Arts and Entertainment

Chalk art tradition continues at the Bellevue arts festivals

Street painter and chalk artist Gabrielle Abbott works on a piece outside the Bellevue Arts Museum during its annual ARTSfair July 28. - Celeste Gracey | Bellevue Reporter
Street painter and chalk artist Gabrielle Abbott works on a piece outside the Bellevue Arts Museum during its annual ARTSfair July 28.
— image credit: Celeste Gracey | Bellevue Reporter

The artist’s face is pensive as she studies a Picasso on a print out.  Her fingers, caked in color, slide across the concrete. With each stroke of chalk, she transfers his brilliant colors to the sidewalk outside the Bellevue Arts Museum.

While hundreds pass Gabrielle Abbott by the hour, none are more fascinated than the children, who often try to join the game.

“I think it makes fine art accessible to everyone,” Abbott says.

To complete the experience, a bucket of chalk greeted families just a few feet away. Sixth Street belonged to their creativity through the ARTSfair July 27-28.

While chalk art, or street painting, dates back to the Renaissance, there are only two known street painters in Northwest. Abbott was invited to Bellevue for the first time this year, when long-standing fair artist, Brian Major, made another commitment.

She first encountered the art form in Florence, Italy, where she studied classical art for three years. She joined a guild and gave it a try.

Although she cried when she had to leave her first painting, she’s grown fond of the idea that beauty is temporary. Street painting is her form of a Buddhist Mandala.

When she arrived home at Seattle, she decided to test the city. She set up camp at the Westlake Center park.

“I just wanted to see how it’d go over,” she said.

As expected, a police officer told her she really wasn’t allowed to paint the street in chalk, but it was so cool he wasn’t going to stop her. He did, however, ask her to call the park manager and ask for a commission.

She’s returned each year since, now paid for her work.

Unlike the pastel colors of sidewalk chalk, she uses artist chalk and powdered pigment mixed with water, which can be applied with a brush.

“It’s not fussy or refined,” she said. “It’s very tactile.”

Gabrielle Abbott works on a chalk art piece at the Bellevue Arts Museum's ARTSfair July 28. She reproduced a painting by Picasso.


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