PAVEMENT ARTIST (1949)

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The game

Before computers and the internet, even before television and mobile phones, there was a time of simple pleasures when children would entertain themselves. A more creative time of playing out and making it up as you went along.

And on rainy days with your friends, what better way of spending time than taking out your big box of compendium games & puzzles and playing Tiddly Winks, Blow Football, Shuv Ha’penny and Snakes & Ladders. We didn’t want for much and as adults we often look back on those days with fond memories. The truth is, as the old saying goes “what we didn’t have, we didn’t miss!”

Pavement Artist Game by Marchent 1950.

Pavement Artist Game by Marchent 1949.

So imagine the kerfuffle in the 1940’s when Britain’s largest manufacturer of games and compendiums MARCHENT GAMES, released their brand new children’s plaything PAVEMENT ARTIST, the game.

Pavement Artist-Box close-up.

Pavement Artist-Box close-up.

Although it was classed as a game it was more of a chalking activity centre. As the instructions state: This game contains chalks, stencils and black-board, bordered with the alphabet and numerals. The stencils and coloured chalks are used for drawing designs on the blackboard. The same stencils can be used for making pretty drawings in your drawing book. Always clean the board after using.

Pavement Artist-Game Instructions.

Pavement Artist-Game Instructions.

The stencils were made of pre-cut paper with spaces to be pushed-out prior to use. The two illustrated here, the ship and the train are also shown on the box cover as works on the pavement. I have no idea how many different stencils were included in each set, but I would estimate in the region of ten. I have so far tracked three, these two and a cow stencil, but I’m sure there are many more.

Pavement Artist-Game Stencils.

Pavement Artist-Game Stencils.

Pavement artists were a common sight on the streets of Britain; indeed it was the only country anywhere in the world to nurture such a culture of street-art, a culture that stretched back to at least the 1850’s. So the production of a Pavement Artist game for children seemed like good commercial sense, indeed the game seems to have been in production for a good ten years before its demise in 1959.

Pavement Artist Game-Whats inside the box!

Pavement Artist Game-Whats inside the box!

If you have any memories of having one of these as a child, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Written & researched by Philip Battle

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Lady Screever (1874-1934)

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The Book!

This week saw the release of my first book. Lady Screever is the true life story of Alice G. Colman, the world’s first lady pavement artist.  Alice was a pioneer at a time when women ‘knew their place’ and children were ‘seen but not heard’. A time before women even had the right to vote! She was a rare individual who saw the future for pavement art; not just to be considered a ‘beggars art’ but as a serious art form within its own right. Where possible I’ve used Alice’s actual words to tell her own fascinating story.

Lady Screever book cover (published April 2015)

Lady Screever book cover (published April 2015)

“My hobby had been drawing; the idea came to me that I might be able to earn enough to keep us all by being a woman pavement artist.”

A story meticulously pieced together and researched over many years, I’ve also included contributions from Alice’s living relatives.

Lady Screever: Chapter One opening page

Lady Screever: Chapter One opening page

The book is published in two different formats; the Kindle version (standard eBook) is suitable for reading on all Kindle devices. The Apple iBook version (enhanced eBook) is suitable for reading on Apple iPad & Mac computer. It consists of over 21,000 words (112 pages) and numerous photos and documents, many of which have never been published before. The book covers Alice’s entire career as a pavement artist (over 41 years). The enhanced version contains rare video footage, audio sound clips, family documents, additional photos and a complete glossary of terms.

The standard Kindle version is available now from Amazon stores worldwide and retails at £6.68. The enhanced Apple version is available on iTunes from Tuesday 5th May and retails at £8.49. A re-edited print version will be available later this year. All profits from the sale of these eBooks will go towards the production of the print version.

FREE ENHANCED iBOOK!

I’m looking for people to read and review my book on-line at both Amazon and iTunes. In return I will send you a promo code for you to download the enhanced Apple iBook version completely FREE. If you would like a free copy (iPad only version) then please email me at urbancanvas@live.co.uk Please note, this is a limited 24 hour offer; end midday, Wednesday 29th April.

