Art & Culture, Stories from the Street

In Conversation with Tracy Lee

Who would have thought that simple chalks could create beautiful magic! Bakul Foundation in collaboration with US Consulate, Hyderabad had organized a workshop with children and youth on 3D Street Art, on the 6th of  February where Tracy Lee Stum, Guinness Book Record Holder street.

By Feb 8,2012  1

Who would have thought that simple chalks could create beautiful magic! Bakul Foundation in collaboration with US Consulate, Hyderabad had organized a workshop with children and youth on 3D Street Art, on the 6th of  February where Tracy Lee Stum, Guinness Book Record Holder street artist, dazzled everyone with her spectacular art form.  She is internationally recognized for her interactive 3D Street Art made out of chalks.

The theme of the workshop was global warming and world peace where spectators got to see the imagination of the budding artists from different art schools. The ideas and approaches were new and fresh which not only enthralled the spectators but also forced them to contemplate about the deteriorating conditions of the planet.

The workshop begun at 9:00AM with a group of fifteen students from St. Xaviers High, Mother’s Public School and Capital High sent by their schools to learn a new art form. Tracy then proceeded to explain them the anamorphic technique of projection which forms the very basis of this art. Though it was a very difficult task, the students created wonders at their first go! While the students worked on their own projects, taking Tracy’s help every now and then, the broken scooter graffiti team got to help Tracy with the main installation of the day; a crevice on the surface of the earth with a rope bridge, with lava spewing all around.

Scores of people turned up to witness and appreciate this unusual art form.

Here’s what she had to say to in an exclusive tete`-a-tete’ with us.

TBS- Tell us something about your childhood and how your fascination with this art form begun?
Tracy- I was born into a family of farmers and there are no professional artists in my family. But I was drawing by the time I was 3yrs old. I always wanted to draw and my mum was great about keeping me supplied with whatever I wanted and put me into private art classes and I ended up studying painting and art in college.
Street Painting came much later in 1998 when I was working as a professional muralist in California and I happened to attend an Art Festival in Santa Barbara and saw street painting for the first time. I couldn’t believe the amazing quality, the vision the talent going into the work there and so I decided to do this.

TBS- What inspired to take this up?
Tracy- That was because it was so unusual. I had never seen people drawing on such a large scale and mass like that. I love to draw with pastels and I realized that I’d never tried anything like this. I drew a painting and realized this is my tribe.

TBS- Your work is not only an art but it also has a lot of science in it. How do manage to create such magic out of simple chalk?
Tracy- The design of the piece is the real key if you want to make the illusion work properly. So the sketching, the conceptualizing and the preparatory work are very important. So by the time you get down to the painting, you just start drawing. It’s training yourself to trust the process and not get carried away by what’s in your head.

TBS- How difficult is this sort of an art?
Tracy- Street painting is not so difficult other than the fact that it’s very physical. You have to sit outside on the pavement for 2-3days in a row under the hot sun, working for 8-9hrs a day. That’s difficult.

TBS- You put in so much labor for something which is ephemeral, so short-lived. How do you feel when you work fades away so quickly?
Tracy- Well, you know I try to tell people that it’s more about performance art rather than visual art. I equate it to going to a concert and hearing music. There’s a lot of effort that goes into that, lot of people practicing and then goes the performance which indeed is ephemeral. So it is the same with this art form too. People can come in and see the process from the very beginning till it’s complete. I don’t really get attached to my art.

TBS- Can you take us through the journey of making the largest Chalk painting by an individual that earned you the world record?
Tracy- It was a unique experience. I was commissioned by a company called Sony Entertainment to come and draw this painting as a promotional device for one of their film launches (The Da Vinci Code). They wanted me to do the Last Supper and had asked me about how big I could do it. I was like, yeah! ‘could fill up the whole floor and then the PR agency came down and said, I think we can get you a Guinness world record for that, you wanna try? I said, sure! The project took me about three and a half weeks to make and the road to the world record was very organic and spontaneous at the same time.

TBS- We know about your largest project. Which one has been the most difficult one?
Tracy- I wouldn’t say this one to be difficult but when I saw a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the San Francisco area back in 2005, there was a team of artists working on it. At a given time, 35 people were on the job. Managing so many creative and dynamic people, their ideas, keeping them focused in their areas was a challenge in its way. On the top of that, we were running on a deadline and we took volunteered help from the public to complete it on time.

TBS- You have worked with college students in your trip to India and today you worked with kids under the age of 15. How different were the two experiences?
Tracy- You know, I don’t really see much difference in the levels of enthusiasm. It’s just that the younger students are oblivious to the complex theories that go behind the making of a 3D projection so I had to temper that a little bit for them. But then again, they are really eager to learn. You give them the basic principles, they can go with it.

TBS- You’ve been consulted in developing the concept of Fringe Street Art festivals. Because it is a very alien concept in India, our readers would love to know more about it.
Tracy- It’s a very popular thing in the US, Mexico, Europe and Australia. Every Community in the US has it every then and now. These events are basically fund-raisers for Non-profit organizations. Artists come in and donate their time, the local visitors provide the funding and it’s a great way for the community to get together. It would be nice to have something like that here.

TBS- Do you think India is ready for something like this?
Tracy- I think so. I think maybe if there is an organization that supports such activities which could ideally be held on weekends. Given the popularity here, I think we are ready to have such artistic outlets here.

TBS- Do share with us an experience during work that you are never going to forget.
Tracy- The bull walking across..(Laughs)
I had some crazy experiences in India with wildlife getting on the artwork. I had a snake across my painting once and that was interesting. You don’t come across that in the US.

TBS- The ‘Jugalbandee’ at Puri that you participated in this week is not something that you usually do. How was the experience?
Tracy- Oh, it was terrific. This is the first time I did anything outside street painting in collaboration with another type of art form. So, it was unique concept and Sudarshan’s work was fantastic. When I got there, he had done this amazing sculpture of dolphins and I was like, Oh my gosh! I gotta step up. I had never worked by the beach before. And that was definitely a treat because the weather was beautiful. It was fun working there. Great!

Rapid Fire
Q. Desert of Jaipur or Sea-beach of Puri?
Sea-beach of Puri for sure

Q. IIT students last week or Bakul kids today?
 Bakul kids!

Q. Workshops or work per se?
I’ll go for both.

Q. Hollywood or Bollywood?
I’m loyal to the old Hollywood. But I like Bollywood too.

Q. Any message for budding talents reading this?
Follow your heart, persevere and paint with your imagination.


Global Awakening 2012


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  • Punyaslok Rath

    wish i had ben der to witnes sumthng dis amazing…..grt interview…

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