As I continue my journey on getting my chalk certification, I wrote an article for the FCAA newsletter on the freehand technique, so now all I have to send in my application and bam! I am a Qualificato Madonnari! And only a few steps from being Meastro!
At almost any festival I get a freehand comment from another artist (I am looking at you Ron!) because I am one of the few that consistently chalks without pouncing or gridding. But why the freestyle? For me, math- not my thing. And sure, I could figure it out (my SAT math score were great, I was shocked too) but most day’s I have trouble remembering to print out my reference picture, let alone the set up time for other methods.
But all kidding aside, I feel that I learn and challenge myself more when I freehand something. Sure, not everything is perfect, but because I challenged myself I see an improvement each time, and not just in my chalk but other art as well. I have developed a better sense of composition over the years and have the ability to change/create things on the fly.
So how do I do it? Essentially, I am working from a grid (only its imaginary). Start by finding the center of the workspace and the center of your reference image. From there, quickly draw out the basic shapes that are in the piece. I like to do this with that obnoxious orange piece of chalk that come in the box that rarely gets used. Its bright and surprisingly easy to cover. Once the basics are done step back and observe. If something looks too big or small, adjust and redraw until you are satisfied. From there you can pretty much just pick a space and start. Now, for most techniques the ideal starting point is the top and you work down (less street yoga at the end) BUT if you are freehanding it, I suggest starting at the focal point. So, if I have a face in the center, I start there. Why? First, it gives the viewers something interesting look at after only a short time into the piece, but mostly it’s because if I misjudged my proportions when I get to the bottom, nothing important is changed and left off. Throughout the entire process it is important to get up and make sure you are still headed in the right direction, everything always looks different while standing. And it’s the standing angle that you want to look good, as that is where your audience’s viewpoint is.
So, I challenge everyone to give it a shot. If not at a festival then on your driveway. Whether you end up liking it or not, chances are you will discover something about how you currently work and ways you can improve. Plus, it’s nice to just create something laidback and embrace the “happy accidents” every once in awhile."