Friday, June 14, 2019

2019 Pasadena Chalk Festival - Spot Selection, Artist Dinner, and how we came up with our mural idea

It's Thursday and it's just a few days before the 2019 Pasadena Chalk Festival. Today artists from all over will come pick their mural location and enjoy an artist party where they get to hang out with all the other artists. Let's dive right in!

The table where they hand out your official signs for spot selection opens up at 4pm on Thursday. That's really early for us working folk, but I was able to get off early and make the long drive up to Pasadena. I arrived at 3:30pm and was very surprised to see so many other artist camped out on spots. And not only that, so many of the prime spots already had official signs down on them. How did that work out? Many of the other locations didn't have official signs, but instead had blue painter's tape with someone's name written in Sharpie. People were hoping that would be enough to persuade other artists not to take that spot. Lesson learned, get here early.
I did a quick walk around on the lower level. There's so many good spots with people on them, but I was able to find something decent. As they say, location location location. You want something that will have high traffic.
And not just that, but I'm surrounded by some really amazing artists. Shaina Joel is right beside me (in that blue coat). She's won Best In Festival back in 2017, 2nd Best in Festival in 2016, and Best Technique in 2015. She's sure to draw a crowd. And beside her is Shuji Nishimura. He does photorealistic chalk art better than anything I've seen, and has won in the festival multiple times. On the other side of us is Randall Williams and Stacy Nalapraya who teach the art class to the new people to the festival (like Ruston and I five years ago).
We're in good company and we've got a lot to live up to with so many good artists around us.

Ruston was stuck in traffic, so at 4pm Shaina offered to go grab my sheet if I'd watch her spot. Of course! Thanks Shaina! The line for the table was very backed up while ~40 artists lined up to get their official name sheets. I made it over here after the madness died down and overheard them talking about the people who wrote their names on painters tape. Yep, that's unofficial. You can put your name down on top of it if you so desire.

Here's Ruston! And here's our spot!
As I've already said, the location is great! There's just a couple things I don't like about the pavement. First there's a big thick crack going down the middle. Then there's a big section in the lower left where it's really pitted. That's going to eat up chalk trying to fill it and it'll be hard on the fingers too. Oh well. We'll make due.

A look towards Colorado Blvd.

And looking in the other direction towards the Civic Center.

With a little over an hour to kill, Ruston took me over to a retro arcade where for $10 you got an hour of playtime on any of the games they offered.

Pinball is always fun.

And I got my name on the leaderboard for the arcade cabinet of Super Mario Brothers. It's been so long since I've played that game. And the warp tunnels are different in the arcade version apparently.

Racing each other. What we both learned is that we're not nearly as good at video games as we once were (if we ever were in the first place). It was entertaining, but an hour was plenty of time for me.

Time to get back to the artist party! We got back and checked in, got our meal ticket and two drink vouchers.

Artists are already lining up and chatting.

Tonight's dinner is sponsored by Noor.

Mushroom ravioli, rolls, and a green salad. Hmm, I seem to be missing a salad.

The major sponsor for this year's Chalk Festival is Tillamook Ice Cream. They're not only putting up $5000 in prize money, but they're also giving away ice cream flights all weekend.

I hopped in line before even eating my dinner. Four tasty flavors. Vanilla, chocolate mudslide, strawberry, and caramel toffee crunch. My favorites were the toffee crunch and chocolate. When I learned they were going to be giving away ice cream all weekend, I envisioned multiple trips to their stand, but I started having concerns when I got in line to get my ice cream flight. With only 1 scooper, and just doing 1 flight at a time, it was taking quite a bit to get through what was a pretty short line. By the time I sat down with my food, the line had grown to 50+ people and was taking a considerable amount of time to get through. Hopefully they've got plans for the onslaught of people this weekend.

We enjoyed the meal and the company, talking with fellow artists, and hearing about the pieces they did in past years. Tony and Lea did a fantastic Star Wars poster a couple years ago. Patrick loves animation and has done Miguel from Coco, Elastigirl, and some other fun ones.

And while we were there we were visited by Pasadena Royalty. Jennipha Nielsen is the 2018 Queen of the Pasadena Doo Dah parade, an irreverent alternative to the formality of the Rose Parade.

