It’s amazing how much power a stick of sidewalk chalk contains. There is so much that you can do with it, and yet it’s just a colorful stick of calcium sulfate. And you can buy it in just about any store for chump change! Believe it or not, both chalk and Tums are made from the same basic substance - just a slightly different formula. It’s also used as a coagulant for tofu. But aside from its humble chemistry, a stick of sidewalk chalk is like freedom in your hand.
Chalk is more flexible in its versatility than it is in its physicallity. If you grind it up and throw it in the air you can have yourself a color party. You can draw pictures on just about any outdoor surface, and now it is commonly being used as a form of guerilla advertising. More than ever, especially around college campuses, chalk is being used to spread messages of rebellion, justice and above all, freedom. Because sidewalk chalk is ephemeral, people young and old are using this medium to express whatever is on their minds.
Some bloggers, like Valery Roney want to start a sidewalk chalk revolution. This is a beautiful idea that encourages people to get outside and make it more beautiful than it already is by leaving inspiring messages on random sidewalks, just to spread the love. Roney leaves messages such as, “Hey Beautiful,” and, “Try.” Of course, the messages will not last forever, but if you put the message in a busy place, chances are a lot of people will see your message. It could brighten someone’s day who was feeling melancholic before.
There is even a new gadget that you can attach to a bicycle or scooter that allows you to drag a stick of chalk behind you and make a chalk trail. If you want to get really creative, you can scoot around in figure 8’s to make a pretty colorful design, just like in this video.
Getting back to the roots of sidewalk chalk, the art of making chalk art has now been upgraded to 3D! If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you can find the 3D sidewalk chalk designs of Julian Beever, better known as “Sidewalk Chalk Guy.” He makes drawings all over the world, and they take hours, sometimes days to create. He is truly original because he is able to incorporate objects such as park benches and parking columns into the drawing itself. The drawings are 3D due to an optical illusion, and they only appear 3D when you are standing to view the object at a certain angle. For more examples of Beever’s art, you can visit his website. People marvel at his works and sometimes strike poses for his pictures.
Edgar Mullar is another popular 3D Sidewalk chalk artist. You can watch a video of him creating his most famous piece here! He uses a quick recipe made with dye water and cornstarch to make liquid chalk so that he can paint it on, thus covering more area in less time.
A really fun trend that is getting more and more popular is a summer must do! It’s called “chalking” and it’s the cheapest and most fun way to make your hair have a colorful pop that will turn heads. There are many videos on YouTube with instructions on how to make chalk work for your hair. All you need is the chalk, some water, gloves, a straightening iron and your hair! You just wet the chalk, rub it into your hair, straighten it (the heat seals in the color) and voila! It’s great for kids because it comes out with just one wash. And it’s great for adults because you can always match your hair color to your new chic summer outfits.
I mentioned earlier about grinding up chalk to make colorful powder and have a color party. Well, this is something that has been done in the Northern part of India for centuries! Each spring, to celebrate rebirth, many people of the Hindu faith celebrate Holi, or the Festival of Colors. This holiday is well known for its color parties, where people take to the streets, gathering together to simultaneously cloud the air with as many colors as possible! Originally, the colored powder was made from certain crushed botanicals and minerals, which were wonderful for India’s vegetation because it was almost like sprinkling colorful plant food on the surrounding foliage. Now, those herbs and minerals have become depleted after many generations of use. They now create the power with a more natural form of calcium sulfate, better known as chalk, to spread their yearly colors. And it doesn’t just happen in India either! Each year the Sri Sri Radha Krsna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah holds a giant Holi festival. Thousands of people assist in the “throwings” of color that happen every two hours. People crowd in together in order to be covered in as much color as possible. The day of Holi sends the message that color is important and that it makes life worth living. It may be just chalk, but it makes people come together, and together they all remember to be happy and that there is a lot of love in the world.
Sidewalk chalk is whatever you make it to be. You can consider it a toy for children, or a way to express yourself and your freedom. Some people see it as a nuisance and others pay it no attention at all. People can choose whether to use the power of sidewalk chalk for good or bad purposes. Ultimately, it is up to them.
And in the end , you don’t even need to have any artistic skill to enjoy chalk because it just feels good to rub some color into concrete and know that in at least one small way, you’ve left your mark (at least for the moment) on the world.