Chalk It Up To Imagination: Julian Beever


At the request of reader John, today's post features the "Pavement Picasso," a.k.a. Julian Beever. While quite a lot has been written online about the UK artist (including a popular chain e-mail), very little actual information about Beever's life is available. Here's what we do know"¦

1. Julian Beever got his start on pavement creations while he was attending art school; he would make two-dimensional chalk drawings and receive pennies from passers-by. He began experimenting with anamorphic trompe-l'oeil chalk creations after seeing tiles being removed from a street, an effect he tried to recreate on paper.

2. When viewed in a photograph, Beever's creations appear amazingly realistic. Those who walk past them don't get quite the same view, though. The 3D effect works only from one certain angle, the place where Beever positions his tripod-mounted camera. From any other angle, the work is distorted and odd-looking.

3. For Beever, the pavement creation isn't the end result. He explains, "For me, I'm working toward building a photograph as my end result." Thus, much of his creation time is spent running between the camera and the drawing, verifying that each stroke is in just the right place to create the 3D look.

4. While most other artists would feel their time was wasted creating a work that can only truly be viewed from one angle and that is usually destroyed within a few days, Beever doesn't mind, since he sees the Internet as his true medium. Without the Internet, his work would be virtually unknown, but with the Internet, his work never really vanishes and it's viewed by way more people than if it was in a museum.

5. Beever studied at an art school and he can replicate the works of the masters, as well as paint formal portraits. He devotes most of his time and energy to the 3D sidewalk art for which he's known, though, because, "My art is for anybody. It's for people who wouldn't go into an art gallery. It's art for the people.

6. In the almost 20 years Beever has been producing pavement art, he has worked in at least 12 countries. Several of his projects have been chalk advertisements for big brands (Aveeno, Levi's, Sony), while others have been featured on TV shows around the globe. "Meeting Madame Butterfly" (above) was featured on an episode of the show "Concrete Canvas" here in the States.

A (slightly) larger version of "Meeting Madame Butterfly" is available here. Fans should check out Julian Beever's web site and flickr gallery; the Aveeno video, the RAZR2 video, and the video from the WV Gazette; and the BBC's behind-the-scenes photo gallery. Also check out our previous trompe-l'oeil artist, Walter Goodman. Current Exhibitions featuring "Feel Art Again" artists:Picasso & His Collection, feat. Matisse, Renoir, Cézanne, Rousseau, & Picasso (Queensland, Australia: through Sept. 14, 2008)The Glass Experience, feat. Dale Chihuly (Chicago: through Sept. 1, 2008)The Power of Place, feat. Maxfield Parrish (Vermont: through Oct. 26, 2008)Georgia O'Keeffe and the Camera (Portland, ME: through September 7, 2008) 'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. E-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current art exhibitions.