E-book published by Fig-Mulberry Publishing Ltd.

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SCREEVER BOOKS (1982-2011)

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The Modern Movement

To celebrate World Book Day, what better than a blog about pavement art books!

Of all the art forms in Christendom, pavement art is the least written about; you can count the number of books published on both hands and still have fingers to spare; most of them have been written within the last 30 years. Although artists have featured in many publications, NOT exclusively concerned with screeving……here are a few exceptions concerning art-form & artists of the paving stone:

The James Carling Illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE RAVEN

ISBN 0-911303-03-0 Edited by Roscoe Brown Fisher (Published by Delmar USA 1982)

 The James Carling Illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE RAVEN (1982)

The James Carling Illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE RAVEN (1982)

Strictly speaking, not a book about pavement art, but more a catalogue on the thirty-eight illustrations, painted in 1882 by Victorian child pavement artist, James William Carling. It does have some interesting historical facts about Carling’s childhood as a street screever in Liverpool and the USA.

A Carpet of Dream

ISBN 0-9632862-9-3 by Gary Palmer (Published by RJD Enterprises, Los Angeles USA 1996)

A Carpet of Dream (1996)

A Carpet of Dream (1996)

A rare pictorial diary of works by Irish born pavement artist Gary Palmer; featuring works completed around the world between 1991 and 1996

The Sidewalk Artist

ISBN 13: 978-0-312-35803-7 (Published by Thomas Dunne Book St. Martin’s Press, New York. 2006)

The Sidewalk Artist- Novel (2006)

The Sidewalk Artist- Novel (2006)

A romantic novel with a twist in the tale, jointly written by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk

Tulia Rose has left New York for Europe, looking for inspiration for her next novel. She didn’t expect to discover romance, but after meeting a mysterious sidewalk artist on the streets of Paris, she finds herself falling headfirst in love with a man she barely knows.

Pavement Chalk Artist: The Three-dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever

ISBN-13: 978-1770851597 (Published by Firefly Books Ltd USA 2010)

Pavement Chalk Artist (2010)

Pavement Chalk Artist (2010)

Mostly a picture-book with some historical background on anamorphic street painting; featuring Beevers work from 1997 to 2010

Asphalt Renaissance

ISBN-13: 978-1402771262 (Published by Sterling, New York 2011)

The pavement art and 3D Illusions of Kurt Wenner

Asphalt Renaissance (2011)

Asphalt Renaissance (2011)

A lavishly produced book; well-illustrated, with a couple of pages on the historical context of pavement painting and an explanation of anamorphic street-art techniques.

Sidewalk Canvas: Chalk pavement art at your feet.

ISBN-13: 978-0956438225 by Julie Kirk-Purcell (Published by Fil Rouge Press 2011)

Sidewalk Canvas (2011)

Sidewalk Canvas (2011)

More of a guidebook (from an American perspective) for anybody interested in the chalk art festival scene

Nicely illustrated with some good practical advice and tips for new and emerging street-artists

 

Written & researched by Philip Battle

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The Modern Movement (1964-2015)

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No such thing as OLD SKOOL – NEW SKOOL.

Art moves along a continuum where time is fleeting and styles & fashions change; today’s modern movement in time, will become history. Over the last 50 years, the changes in pavement art have been seismic.

A world-wide arts movement that has given birth to a myriad of festivals and events dedicated solely to street chalking art. Places like Mexico, USA, Italy, Australia, Netherlands, France & Germany all hold annual street-painting festivals. Disney’s Mary Poppins was released in 1964, and a whole generation of children had Bert the screever (Dick Van Dyke) as a role model. The seeds of today’s pavement art were sown in the mid 1960’s with Flower-Power, music happenings, the Summer of Love and protests against the Vietnam War.

