Education and Schools

Where and when did you attend art school ?
I went to Leeds Polytechnic in 79-83 in the UK.

Do you think it’s important for artists to go to Art school ?
I don’t know really. I don’t think it is essential but it could be a great help. Like many students, I went at a time in my life when I wasn’t really ready to use it to full advantage.

Do you do school visits ?
Yes, I can do a one hour slide show and discuss my work. Schools should get in contact.

3D Pavement Art - Anamorphosis - Technique

What is the “Anamorphosis” technique ?
It is doing a drawing in a distorted, stretched form so that, from one particular viewpoint and as seen through a lens, the distortion appears to resolve into the correct shape and form. In the case of a pavement drawing this means we view it at an odd angle to the surface.
This allows us to create the illusion of solid or hollow forms going in to, coming out of or standing on the ground.

How long does it take to make a 3D piece of art on the street ?
4 days for a major piece in chalk. After that the work of the first day starts to need repair so it seldom exceeds this. In paint, this generally takes about 7 days.

How do you start a new piece ?
I sketch it out in pencil on a small pad and then convert that view to the pavement. I have to know what I am aiming at.

Do you practise before drawing a 3D art piece or do you do a no-preparation live act ?
Sometimes I practice parts that I know will be tricky.

Do you use mathematics or computer programmes to plan out your drawings ?
Hardly ever. I do it almost entirely by eye. Occasionally the need arises to scale something up or down using a grid but that’s about it.

Do you have to obtain permits for every sidewalk project? What happens if you don’t ?
If you don’t, you take a risk. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. You can be stopped from continuing and once I had my work washed off in front of me. I have been escorted to the police station once or twice. So long as you stay polite however there is little risk of further penalties. On the other hand, asking permission as an individual artist to local authorities is seldom successful and once they have said no you are worse off than if you hadn’t asked. In the case of commercial drawings, the permission is always obtained in advance by the organizers.

What materials do you use ?
Artists’ dry pastel chalks and pigment. Or, for something more permanent, either artist’s acrylic paint or, even more durable, special floor paint.

Can your drawings be done on any pavement ?

  • For chalk drawings : no, far from it. Many pavements are unsuitable. I need a smooth, even surface that pastel chalk will adhere to.
    This must not be shiny like polished marble nor must it be too course or with gravel protruding from the surface.
    Cobbled or bricked pavements do not work since the outline and mortar joins between the bricks, which cannot be hidden intrude too much in to the picture and tell the eye that this is really flat.
  • For painted pieces : everything above stands but there is a considerably greater tolerance with paint, so that both smoother, shinier or rougher surfaces can be worked upon.

Do you do your pavement drawings on canvas ?
Yes, or on paving slabs.

What is the significance of the particular media you work in ?

  • Chalk is very fast and very easy to correct allowing you to do a big picture in a limited amount of time. Ideal on stone and cement.
    And…it is temporary!
  • Paint on the other hand takes about twice as long and will last far longer. Paint also has the advantage that if it rains the artwork doesn’t get damaged. However with both media, one cannot work on a wet surface.

Do you do commercial commissions ?
Yes, anybody or any company interested in commisionning me should complete the contact form.

LIfe as a Street Artist

While making the pieces outside there are always people walking by and talking to you, how is that working like that ?
It’s usually very pleasant. It allows me to meet local people in foreign countries which is not always so easy when you go as a tourist.
When I get in to difficulties on a drawing and I feel incompetent it can be embarrassing having a crowd witness this. At those moments I would rather be alone !

Don’t you feel heart broken when the drawing gets washed away in the rain ?
This is the most frequent of all questions ! Only if it is unfinished and has not been properly photographed. While calk lasts only a matter of days and may be seen by a few hundred people, a photo on the internet will last forever and may be seen by millions.
If it is done in paint, then very little is washed away by the rain.

When did your work first become well known ?
It was entirely due to the internet when I showed about 6 pictures on a website. What caused most of a stir was my very first picture of a swimming pool and a highly realistic drawing of a Coke bottle. Although these were drawn in the early 90’s it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that anyone found them.

Where can we find your book, “Pavement Chalk Artist” ?
To buy a book on the work of Julian Beever (entitled « Pavement Chalk Artist ») go to the FireFly Books website.
Or try any online book sellers.

Doesn’t that fold up camp chair get uncomfortable after hours of work using it like Superman ?
Yes, but it reduces the discomfort that putting strain on the knees can cause.

How does the setting in which your art is viewed effect how it is viewed ?
Being in the street gives it a life of its own and captures a moment in time.

Style and Influence

When were you first struck by the Trompe-l’œil ( trick of the eye ) style art ?
I had seen trompe-l’oeil in the true sense of the word – as in paintings of small highly detailed natural objects in close-up – from art history books.

Was Anamorphosis an original idea of your own, or are there similar previous works in art history ?
Others got there long before me – the most celebrated example being the skull in Hans Holbein’s “The Ambassadors”.

How would you describe your own style ?
I wouldn’t.

What made you decide to do the street art thing ?
I left art college and worked in the street doing Punch and Judy. It was a progression from one kind of street performance to another.

Who were the artists you looked up to when starting out ?
Before doing « 3D » illusions I often drew reproductions of old masters in the street– da Vinci, Durer, Raphael, Rosetti, beautiful pictorial stuff created before the 20th century movements undermined this kind of vision. In the early part of my career as a pavement artist.
I did many “cover” versions of old masters, copies if you will, and these helped inform my skills as an artist and made me a lot more conversant and capable in using pastel crayons and paint before ever attempting an anamorphic illusion.

What factors have most influenced your work as an artist ?
Childhood wonder.