Spontaneous works of public art appear on local sidewalks.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Nik Larson sits on the ground like a big kid. With a piece of chalk from a Crayola sidewalk chalk box, he adds shades of blue and red onto a slab of pavement in Monterey’s Griffin Plaza like he’s a second-grader scribbling in a giant coloring book.
Underneath Larson is a pastel-colored rendering of a lady straight out of a fantasy movie with red eyes, yellow skin and blue hair that bubbles and bulges above her head like molten lava.
Larson uses a tattered glove to smear the chalk on the pavement until it resembles paint. He fans a piece of plastic above the work that causes colored clouds of chalk dust to drift by.
“It’s kind of like drawing and kind of like painting,” Larson says. “It’s drawn on, but blending the colors is more a painterly process.”
A year and a half ago, Larson borrowed a piece of chalk from a friend’s child and started doing colored squares and geometric shapes on some steps. Since then, he has done drawings of fantasy figures, flowers and Eastern motifs in Griffin Plaza, on the sidewalk in front of Parker-Lusseau Pastries on Hartnell Street and in front of his apartment on Monterey’s 4th Street.
“It kind of snowballed out of control,” he says.
Larson says he has never been reprimanded by business owners or city officials since he started adorning Monterey’s public places with his art. Actually, the city recently hired him to create a drawing in front of Colton Hall for Monterey’s First Night celebration.
Since everyone can see his work, Larson makes sure that the chalk art he creates is not offensive. “I’ve taken pains to keep it G-rated, ’cause it’s in public,” he says.
Larson, who has an associate’s degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Seattle, says he is not sure what compels him to do chalk art. Though his source of income is currently a job as a nighttime delivery driver, he has started to design T-shirts and create a series of seven oversized paintings representing the human chakras. But Larson enjoys the way he can do his chalk art outside, where he can interact with others.
“A lot of people say thank you for the color, for brightening up the streets a little bit,” he says.
Just a few seconds after Larson says this, as if on cue, Debbie Jones slows down to take in the sidewalk art.
“Wow,” she says. “Very pretty. I love the free expression of art.”