Magical Mystery Tour: film still, George Harrison playing chalk organ 1967

Magical Mystery Tour: film still, George Harrison playing chalk organ 1967

The Beatles featured a chalk piano in their MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR film of 1967. The idea of chalk pavement art as a career choice became a hip & happening concept.

Sidewalk Sam, Boston USA 1976

Sidewalk Sam, Boston USA 1976

In 1970’s America, pioneering artists like SIDEWALK SAM, and university CHALK-IN events across the country, helped popularise the art-form. A country that had little or no tradition of art busking, invented their own festival culture, based on the idea of the Italian Madonnari, who in some re-imagined way, was romantically linked to Michelangelo and artists of the Renaissance.

BLUE SKY-Original Press Photo: University of Chicago CHALK-IN May 1971

BLUE SKY-Original Press Photo: University of Chicago CHALK-IN May 1971

In Italy, the birth of the 24 hour religious pavement art competitions in places like Grazie di Curtatone and  Nocera Superiore, popularised the art of the Catholic faith. In the 80’s and 90’s, festivals where popping-up right across Europe, attracting a new breed of student artists and trained professionals, the days of the itinerant, untrained screever where numbered. Pavement art quickly became populated with career minded individuals exploring new & uncharted waters.

3D art of Julian Beever

3D art of Julian Beever

The 1990’s saw an explosion in computer technology, and the birth of the internet gave rise to 3D pavement artists like Kurt Wenner and Julian Beever,  who have done a great deal to popularise street-painting with the spread of their often surreal images across the interweb. Anamorphic 3D art is not a new idea, but is perfectly suited to the internet age, capturing the imagination of the public.

Pavement Art of Ulla Taylor, from Australia's CHALK-CIRCLE 2012

Pavement Art of Ulla Taylor, from Australia’s CHALK-CIRCLE 2012

Pioneering Australian artists CHALK-CIRCLE (Peter Voice, Bev Isaac, Peter Gibson, Ulla Taylor and Jenny McCracken) created a new buzz down-under, inspiring a generation of serious street-painters, surprising and delighting crowds with topical, contemporary pieces.

Gary Palmer and his portrait of William O'Donnell USA 1992

Gary Palmer and his portrait of William O’Donnell USA 1992

While Irish born Gary Palmer, was busking his way around the world, producing original and fresh imagery to a new audience. In 1996, he published A CARPET OF DREAM, the first book to be published on pavement art in over 50 years.

Abstract pavement art from UrbanCanvas; St Helens UK 2003

Abstract pavement art from UrbanCanvas; St Helens UK 2003

In the UK, British street artists UrbanCanvas started experimenting with abstract and interactive pavement art, inviting members of the public and passers-by to take part and participate in creating art in a public place. In 1997, they became the first artists to work in Arab world, at the Dubai Shopping Festival, and their works have inspired festivals and events across the world.

Today, street art festivals such as Bella Via in Mexico, TOULON FESTIVAL in France and the Sarasota Chalk Festival in the USA (to name but a few) continue to inspire new and fresh artistic talent. Like every other art-form, pavement art is fluid and continually changing & developing; who knows what the next 50 years will bring!

Written & researched by Philip Battle

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THE RACKETEERS (1935)

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The gangs who terrorised London Pavement Artists!

It’s easy to look at the past through rose tinted glasses, painting a romantic picture of the Romany life of the pavement artist, but the reality was very different; unlike today’s street painters, there was no soft cushion of an organised event.

Pavement artists lived on the fringes of society, a lawless wild west with dangers to be faced every day. I have read reports of artists being robbed, beaten-up and even kidnapped and murdered by criminal gangs; this came on top of the threat of arrest by the police for begging and vagrancy.

London Street-artist near Charing Cross Station. 1932

London Street-artist near Charing Cross Station. 1932

In the 1930’s, there was a touch of American gangsterism about claims that London’s pavement artists had been terrorised by racketeers. Out of every shilling collected by the artist, eight pence would go to the bullies for “protection.”

