Chalking It Up! Soul Studio artists get creative with renowned chalk artist David Zinn

The sidewalk outside Soul Café sprang to life with whimsical creatures and playful collaboration during a recent chalk art workshop for Soul Studio artists.

The late-morning lesson led by Ann Arbor-based street artist David Zinn began with the basics: the supplies every serious chalk artist must have and the techniques to make their art really pop.

Use charcoal to create contrast, he said. Use your finger to blend the chalk into the sidewalk’s uneven surfaces. And those cracks and blemishes? Don’t avoid them, he said. Oftentimes, they can spark an idea and serve as the starting point for your next masterpiece.

From there, Zinn delved into the subject of surreal art on a deeper level, talking about the emotions behind the art. He shared with the group why he prefers surreal art to the status quo.

“I learned after a while that if I was drawing an animal and I started to get to a part I couldn’t draw, I had two choices: I could stop and study and try to work really hard to learn how to draw dog legs or I could just draw a dog-topus and put tentacles where the legs would have been,” Zinn said. “No one can tell me that I did it wrong because it’s never existed until just now.”

When criticism, pressure and the expectations of others are washed away, the artistic soul is free to shine. It was this premise that eventually prompted Zinn to leave his job as a freelance commercial artist and let his creativity flourish unfettered on sidewalks across the country.

“Chalk art is so … temporary and anonymous that it makes it, for me, a thousand times easier just to make art for the joy of making art.”

Can’t decide what to draw? Dream it up, he said.

Not sure which colors to use? Blend several to create your own.

After all, chalk art is meant to be fun.

Zinn then invited the group to gather some supplies and create whatever came to mind.

And that they did.

Megan Donley was among the first to finish her drawing, a little pastel turtle with a larger-than-life smile that rivaled her own.

“He’s smiling at you,” she said. “I like happy turtles – not snappy turtles.”

Satisfied with her creation, she turned her focus on the work of others, like Tyrese Hall, whose vision seemed to grow and grow and grow. First came an out-of-this-world alien, then an eye-catching sun and, lastly, a silly snake in a top hat.

Many of the sidewalk creations underwent several transformations during the workshop. Lindsey Pringle’s pink whale, for example, morphed into an owl by session’s end. And, somehow a pastel piglet popped up behind Tyrese’s alien.

There’s’ something about sidewalk chalk art that brings people together.

Children especially find it hard to resist, Zinn said.

And Thursday’s workshop proved no different.

As the artists drew their hearts out, passers-by took notice. Curiosity turned into delight as café patrons and others stopped by for a closer look at the colorful concrete canvas.

“This is absolutely beautiful,” one woman said.

“Amazing,” said another.

“Which one of you is Banksy (the anonymous graffiti artist),” an intrigued bystander asked in jest.

Zinn’s reply was swift:

“We are all Banksy.”

Keep your eyes open! Some serious chalk art could be coming to a sidewalk near you. This summer, several Detroit area cities will feature chalk art created by a Soul Studio artist. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest. When you spot the chalk art, snap a photo and post it with the hashtag #4Friendship and you could win a prize. Stay tuned!

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