Thursday, April 16, 2020
My eyes were killing me from the multitude of Zoom calls I’ve been on this week and after the stress of the morning, I just needed to get out of the house and talk to someone who wasn’t related to me. It struck me that I hadn’t checked in with my friend Alyssa since her move to Nashville, so I gave her a call. Immediately I was filled with calm, warmth, and the brain juices started flowing again. We chatted while I walked around the neighborhood. As I walked I came upon some sidewalk chalk art.
In an instant, I was struck by the loveliness of this offering to the neighborhood. An artistic expression likely born out of an impulse to create something lovely and have fun while doing it. Based on the sophistication of these sketches coupled with some random chalk streaks and clearly a novice writer’s signature, I hypothesized that they were created by a parent and child or by an older youth and a young child. Immediately I wanted to begin a chalk dialogue with these people and all the folx around the neighborhood who have been leaving chalk art around. Following this impulse I decided to jot messages either to the original artists or to the audience by building off of the sketches or words already on the ground.
I had a lot of fun today with this. I really needed to communicate with someone who wasn’t related to me today. I also needed some quiet time to myself. Following this creative impulse today helped me to feel more connected to myself and to the place I’m currently residing in during this nation-wide shelter-in-place.
Friday, April 17, 2020
Looking to continue the impulse I felt yesterday, I reverted back to an invitation strategy to dialogue through chalk that I used in Something to Chalk About? which relied on a written prompt to elicit audience participation through inexplicit language. The generic question, “What makes you smile?” invites viewers to reflect on the question for themselves and the site in which it has been placed does not discourage people from responding to the question through chalk or other means.
I wrote this question during a daily trip to Golden Gate Park in the common space between The California Academy of Sciences and The de Young Museum of Fine Art. Many children have been chalking in the area, as well as riding bikes and scooters, jumping on pogo sticks, and generally playing while social distancing. The presence of this chalk-savvy audience made me think that this site could be an effective place to enlist participants into a chalk dialogue.
I began by dueting with my nephew, Knox, who wanted to play with chalk when he saw me writing the question above. After making some red chalk etchings, he came over to our bench to return his chalk and take his scooter out for a spin. He rode around for a few minutes and then came back to chalk again before hopping back on the scooter. I looked down at the etching he left and noticed that it resembled an eye. So I picked up the chalk he had put down and completed the face.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
Today I decided to lean into this duet idea and actively walked around the park looking for existing chalk art to duet with. My initial strategy focused on finding pieces that I could easily add something to that would not alter the original artists’ intention as best as I could understand it.
For example, I came across this image of a robot and a banana. Their proximity intrigued me greatly and I wanted to play with connecting them through story somehow. I sketched a face onto the banana, gave it some peel-arms and envisioned drawing a scenario in which the banana was attacking the robot. However, once I completed the peel-arms it looked more like the banana was falling to my eye, so I reversed the attack. I added word bubbles to clarify the connection between the two, but I didn’t agonize over anything. The point of this is to spark joy, my own included. I wanted to follow the impulse, get in, and get out artistically. Let someone else have a turn.
This pattern persisted throughout my work today. I’d come across a drawing, add to it and move on. I happened upon these fish (below) next and decided to add an octopus near them. Again, my impulse was to create some sort of story between the octopus and the fish, but once I’d finished the octopus, I thought it best to leave it open-ended for others to duet with as they encountered the drawings.
These first two encounters, my drawn response primarily did not cross chalk lines with the other work (with the exception of putting a face on Mr. Banana). However this strategy changed with the next chalk art I came across. These were a series of heavily chalked shapes or markings.
I wanted to make sense out of the chaos and responded more collaboratively off of the organic structure of the marks left. This yielded some interesting images:
I wonder what the original artists might think of these offerings if they came back and looked for their original work. Would they be upset that I added onto their creation or would they find joy in dueting to create something together? I’m also still wondering how to invite more people into the process of this duet.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Well, I’ve decided to go back to an old tactic – hashtagging my work. But this time I’m noting that I’m working off of Instagram. When I tried this tactic previously, no one other than myself used the hashtag. However, I incorrectly assumed that participants would
- be willing and interested in taking a picture of their work or interaction with Something to Chalk About? and post about it on their social media
- understand that they should use the hashtag when they did that.
I’m thinking I will go about this through a slightly different strategy. First I plan to tag all of my work with #duetwithmedrawings on Instagram. I plan to keep this daily practice up for a week, which should help to make the hashtag more robust. I’ll pair this with some blogs explaining the project for anyone feeling clicky and curious. Later this week, I’ll put out a video invitation that I will post on IG, Facebook, and maybe TikTok.
I’d like to find a way to place chalk around the park and use some of the silent, facilitated invitation strategies that I included in Something to Chalk About? However, I’m concerned about how to responsibly and hygienically facilitate this – especially among such a young population.
Side Notes: Two very cool interactions happened today. While at Golden Gate Park I noticed that a chalk artist had been by and had chalked a large smiling face across some steps and tagged it @i.smile.we.smile. I decided to duet with this drawing’s advertisements. At the foot of the steps “Look Back” was written in a few places, clearly meant for someone descending the steps to turn around and see the smile. I sketched some images into the words, which can be seen in the post below. I also tagged @i.smile.we.smile and they liked the image and left some gratitude emojis. I really admired their communication strategy. I hadn’t thought about enlisting emojis as a way of non-verbal communication, which seems so obvious!
Later that evening a friend saw one of my posts (“Shake a Tail Feather” pictured above) and asked me to send her the file so she could duet with it. She sent back her version of the bird just below my image on an Instagram story, which gave me a little thrill of delight!