Artist's captivating chalk street art will make you do a double take


A shameless indulgence.

That's how artist David Zinn says his street art began. It shows that there is still childlike wonder and creativity inside many of us that is just waiting to be expressed -- whether it be through putting pen to paper -- or in this case, chalk to sidewalk.

Zinn says he was given regular sidewalk chalk as a joke and he now uses that, along with a few other simple materials to create magical temporary street art that'll have you guessing where the sidewalk ends and your imagination begins. Sidewalk cracks, metal grates, and the elements brought about by the change in seasons all become part of the whimsical experience by being changed into waffle makers, tables and tiny little homes for Zinn's larger-than-life characters.

"The sidewalk is a good place for this because of the near-infinite number of dots waiting to be connected; I believe that anyone who takes the time to stare at a slab of concrete will eventually see something that wants to be drawn there," Zinn said.

He uses the same psychological phenomenon that allows people to see shapes in clouds to create the multi-dimensional art. Characters like Sluggo, a bright green monster, and Philomena, a flying pig, are often drawn in mischievous situations that delight both kids and adults who are kids at heart. Sluggo was originally supposed to be a drawing of a young child but Zinn said he couldn't quite get the eyes right. So he drew them on antennas and that's how one of his most beloved characters came to be.

Philomena is a visual adaptation of the saying, "when pigs fly" and Zinn says the Swedish prefer "when it rains peas" and the Dutch use "when the calves are dancing on ice." No matter the preference they are all figures of speech that challenge the impossible, much like Zinn's characters and their adventures.

(David Zinn/Facebook)

Zinn says the most unusual artwork he has created was a life-size hadrosaur for The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. But he has also seen his work and characters take on a life of their own with replicas being drawn as far away as an alleyway in Shanghai and a boat support in Vietnam.

"I don't know who drew them or how they knew my art existed, but it's strangely gratifying to see my imaginary friends travel the world so much more easily than I do," Zinn added.

It's hard to imagine putting so much time and effort into something that could be washed away with the next rainstorm, but Zinn explained his fleeting masterpieces in a way that can translate to many aspects of day-to-day life.

"Honestly, it's easier to enjoy making art that has no future. I think most people understand this already; it's why doodling on a napkin or drawing figures in the sand is so much more appealing for most of us than painting on a blank canvas."

Zinn created a book of his chalk art called "Temporary Preserves," which is basically a captivating picture book. And he is working on a follow-up to that, but until then he says he is looking forward to spending the summer on the sidewalk.

Chalk on sidewalk seems like such a simple concept, but for many people it inspires feelings of home, comfort and happiness -- and at the end of the day that's what Zinn hopes people take away from his work. Because as he put it, "... there are more than enough sidewalks to go around."