Pareidolia in Street Art: connecting the dots (and cracks, and everything else)

In addition to being temporary and childish, any random piece of sidewalk is more inspirational than a blank canvas simply because it is not blank. There is always something there – a crack along the ground, a dropped piece of gum, or even just a scattering of specks and pebbles that wants to become something more.

Cracked pavement and gum spot

I used to worry that there was something strange about “seeing” things in the ground underneath my feet, but I have since learned that this is a universal human condition called pareidolia: our brains are always on the alert for possible patterns in the world around us, no matter how unlikely. I assume we inherited this habit from our ancient ancestors, for whom it was far better to accidentally mistake a bush for a leopard than to be eaten by a leopard we thought was a bush.

cracked concrete and gum spot changed into monster and bee using chalk

Pareidolia is why people see a man in the moon and clouds that look like rabbits. Pareidolia is why, even if you are 99% certain that the dark shape in the corner of your bedroom is a bathrobe you placed there yourself a few hours before, your helpful brain wants to investigate the 1% possibility that it might be a monster.

Pariedolia is the perfect solution to the problem of not knowing what to draw. In fact, drawing this way gets easier the less of a plan you have. I could go outside intending to draw a portrait of my grandfather or a very specific kind of fish and never find a spot that’s suitable for the purpose. If, on the other hand, I’m just walking around town and have places I need to be, I can be guaranteed to run into some small hole in the sidewalk that insists I stop and incorporate it into something. The things that would be obstacles become opportunities if you let them lead the way.

- excerpt from Underfoot Menagerie: More Street Art by David Zinn

photo: "Gontor’s monstrous rampage will resume as soon as he recovers from almost being touched by a bee" (before and after) - Greenville, SC