If you want to participate in Chalkfest but aren’t sure if your sidewalk chalk skills are up to par, the Mortimer sisters would like to offer some encouragement.
“It’s definitely for everyone!” said Meredith Mortimer, a UW-Eau Claire senior. “There’s people there of all art skill levels and people of all ages too, and I think that’s really cool to see.”
Meredith is a graphic design major at UW-Eau Claire and has been participating as an artist in the annual chalk art festival since the summer of 2009. Her younger sister Maddy recently graduated from high school and will attend CVTC in the fall. She joined Meredith in the event in 2010, and the duo have worked on their chalk art pieces together nearly every year since.
Maddy’s advice was equally supportive: “To encourage people to branch out if they haven’t yet or to give it a try,” she said. “Because it’s a lot of fun! You don’t’ have to be an ‘artist’ artist to do it.”
Chalkfest makes it easy for people of all ages and experience to create chalk art masterpieces, spend the day with fellow artists and ultimately, have fun. This year the event will be held Saturday, July 30 from 11a.m. to 7p.m. on the UW-Eau Claire campus.
Upon arrival, artists are provided with one box of 48-color non-toxic and environmentally friendly chalk, a sponge for blending and latex gloves. Other materials will be available for purchase during the event. The Chalkfest website offers even more tips and recommendations for artists.
Last year, Meredith and Maddy made waves with an art nouveau rendition of "The Little Mermaid" — so much so that they won in their category of Judge’s Choice: Adult Group. When asked how one goes about creating a winning chalk art piece, Meredith said that no two artists’ processes are the same.
“Everyone does it differently, and one of the things I really appreciate about the event is watching other people’s drawings come to life around me,” Meredith said.
Some artists choose to sketch their pieces in miniature and then scale up onto the sidewalk using a grid system. As for the Mortimer sisters? They normally just freehand.
“We use a technique where we apply the color of the chalk and then take water over the top of it to blend things together, which makes it actually pretty permanent,” Meredith said. She added that when using this process, her art usually stays on the sidewalk from several weeks to even months.
Meredith and Maddy’s winning piece was a combination of what Meredith had learned in her art classes at UW-Eau Claire and their desire to create something their audience would connect with. What resulted was artwork for in-the-know artists and everyday event-goers alike.
“I was able to blend what I was learning in art history with something that the public would be more familiar with, and that’s something you have to think about in an event like this,” Meredith said. “Not everyone who comes to the event will be artistically-minded, so not everyone’s going to come up and go, ‘Oh, it’s Alphonse Mucha. That’s so cool — art nouveau!’ They’re going to come up and think, ‘Oh, The Little Mermaid!’”
No matter the outcome of the competition this year, Maddy said simply being able to participate in Chalkfest is enough for her.
“My favorite part is the whole community of all the artists there, and they’re just there having a good time doing what they love and sharing that with each other,” Maddy said. “I just love seeing that and getting to be a part of that.”
Whether you attend Chalkfest as an artist or a spectator this Saturday, be sure to keep an eye out for these sisters. By now, they’re sure to have chalk in their veins.
As of this story’s publication, there are plenty of unclaimed sidewalk spaces for this Saturday’s event — and one of them has your name on it! Gather your friends, your family and your friends’ families and head on down to join the fun. More information on Chalkfest — and how to register — can be found here.
Top photo: Artists chalk their way through Chalkfest 2015.
Photo within story: Meredith and Maddy Mortimer