Sarasota Chalk Festival 2012 – Sarasota, Florida

A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of attending the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Sarasota, Florida. This was actually a personal trip and I wasn’t on assignment. However, it is so engrained in my little brain I still wanted to capture some “action” photos as well as some of the finished pieces. I had never been to this event before so I wasn’t sure what I was going to run into. I had seen some of the finished work from the previous year from another photographer friend so I wanted to give it a go this year.

I found a parking place and gathered my gear. I wasn’t really sure what the set up was going to be and how many folks attend this event so I wanted to travel light. I fitted my Nikon with a 18mm-200mm lens, those of you who are regular readers know this is one of my go to lenses as it has a vast focal range and is light. I also took some cards and a speedlight. As I have mentioned before, I use my flash during the day than at night. It was early in the afternoon so the light was harsh and I needed the flash to help balance out the contrast range. I was off to the festival. I was following folks who seemed like they new where there were going. Come to find out, they were folks going to church. I asked where the chalk festival was. The answer I got mostly was “I dunno.”. OK, after finding the main drag in downtown Sarasota, I was told that it was held at Burns Court. Not familiar with the area, after some walking I found it. I just walked a half an hour through the streets of downtown. If any of you have seen me lately, I guess this is a good thing, as Martha would say. I’ve heard of exercise, but never really experienced it. I think it’s a fad and will go away eventually!

I went through the “donation” tent where they gave you a program and asked for a recommended donation. I put the $5 recommended donation in the box and I was on my way. It was then I realized that this was going to be a challenge as everyone in the city had the same idea. There were hordes of people everywhere. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get any worthwhile photos. I decided to try to stay out of the main area and see if anyone was creating drawings on the side streets. I was in luck. No people and there were a few very talented folks creating drawings from photos that they had brought. Click on the thumbnails to see the full size version.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 lady in blueThe Lady In Blue – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This was the first artist that I came across. As you can see, the light is coming from behind her. I took one and what the camera produced was nothing short of horrible. It was time to bring out the speedlight and see if I could actually get some detail in this artist’s body. I adjusted my flash power as to bring out some of the details in the shadows, but not nuke this poor person to the moon. As an added bonus, she is holding the print of the drawing at the right angle so I could frame this up in the camera. As you can see, I was able to get the print and the finished artwork in the viewfinder. Total time getting the shot, less than five minutes, this one is in the can as I’m off to see what else I can come up with.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 human cannon ballHuman Cannonball – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This was a finished piece and I was very impressed by all of the detail in the artwork. I didn’t realize that chalk would allow artists that much control. As you can tell, I can’t run a pencil or paintbrush. At the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida they have a full-scale version of this cannon truck. It’s quite impressive.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 artist painting a straight lineStraight White Line – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I bustled my way through the crowd and I saw an artist creating a straight line. I had wondered how you create sharp line with chalk. From what I gathered, he is painting with powder and using a ruler to help keep the media going where he wants. Pretty cool trick.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 artist shading in the shadeShading In The Shade – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

 Across the main area, there was a woman who was in the process of shading and blending the chalk. Again I was amazed on how much detail these folks can create. This was an easy shot exposure wise, both her and the artwork are in the shade so this allowed a nice even exposure.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 artist painting fireFire Painting – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This time I was shooting from the opposite side of the street and this artist was painting fire. I’m a guy, anything that involves fire or blowing stuff up, grabs my interest. Since he was in full sun and his face was in shadow, I employed my speedlight again to help even out the contrast range.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 mirror imageMirror Image – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This was really a creative idea. This artist used a rolled up piece of reflective material to show the final artwork. Drawing just a straight piece of artwork would be bad enough for me, but to keep track of the distortions in the mirror to make sure that it comes out correctly? Not me!

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 artist filling in the linesFilling In The Lines – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This artist was starting a new section of his masterpiece. I’m not sure how these artists lay on the ground for hours at a time. I guess you need really comfy pillows or something to lie on.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 artist creating the circusCreating A Circus – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

The theme of the festival was the circus. As seen in this artist artwork, he is working on the field that is out in front of the circus tent. (Also, he brought a pillow, smart guy!)

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 circus maskCircus Mask – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This is another finished piece. The colors and detail are quite amazing. I was in luck as this was in the shade and I was able to get a nice even exposure and even keep the detail in the clown’s face.

 spencer pullen photography sarasota chalk festival 2012 man surrounded by womanMan Surrounded By Woman – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

It looks as if the artist is putting the finishing touches on this piece. This photo also shows sense of scale to illustrate how big these pieces of artwork really are.

There you have it, another photo adventure. It’s really amazing what these people can do with some chalk. The last time I drew with chalk on the street, it had something to do with boxes and numbers. You were supposed to throw a rock in a square and hop up and down like a person who licked too many stamps to retrieve the rock. Since that day, I have retired by box of chalk to the closet. If you aren’t sure what will be happening at an event, take the your lens with the biggest range of focal length and a flash if you have one. These items will allow you to create some photos even in the worst time of day and light. At the end of the day, what is the most important thing to remember? WHERE TO PARK!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Beautiful colors. Interesting subject to photograph.

  2. Spencer, I enjoyed your commentary as much as the photographs. Thank you for sharing your Chalk Festival experience. Looking forward to the next blog entry!

  3. Very interesting pics and great tips. Thanks!

  4. Has a class been set up at Six Mile yet? I’ve been waiting to hear.

  5. Hi Spencer,
    Enjoyed your photos and commentary. Looking forward to seeing some of the equipment you use at our next class outing. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. These look great Spence!

  7. WOW, the colors! People look like you can touch them. Great photos.

  8. I appreciated your commentary as well as your photos. I have attended the event twice and found the crowds overwhelming. The work, however, is Amazing.


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