Families and artists chalk it up to fun

Along with face painting and other activities, the Creative Alliance's arts festival provides participants with a public, yet temporary, place to display their artwork: the sidewalk.

July 31, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Five-year-old Taleah Ahmad pressed her hands onto the white moon that her father had drawn and then rubbed the chalk in circles to make it appear more iridescent and smooth.

Craters weren't necessary. The rocks packed into the pavement took care of that as the family of three worked on a space scene yesterday at the Creative Alliance's Chalk It Up event in Highlandtown.

All types of artists - from professionals to toddlers, solo or in groups - lined up along Baltimore's Eastern Avenue and East Avenue to create fleeting canvases that today will either be driven over, walked on or washed out.

"Dad, don't you think we have enough stars?" Daymon Ahmad, 6, asked from the other side of their small, rectangular space in the middle of East Avenue, which was blocked off for the event.

"No, we need a lot more," Ismail Ahmad replied as he worked on a green planet with brilliant rings. "There are a lot more stars in space than that."

"Dad, can I draw a tornado in space?" Daymon asked next, clearly unsatisfied with his role as star-drawer.

"No, you know there aren't any tornadoes in space," his dad answered while outlining the rings.

Daymon sat back on his feet and watched Taleah fill in the rings with bright pink, blue and yellow chalk. Her hands, however, were still ghost-like from rubbing the moon.

"Daddy, I've seen this planet in the sky," Taleah said.

Her father said that was unlikely, but smiled at his daughter's vivid imagination.

Next to the Ahmad family, Francis Lawrence, 36, of Middle River worked on an abstract piece that depicted the merging of his family once he marries his fiancee.

Lawrence wrote the two families' surnames in graffiti-style lettering - "Bolt," "Lawrence" and "Knight" - amid snaking, curvy and asymmetrical shapes that seemed to start where another one ended or coil inside them. Lawrence titled the work Blends.

Lawrence's daughter, Diane, 10, designed the rectangle next to her dad's, but once she heard that face painting was being offered on the second floor of the old Patterson Theater, she abandoned the work, her dad said.

Diane's face ended up resembling that of Animal from the Muppet Show, who was displayed on her shirt. The face painter colored Diane's nose red, outlined her eyes in white, extended large, gaping, rectangular teeth from her lower lip and covered her face in wisps of red, yellow and orange fur.

Afterward, Diane stood at a banquet-style table making a puppet out of a brown paper lunch bag, sprinkling glitter on its pink striped shirt.

"Two brothers started out making Kermit the Frogs, but ended up with Oscar the Grouch and Luke Skywalker," said Trish Jefferson of Baltimore, who volunteered to help at the puppet-making booth. "He used orange tissue paper as a cloak. If you used your imagination, you could see it."

Johanna Guilfoyle's street art was far more stark, using eye-popping Andy Warhol-like colors and sweeping strokes reminiscent of Edvard Munch's The Scream. She drew a girl's face with straight, red, chin-length hair, bright pink lips, large, dark eyes and a long nose on the Eastern Avenue sidewalk.

Strangers walking past Johanna commented, "That's good," or "Best one yet."

"This is good for her ego," Johanna's mom, Sherrie Guilfoyle of Lauraville, said.

Dressed in a quirky collage of clothes - an MTV Punk'd T-shirt, black-rimmed glasses and hemp necklaces - Johanna, 11, looks like an artist. She just finished a two-week camp on "Creating Art Inspired by Nature" at the Maryland Institute College of Art and has taken private art lessons for four years.

"I'm jealous of her," her mom said. "She's doing stuff that I could only imagine."

As Johanna filled in her portrait's background in bright blue and green, her 2-year-old brother, John, sat on the ground and scribbled with yellow, blue, black and green pastels.

By the time Johanna was finished, John's legs, shoes and jean shorts looked more like a canvas than the ground did.

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