The screever treasured his little bit of pavement. The flagstones the serious artist used for his canvas, required months of preparation and smoothing to make the “pitch” just right. Gangs would watch this work with great interest, when the artist had settled down he was told he needs “protection.” If he does not agree to pay, his life would become unbearable.

Sleeping artist, outside the National Gallery, London 1935.

Sleeping artist, outside the National Gallery, London 1935.

It would start with minor irritations….a broken bottle of oil, accidentally spilled by a careless passer-by, just after the morning’s work is finished, making a re-drawing necessary.  Before long, the pavement artist is glad to have “protection.” It saves him from being beaten up and robbed on the way home, or his pitch being covered in petrol and tar. Artists where often forced to buy their chalks from the gang boss, at extortionate prices.

Pitches which are worked with movable pictures (boardmen) were milked differently. Artists had to “rent” the pitch by the hour, and even the pictures where rented from criminal gangs. Certain artists where helped by babies and dogs, hired from the gang, a pathetic-looking dog would cost more to hire than a good-looking dog.

London street-artist (Boardman) with dog 1935.

London street-artist (Boardman) with dog 1935.

Artists without fixed pitches where the most difficult to deal with, so racketeers would send out “inspectors” who would travel across London, working on commission and extorting money from the casual screever or beggar.

This became a lucrative trade for criminals, with so many artists and musicians working the streets every day.

It became so bad in the 1930’s, that artists even considered forming their own union to help combat intimidation from bullying street gangs. This was not a new trick of course, and reports go back to the mid 1850’s when artists shared the streets with dancing bears, bull baiters and dog fighting gangs.

 

Written & researched by Philip Battle

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Winston Churchill (1914-1965)

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Taming the Black Dog!

In 1933, George Orwell described a screever as possibly one of the most interesting characters he had ever encountered. He also told us that on a good day, pavement artists could be found every 25 feet along the Thames Embankment; a fact that was well documented, right up until the 1960’s.

No surprise then that Winston Churchill encountered them during his parliamentary business. He was often seen admiring the work of the humble street painter and later wrote about it in his 1949 book “Painting as a Pastime.” Indeed, he cited the pavement artist as a major reason for him to take up painting as a hobby.

Churchill the Painter; in his studio at Chartwell House.

Churchill the Painter; in his studio at Chartwell House.

As he stated in his book “I stood agape before the chalk of the pavement artist” …in 1914, at the age of 40, feeling inspired, he bought himself a set of oil paints after dabbling one Sunday morning with the children’s paint box.  He said “I consider myself very lucky that late in life, I have been able to develop this new taste and pastime,” adding “To have reached the age of 40 without ever handling a brush, or fiddle with a pencil, to have regarded with mature eye the painting of pictures of any kind as a mystery.”

For Churchill, the pavement artist was a magical encounter and inspiration. He became a “hobby artist” until he died in 1965. He often said that art kept THE BLACK DOG at bay; it was his nick-name for depression, which he suffered from throughout his life.

Winston Churchill’s association with pavement art goes way back; in 1923, it was reported in the Nottingham Evening Post that “Winston’s strongly marked features are a favourite subject with pavement artists”

Churchill the Pavement Artist; as featured in Punch Magazine 1933.

Churchill the Pavement Artist; as featured in Punch Magazine 1933.

By the time of the Second World War, Churchill’s features had been well and truly established, often trodden under the feet of the pavement passenger; but come 1943 and a new face was taking pride of place in the screever’s armoury. It was reported that “GENERAL MONTGOMERY seems to have supplanted Mr Churchill in the affections of the London pavement artist. They find his features easier to reproduce than the features of the Prime Minister.”

Churchill referred to these “very clever” artists as “the Rembrandts of the street.”

