Of all the questions I have been asked while drawing on the street, the most frequent and unanswerable has been “When did you start drawing?” After years of careful thought and investigation, I have an answer: I don’t remember, and neither do you. There was a stretch of time in our early lives, between the day we first held a crayon and the day we learned our ABCs, during which we undeniably drew. Maniacally and methodically. To high praise and harsh consequences. We made marks and shapes and scribbles and proved, possibly for the first time, that we had the power to leave the world different than the way we found it. Then maturity intervened, and most of us decided that other people were better at drawing (or sports, or dancing, or telling jokes) than we were, and that we should therefore stop. Creative expression, we told ourselves, is for people who know what they’re doing. Art requires expensive brushes and paints and canvases, and the people who know how to use those things have a right to make marks on the world; we do not. We may like to doodle, we told ourselves, but we don’t make Art. To that I call bullshit. Are only trained dancers allowed to dance? Professional athletes exclusively allowed to throw a ball or run for the joy of running? Doodling, singing in the shower, stacking sugar cubes into pyramids, and a myriad of other creative activities are evidence that your brain is enjoying its existence. Who are you to deprive it of that joy? One thing saved me from giving up on drawing when I started to doubt my own ability: the not-blank canvas. It is a little-known truth that almost everyone over the age of twelve has been intimidated by the perfect blankness of an empty piece of paper, and by the possibility that what we draw on it might not be an improvement. The same people will willingly black out a tooth or add a mustache to a face in a magazine photo; it’s blankness that fails to inspire action. To avoid this, my brother and I used to scribble on papers and then trade, making a game out of converting each other’s random marks into art. Today, I do the same thing with the sidewalk, using random cracks and streaks as inspiration for creatures I never would have thought to draw anywhere else. For “Chalkhouse: BYOA,” I am hoping to extend the invitation of shared non-blank doodling space to everyone, even and especially those who think of themselves as non-artists. All marks made here are temporary, everything is anonymous unless you choose otherwise, and the tools are childish by design. The only option for preservation is photographs, because alteration and evolution of Chalkhouse drawings is not only inevitable but encouraged. Draw what you want – or draw what you fear. Stick figures, geometric shapes, expressions of inner truth and knock-knock jokes are all equally important to the conversation. Nothing will stick around to haunt or honor you, so you might as well just create whatever makes you happiest in this moment.
David Zinn worked as a freelance commercial artist in Ann Arbor for 25 years, but has recently given over all of his attention to what used to be procrastination: drawing on the sidewalk. David’s anamorphic (3D) street art has been seen by thousands of people via social media and magazine articles all over the world, including features on Reddit, Instagram, the Guardian, and Central China Television. He has also been invited to create original work at festivals in the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Taiwan. Mr. Zinn’s crowdfunded book, “Temporary Preserves,” is gaining popularity online and in local shops, and he spends a large part of his time conducting workshops, talks and demonstrations of his ephemeral approach to art.