Some students at Art Institute of California-Los Angeles in Santa Monica have been seeking to making the drab gray concrete city sidewalks a whole lot more colorful recently. Art Institute students are among numbers of professional and amateur artists showing off their skills by using chalk as the medium to create works of art right on city streets or sidewalks. Stemming from an Italian tradition dating back to the 16th Century, artists attend festivals where they are given a plot of asphalt and two days to turn it into a masterpiece.

Art Institute Interactive Media Design student Lesley Perdomo, and Media Arts & Animation Graduate (2006) Julio ìJJî Jimenez, are among those who have joined the growing list of artists who are spending their weekends at Chalk or Street Painting Festivals to compete for prizes such as airline tickets, cash, trips and art supplies, according to Nikki Dixon, a spokeswoman for Art Institute-Los Angeles.

Perdomo and Jimenez have won titles including Best 3-D Effects, Best of Color and Best in Show and say that their success relates directly back to some of the skills they have learned at The Art Institute of California – Los Angeles, according to Dixon.

Jimenez, who draws in a realist style, says he credits his Life Drawing class.

ìThe class focused on drawing the tremendous structure of the human anatomy and with that I have been able to add my own little twist to my chalk drawings,î he says.

Perdomo, who recently won Best in Show at the Topanga Chalk Festival: Memorias Street Painting Festival, commented on the way she uses the street terrain as her palette.

ìStreet painting has helped me realize how important a grid is,î says Perdomo. ìAny great design or great mural always starts with a simple grid. Grids make a difference and can dramatically change your work from good to fabulous.î

When an artist is really talented, finished pieces can give the illusion that you can step right into them, says Dixon.

Such was the case when Perdomo and Jimenez teamed up to create a drawing of a lady next to a pool that won Best 3-D Effect at The Absolut Chalk Festival in 2005 ó the second festival in which they had ever participated.

The chalk art creations live on in photographs after the original image is washed away or removed from the sidewalk.

ìI actually had someone forward an e-mail to me containing a photo of one of my drawings that someone else took at a festival, which was pretty amazing to see that it lives on after they are washed away,î says Jimenez.

The two Art Institute students plan to take their skills on the road this year as their work will be seen at the ninth annual Street Painting Festival on Saturday and Sunday, May 19th and 20th, in Mission Viejo.

Information, (310) 752-4700 or www.funwithchalk.com

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