Ocean Beach Chalk Man Creates Sidewalk Masterpieces

by on July 27, 2020 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

Monday, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran a story by Pam Kragen about Ocean Beach’s greatest sidewalk chalk artist in memory. Erick Toussaint has turned sidewalks into  masterpieces, copying great artists in Cranola chalk and using the concrete that we all walk or bike over as his canvas.

Back in April, to entertain his house-bound children, Erick began creating some chalk art on the sidewalk in front of their house. His kids grew quickly bored – but not his neighbors and not other OBceans who have seen his work. Toussaint told the U-T:

“Whether people are artistic or not, I live in a community that appreciates it. My neighborhood is really chill and supportive.”

Erick Toussaint and his kids, who originally inspired him to do chalk art on OB sidewalks.

When the pandemic hit, Toussaint, was and still is the design director for the San Diego Natural History Museum, which has been closed to the public for most of the past months since mid-March. Creating masterpieces has been a way for him to keep his art skills fresh during the pandemic.

Originally from Minnesota, Toussaint has an undergraduate degree in fine arts from the University of Minnesota and a graduate degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

The U-T reports:

The first piece he created was a self-described “loosey-goosey” interpretation of Leonarda da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” From there, the drawings became increasingly sophisticated. They include Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” John William Waterhouse’s “The Lady of Shalott,” Gustave Courbet’s “The Desperate Man,” Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” and Gustav Klimt’s “Hygieia,” which was looted and destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.

Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”

His latest chalk work, which he finished this past weekend, is William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “The Young Shepherdess,” which is one of the most popular paintings in the San Diego Museum of Art’s collection. …

The chalk drawings take Toussaint anywhere from 45 minutes for Biggie’s portrait to three hours for the Saturnino illustration. Not everything he attempts is successful. His two favorite painters, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, have a painterly technique so specific that he hasn’t yet attempted translating their work in chalk.

His biggest challenge these days? Is maintaining a steady supply of Crayola sidewalk chalk – difficult to find these days with so many children home. To others, a challenge may have been the fact that as soon as the works are complete, they begin to disappear. That saddens the neighbors, but not Toussaint.

“I do love that they’re ephemeral. People bike over them, and a ton of fog will smear them. But I love the fact that they’re not meant to last forever. There’s something cool about that to me.”

“loosey-goosey” interpretation of Leonarda da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”

To see more of Toussaint’s chalk art, visit his instagram; videos of their creation can be seen on his website .

Gustave Courbet’s “The Desperate Man”

Toussaint’s favorite chalk work so far was his color interpretation of a 1917 black-and-white illustration by Mexican painter Saturnino Herrán. He created it for his dad, who is Mexican, and because he feels it’s important to celebrate the work of unheralded artists of color like Herrán.

Neighbors Sandra Hamilton asked Toussaint if he could memorialize in chalk her pit bull, Biggie, who died on July 5 at the age of 11. She texted over a few photos and the next day, he invited her over to see his work in progress. “I walked up there and he captured my dog’s spirit so well I just burst into tears,” Hamilton said.

Gustav Klimt’s “Hygieia,” which was looted and destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. Photo by Judith Starker

“The Young Shepherdess,” an 1885 piece by William-Adolphe Bouguereau – one of the most popular paintings in San Diego Museum of Art’s collection. (Courtesy of Erick Toussaint)

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Avatar S. Plat July 27, 2020 at 8:49 pm

Perhaps covering the work with a clear, plastic-like a dropcloth and holding the edges in place with stones and rocks will help. This will preserve it longer, like the sidewalk artists in Europe do.

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