create social criticism through anamorphic pieces, satire, and alternative perspectives.
A fun piece that people love is called Fusion Musical. It consists of an elderly gentleman who is lounging back with his dog. They’re listening to something on the turntable, and an accordion stands ready to be played.
Rolero isn’t afraid to venture into macabre territory with his works on occasion. With a piece from Buscador de Cordialidad, he has an older man in a top hat mining hearts from a giant one lodged in the floor. He uses red coloration away from the piece to make it seem like there’s even more realism in play.
When he created a piece for the Sarasota Chalk Festival, he produced a three-dimensional picture of circus performers taking it easy. As the Ringmaster searches the fridge, a tightrope walker stands perilously above. Another man blows flames at him, while a third is riding a unicycle.
6. Edgar Mueller
Mueller was born in 1968, growing up in a rural community along the western border of Germany. He started with art at a young age, sketching out some of the different scenes from around his hometown. It was in high school when he started getting the itch to compete in street art competitions.
Mueller found himself inspired by several artists’ works during that time, eventually winning his first competition before the age of 20. After that victory, he entered several international events and performed well in all of them.
As with some of the other 3D sidewalk chalk artists who have made names for themselves over the years, Mueller earned the Maestro Madonnaro title as a master painter in 1998. It’s still one of his proudest moments from his career.
What makes Mueller’s work unique today is that he creates sports scenes, automotive work, and advertising that looks like you could grab it from the street. Many of his pieces incorporate water, although you can also find everything from escalators to an entire road that looks like it has become a cliff falling into the ocean.
His items are always an invitation for the camera to see what is possible.
You’ll also see him performing two-dimensional street paintings at times. Mueller has a knack for replicating many classical works, leading to an impressive collection of documented pieces. Whether it’s a reflective pool made from chalk or a shark that seems to be jumping out from the sidewalk, there’s always something to love with this artist.
Photo Credits: https://www.bookastreetartist.com/
What 3D Sidewalk Chalk Artist Do You Enjoy Seeing?
Today’s best 3D sidewalk chalk artists continue in the same traditions of the artists that made this genre famous over 30 years ago.
Even some of the originals are still active on the scene!
That’s what makes it such an exciting option to try. Anyone with some chalk can go outside to create something beautiful.