Dropping a few coins into the hat of a favoured artist of the day, humour never deserted him, even in the darkest days of the war; he summoned one of his Generals (Colonel T.J. Cowen) to bring war maps to 10 Downing Street; outside, he found him making last minute alterations, kneeling on the pavement with his cap by his side.  The Prime Minister looked down, threw a penny in the hat and walked away.

…..and that’s how we won the war!

 

Written and researched by Philip Battle

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TU’PENCE FOR ME SINS!

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How much do pavement artists earn?

As a pavement artist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Do you make a living from this?”

The Beggars Petition! Arthur Orton 1871© Trustees of the British Museum

The Beggars Petition! Arthur Orton 1871© Trustees of the British Museum

In 1911, it was reported that over 1000 pavement artists where making a “full-time” living on the streets of England’s capital city London. Barely 10 years before it was around 500. The art-form was clearly growing, and in certain quarters, screevers had become tourist attractions in their own right.

A popular newspaper of the day surveyed “children from the country” asking them on visiting London “What would be in your top ten” no surprises then when at number five came the reply “seeing those FUNNY MEN drawing on the pavement!”

Reg Maurice postcard 1914

Reg Maurice postcard 1914

Artists where earning a living, but how much? Collectively, we don’t know, as no records or tax returns where taken; it was assumed that many where simply eking-out a living on the margins of society, depending on the scraps falling from the big table. How much an individual earned, could depend much more on luck than artistic talent; being in the right place, at the right time, appealing to public sympathy and hoping that the weather didn’t take a turn for the worst.

As in any walk of life, there are always the hangers-on, the “cadger screevers,” the ones who give everybody a bad name. Artists who couldn’t draw, the ones who pretended they had drawn something when they hadn’t; the con-artists & the aggressive beggars; pavement art had more than its fair share of these types, this left a negative impression with members of the public, perceiving an art-form peopled by “beggars & scroungers” and tarring everybody with the same brush.

But this view was as shallow as the flagstone surface on which a pavement painting was drawn upon. There were many artists who choose to become screevers not through necessity of means, but by a choice of lifestyle and furtherance of their art. These where the most successful, and gained respect and admiration among their peers; many of these “true artists” became successful careerists, and worked the streets full-time for 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years all told. Some would sell prints or take private portrait commissions on the street, anything to supplement and see them through the winter months and rainy days.

The “cadger-screevers” generally earned pennies and were very opportunistic in their approach, whereas the professional pavement artist could earn a fairly decent living.

In 1945, it was reported that Newcastle pavement artist Jimmy Morrison (83 years old) had handed a brown-paper package to a neighbour before he died.  When police opened the parcel they found Jimmy had a total of £2,000 in two bank accounts (£77,300 in today’s money) plus a further £282 (£10,900 today) in notes, silver and coppers.  In wet or fine weather, Jimmy was always at his pitch, close to Newcastle’s Central Station; obviously, the pennies steadily clinked into his “greasy cap”

Alfred Horton 5 shillings an hour in winter!

Alfred Horton 5 shillings an hour in winter!

In 1953, Cockney pavement artist, Alfred Horton won first prize of £5 (£126 today) in the National Handicraft & Hobbies Pavement Art Competition at Central Hall, London. At the time, he claimed to be earning as little as 5 shillings an hour in winter (£6.28 today) compared with 30 shillings (£37.66) an hour in summer!

In the 1960’s, it was claimed that London screever Bob Hanley, earned enough on a daily basis to have his children educated at a private school!

In 1921, the Daily Express newspaper reported that pavement artist Alfred Parrott, of James Street, Holloway, was earning in the region of £600 per year (£23,500 today) Parrott’s daughter said that when the weather was fine he earned between £1 and £2 per day.  (£39-£78 per day) He also supplemented his income by painting portraits in oils & chalks.

