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Old 04-18-07, 05:08 AM   #1
Peter Voice
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Posts: 1,065
Default Pavement Art 101

In response to a couple of requests.

Pavement Art 101

So you want to be a pavement artist. Apart from a bloody thick skin, eternal optimism and a strong faith in karma, you’ll need the following……. as well as your head read.

Basic Kit

1 Packet of plain white chalk for mapping out.
1 Set of SOFT DRY ARTISTS PASTELS (suitable brands include Schminke, Rembrandt, Art Spectrum and can be bought individually at good stores)
1 Set of brushes from fine to 2-3inch flat.
4 Plastic buckets (pref. Bright red)
1 Cushion or pad
1 Chalk string-line (from a hardwear store)

A couple of old tea towels, some recyclable (non-styro) plastic cups, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a water supply complete the essentials. Camera, masking tape, kneepads, a small broom and a bar of soap are all very handy.

A Pitch

Obviously your site will need a decent surface that will take pastels, very smooth asphalt is good, so is smooth concrete. Polished or glazed surfaces are crap and pavers vary enormously.

Next you need an audience. I generally find if there are more than about 20 people per minute LIESURELY walking past, the spot will work. Obviously, the more the merrier.

Once such an area is found, you need to ensure that you are welcome or at least safe to work there. Do you need a permit? Will it hassle any of the local traders (incl. hookers, drug dealers etc) or impede traffic of any sort? Is there an accessible bathroom nearby? Are you and your hat secure?

You have to check out you site thoroughly, study pedestrian flow and try to be out of but close to it.

A good site is one you can come back to and work regularly. If you win over the local traders, you’ll do fine.

Other Buskers

If it is pitch frequented by other performers it is a very good thing but do not set up within 100 or more metres of their main spot. You need your spot continuously for hours during which time several people will use a “circle show” pitch. Do not set up on important music site either but you can get closer and the music can really help you and your work.


Local situations will always vary, inquire. If the city has a permit then prepare a folio of your drawings and apply. Download a couple of your favourite pictures from the Internet to show them what you wish to achieve. If the city has not heard of but allows busking then download several more works by your favourite artists to show them, before you go to apply.

If your city has no busking permits/laws then try to convince the nearest significant trader/s and then just go ahead. If that trader thinks the picture came up well then suggest that they ring the local paper/TV channel. If any of them turn up and run a story, it will be hard for the city to hassle you. Should an officer hassle you, say innocently that you worked it out with Mr. So and So, at MacFurniture’s over there, as a local traders promo. You’ll probably get away with that for long enough to do something good on your first couple of tries.

If you only have a hat out with a simple “Thank You” written under it and you do not actually ask for money, you cannot be arrested for begging (or whatever they may call it). If you are not obstructing traffic, not producing offensive material and are keeping your site clean, you should be fairly safe. The only thing left is “defacing public property”, which will probably thrown out of court if your first few pics are beautiful, you get a couple of “appreciative crowd” photos and, of course, win over your local traders. Hey, are they going to arrest kids playing hopscotch next?

That concludes the first lecture in P.Art 101.
The homework is obvious, all participants will be expected to have researched and acquired some variation on the above before proceeding. The Pavement Art gallery at is, of course compulsory reading.

The next will deal with Techniques, Getting Started, and Surviving.
Every-one should watch their drawers!

Last edited by Peter Voice; 10-03-07 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 05-13-07, 01:12 AM   #2
Peter Voice
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Posts: 1,065
Default Pavement Art 102

Materials and Techniques

Obviously your pastels are the most important part of your kit, buy the best quality set you can afford from a good art store that stocks the same brand available as single sticks. They must be the soft dry variety. Do not buy oil pastels or the thin hard square ones such as Conte. Buy an extra black, white, and the 3 primary colours.

Chalks are only useful for mapping out. Buy a small pack each of white and colours.

Good pastels are very expensive but go an enormously long way and they are, as the name SOFT suggests, very fragile. Be gentle with them.


Whilst several manufacturers claim that their materials are non-toxic, this is not a claim you should accept. Most pigments are toxic, long term, to some degree and some very dangerous.

There are various ways to use pastels and they blend particularly well whether dry or wet. Many artists apply the pastels dry then brush them into the surface with water to give the work greater longevity. Others work dry and spray water onto the work with a hand spray. Try not to spread and blend dry pastels with your fingers, art stores sell blending sticks and other materials like pieces of some foams or soft fibre-board make good blending tools. They work on paper, primed canvas and of course smooth, non-glazed pavement surfaces. My all time favourite p.artist, Jamieson Lawrence started out and still often uses only charcoal and chalk, you can do a lot with black and white.

I must repeat, do not use your fingers to spread your pastels. Aside from pushing incredibly finely ground poisons into your system, the sand, minute pieces of broken glass and other things that break your skin can also introduce tetnus, septicaemia and numerous diseases spread by animal faeces and other sources.

If you are not allowed or don’t have good pavement to work on you can take out either a piece of good quality thick paper or primed canvas. Both are available off the roll from good Art Stores and, although neither is cheap, you have the advantage of keeping or selling the end product. It can also be valuable to put out when you are starting a new work, on the pavement or not, or trying a new spot. When working on paper, use a commercially available spray pastel fixative and when working on canvas, you can add some clear acrylic medium (preferably matte) with your water (about 10%) to make the picture permanent and waterproof. Coat canvases with clear gloss medium when completed for a stronger more resilient end product. Small amounts of medium in your water (5%) will also greatly increase the strength and resilience of drawings done directly on to pavement although this can be frowned upon by many cities.

Experiment a bit/a lot before you go out onto the street and remember, a little bit goes a long way.

What to draw

Obviously a Mick Jagger picture would work outside a Stones concert and Peter Allen outside a Barbara Streisand concert but not vice versa.
When deciding on an image, try to settle on something with the widest possible appeal. You may love Death-Metal music but your favourite band’s album cover will only appeal to a small minority and not a wealthy one at that. This doesn’t mean you have to do sugary, chocolate-box stuff either but if you can find a subject that can appeal to kids and grannies as well as the street cool dudes, you will do fine.

Portraits of film or rock stars, wildlife and fantasy (dragons etc) pics all work. You can copy an old master but it has to be very good or you could simply draw the streetscape across the road. Special events can provide good opportunities such as vintage racing cars at a Grand Prix, a great horse picture during Calgary Stampede, a 3D lobster at a Food Festival, musicians at a Jazz Fest, jousting knights at a Ren Fair, the possibilities are almost endless. Anything with a good sense of humour will always go down well. One artist I know does very well exclusively copying old masters and another did well with Norman Rockwell adaptations. When I started, I enjoyed doing colourful parrots and other birds.

The only real limit is your imagination.
Every-one should watch their drawers!

Last edited by Peter Voice; 05-13-07 at 03:54 AM.
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