Whimsy on the Ground: Pasadena Chalk Festival

Hundreds of artists will don kneepads and make instant art.

What's the very first image you drew on cement?

We'll just assume you have, since a piece of nubby chalk and a square of sidewalk often serve as a person's initial foray into the world of art-makery. You might have drawn a sunflower, if there was one nearby lending inspiration, or a happy face, or a hopscotch grid, or all three in one abstract flurry.

Sidewalk drawing, however, is not just the province of children trying their first hand at portraiture or the business of laying out a game's groundwork. Artists all over the world participate in i madonnari, or street painting, frequently employing chalk which has a rather wonderfully short shelf life.

That shelf life will not be long over Father's Day Weekend at Paseo Colorado when some 600 artists put chalk to pavement. What is long, however? The Pasadena Chalk Festival. This marks its 22nd annual outing, an outing that attracts both professional street painters and those who want to give it a whirl.

Indeed, we did mean "600" back there, an impressive total. But more impressive numbers are to be found at the fest: Over 25,000 sticks of chalk are used and over 100,000 admirers show up to stroll while looking down.

You've got that, right? You've got to look at the ground to get the full aesthetic glory of this art show.

It's free to see, fills up two city blocks, and the subject matter covers all corners. You might see a Mona Lisa, or the artist's own profile, or an abstract, or one of those nifty three-dimensional works that draw a crowd throughout the day.

Or days, rather. As mentioned, this is a Father's Day Weekend happening, so head for all that is good and chalkian on Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15.

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