"Aren't you sad when your art washes away?"

"Aren't you sad when your art washes away?"

No, I am not sad when my art washes away in the rain. In fact, my art would be much harder to create if it didn’t.

Permanent graffiti is illegal almost everywhere, so if my chalk art was permanent I wouldn’t be casually creating it out on the street in broad daylight. Even if I managed to elude the authorities, the knowledge that the owner of whatever surface I use will be annoyed to find their property altered without their permission is enough to dissuade me from being a graffiti artist. On the other hand, temporary chalk marks are legal in the public spaces where I live, and even if someone were to disapprove, I could remedy the problem with a quick swipe of a rag or a spilled cup of coffee. 

Even an official commissioned mural is more difficult and less therapeutic than a temporary chalk drawing because the process for murals is less spontaneous and the result more scrutinized. There are permissions to be obtained, preparations to be made, and careful procedures to be followed to ensure that the “permanent” art doesn’t fall apart when exposed to the elements.

By contrast, a chalk drawing can be completed on the same afternoon as its inspiration – or not finished at all, on the whims of the artist – and since it is not intended to persist, its destruction at the hands of wind and rain is an intentional choice rather than a tragedy.

chalk drawing of an elephant holding an umbrella over a mouse
"Foul Weather Friend" - chalk on stepping stone, photographed one minute before a downpour washed the image away.


 This is the truest reason why I’m not upset that my street drawings can’t be preserved: preservation is not the fun part. I know dozens of traditional artists who spend only half of their professional time painting canvases because the rest of their attention is taken up by framing, storing, shipping, hanging, and otherwise handling the canvases they’ve already painted. These actions are crucial to making a living and/or impact in the world of Art, but they are inconsequential on a grand scale compared to the act of creation itself. And when my act of creation is stuck to the sidewalk, I'm not obliged to frame it, store it, ship it, or hang it anywhere. I get to walk away with the simple satisfaction of having added something to the world that wasn’t there yesterday. If it's not there tomorrow, then its momentary existence only becomes more striking.

Don’t get me wrong: preservation is a very important goal in many parts of our lives. But one thing my childlike glee and my spiritual calm have in common is a happy disregard for consequences.

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