In 1924, it was reported in the same newspaper that “A good pitch produces more than £1 per day!” (£53)

In 1901, the Sheffield Evening Telegraph claimed that a local pavement artist was earning 13 shillings a day at his pitch in Sheffield city centre. (£70 in today’s money)

Some pavement artists where earning so much money, that in the 1930’s, criminal gangs where using extortion; forcing pavement artists to pay “protection money” to stay on their pitch….either that or get beaten-up, robbed & have petrol poured over your art!

So, how much does a pavement artist earn…..well, how long is a piece of chalk?

 

Written and researched by Philip Battle

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KEITH HARING (1985)

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A pavement artist for a day!

“A more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate [art] into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow. I don’t know how to exactly explain it. Taking it off the pedestal. I’m giving it back to the people, I guess.” Keith Haring

American "Pop Artist" KEITH HARING. 1985

American “Pop Artist” KEITH HARING. 1985

Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an American artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s by expressing concepts of birth, death, sexuality, and war. Haring’s work was often heavily political and his imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.

Pop Artist KEITH HARING surrounded by on-lookers Japan 1985

Pop Artist KEITH HARING surrounded by on-lookers Japan 1985

In 1985, he created this live art happening in chalk, on the streets of Japan. It was recorded by photographer Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts.

KEITH HARING: Watched by a trio of young fans. Japan 1985

KEITH HARING: Watched by a trio of young fans. Japan 1985

“The context of where you do something is going to have an effect. The subway drawings were, as much as they were drawings, performances. It was where I learned how to draw in public. You draw in front of people. For me it was a whole sort of philosophical and sociological experiment. When I drew, I drew in the daytime, which meant there were always people watching. There were always confrontations, whether it was with people that were interested in looking at it, or people that wanted to tell you you shouldn’t be drawing there…”

Elevated view of KEITH HARING at work in Japan 1985

Elevated view of KEITH HARING at work in Japan 1985

“I was learning, watching people’s reactions and interactions with the drawings and with me and looking at it as a phenomenon. Having this incredible feedback from people, which is one of the main things that kept me going so long, was the participation of the people that were watching me and the kinds of comments and questions and observations that were coming from every range of person you could imagine, from little kids to old ladies, or art historians.”

KEITH HARING drawing in chalk on the streets of Japan 1985

KEITH HARING drawing in chalk on the streets of Japan 1985

Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings, sometimes creating as many as forty drawings in one day.

Overhead view of Keith Haring's chalk drawing. Photo by Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts. 1985

Overhead view of Keith Haring’s chalk drawing. Photo by Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts. 1985

Haring died on Friday February 16, 1990 of AIDS-related complications.

 

Written & researched by Philip Battle.

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Lapped it up! (1902)

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A tasty description of a Pavement Artist

From an issue of The Tatler Magazine, 1902.

Half their description is right enough, for they certainly draw on the pavement. Probably one who was an artist as well would make his fortune at the business, for the public is always fond of a novelty.

There is even a species that does not draw on the pavement; pieces of cardboard are used which are propped against a wall. This is scarcely a change for the better as the drawings on the pavement itself will be washed out by a shower of rain.

Both sorts have the same stock in trade. The pavement artist’s empire is one on which the sun always sets; there will invariably be a sunset. Also there will be a herring on a plate to prove that there are more wonderful fish out of the sea than ever went into it. And there will be a young lady with yellow curls and oh, such lovely black eyes; and there will be portraits of our Great Generals which will make their wives wonder how they could have married them, and explains, perhaps, why we have not more Great Generals.

TATLER: Illustration by SH Sime 1902.

TATLER: Pavement artist illustration by SH Sime 1902.

Yet one must not blame the pastelliste du pave, for realism has its drawbacks. “But, my man, that is not a bit like milk in that saucer,” said a passer-by one day pointing to one of the drawings on the pavement. “No, it ain’t, and it ain’t intended to be,” answered the artist with some heat. “I did one like the real thing once, it took me close on two hours, and then a beastly dog came and lapped it up!”

Written by Walter Emanuel

Published in THE TATLER magazine, England. (8th October 1902)

 

Researched by Philip Battle

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