A homemade sidewalk train.

President of the Lightbringer Project Tom Coston welcomed us all to the 27th Annual Pasadena Chalk Festival! He thanked all the artists and all the sponsors, including Tillamook, Blick's for supplying all the artists chalk, the Paseo for letting them have the event here, and all the other businesses who donated prizes.

Patricia Hurley, the Managing Director of the Lightbringer Project welcomed us also. Tom and Patricia and all the other volunteers do such an amazing job organizing everything for this every year.

We had a good time chatting with our fellow artists and being social. It was a kind of funny that when people found out who we were, the first question was not "what mural are you doing this year?" but instead was "what are you dressing us as this year?" Seriously, we were asked that 5 times, including from the event organizers. They both said how much they loved how Ruston and I really get into it each year. But for now, the mural and the costumes are a little bit of a surprise (unless you happened to read the blog and see our practice day).

If was about time for me to head home, but first I need to get my parking validated. Sigh, I guess I'll have some more ice cream if that'll help.

Ruston and I enjoyed some tasty ColdStone while we discussed our plans for the upcoming weekend.

So that's all about Thursday, but how did we get here and how did we decide what we were going to draw?
Funnily it started about a year ago. Every year Ruston and I alternate between picking what we're going to draw. This year is my year to pick, but Ruston just had a great idea and we both just ran with it. Originally it was going to be a map of Disneyland, but knowing how much detail would be involved with that, we both decided that wouldn't be feasible.
Ruston found this base image. There were a lot of things we liked about it. It really matches our style,  where we do mostly posterized style pictures with lots of solid colors. Still wanting go with the map theme I kept looking.

I pulled an Easter Egg hunt map out to see if we'd want to do something like that. Eh, close but not quite.

Instead we toyed around with the idea of using some of the images from that combined with the original castle to represent different lands around Disneyland.

And that was still looking complicated so we toned down the rides. Ruston had a brilliant idea to add the sign to it.

What if we go simplistic? Just the castle and the logo. Hmm, that's something we can build on.

Bringing back the fireworks and the monorail and train. It's starting to shape up. We toyed with the idea of making a non-rectangular piece for a while.

Ruston worked through so many different iterations trying to get something that would just pop.

Getting very close now. Just going to change up those trees and move the bushes.

Perfect! That is a very visually appealing image, and as a happy result a very colorful one too. It was a great job of taking a good image and making it great.

And now that we've got our image and we've got our piece of the sidewalk we can plan things out. Like, if we line everything up, where is that giant crack going to go? Based on the measurements we took, it's going right through here. That's undesirable, so we'll have to shift things a little bit when we make this for real.

The kids posing in front of the 1:1 print we're going to use to trace our image onto the concrete. Staples prints 3'x4' blueprints for $7.50 and I just need to put 4 of those together to get our 6'x8' mural.

And now that you've heard the backstory, it's time to get to the main event!


  1. Location, location, location...didn't know how serious the chalk artists were in claiming their perfect spot (e.g., writing their names on locations before the official time!)...never thought of how "pavement texture" would affect the effort or outcome, nor how an innocent sidewalk crack could alter the final "look" if not accounted for. Those ice cream flights sound really good, especially the caramel toffee crunch and the chocolate. Funny to hear how many artists asked about your costume plans instead of your drawing plans (lol)...but I agree with the sentiment that the costume idea really shows one's enthusiasm and really adds to the art creation unfolding on the pavement :-) Like the thought process in developing the final drawing idea and color scheme (beautiful, final picture!)...seeing the various iterations was very interesting. EOM

    1. It didn't seem to be that crazy last year for claiming a spot. I thought 3:30pm was plenty of time to get just about anything I wanted.
      The pavement at the Paseo was a hard lesson learned our very first year. More on that to come.
      I guess the costumes are becoming what we're known for. I'm fine with that. People associate it with a fun mural.
      It was an interesting design process, so I thought it would fun to show the progression. Thanks for following along!

  2. That $10/hr arcade sounds fun!! What's the name of it? I'd love to stop by the next time I'm in Pasadena!

    1. It's called Neon Retro Arcade. I believe if you check in on Yelp, you get 90 minutes for the price of 60.