When creativity runs in the family, it can further accelerate the growth and talent of the next generation. Jennifer Chaparro had been an artist for most of her life and started getting involved with street art as a way to bond with her daughter. After seeing the demand for more works, this activity soon evolved into something much bigger, her own self-made business.
Along with having several engineers in her family, Chaparro’s grandfather was a sculptor and art professor, so she received a lot of support for her creative desires: “I think I have a unique mix, where I have the ability to be creative, but also to think logically and methodically”. She believes this is a reason for her success in designing and bringing to life 3D street art, because it requires both artistic skill as well as organization and management. When she was younger, she drew and painted a lot. Later in life, she received a degree in Design from UCLA. Unlike graphic design, which is typically limited in scope, Chaparro had taken classes across a wide array of mediums including video, graphic design, landscape design, ceramics, fiber, clothing design and more.
She first discovered street art back in 1999 after moving to South Florida. There, she attended the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. Excited by what she had seen, Chaparro convinced her then 14 year-old daughter to try it out with her. At the time, traditional chalk art was the most prominent, but after a couple years some artists began to experiment with 3D anamorphic illusions in their work, and the demand for these pieces grew. Chaparro was able to figure out how they worked on her own by talking to other artists and self-experimenting: “My graphic design background came in very helpful. I also made a business and marketing plan and started my own business doing 3D interactive street art”.
She had decided to go all in with 3D street art after seeing and recognizing the demand for it. After figuring out how to get the designs down, she participated in numerous festivals so that she’d have a portfolio to show in order to obtain more jobs: “The festivals usually cover all your expenses and give you the flexibility to do your own art”. She’s been fortunate enough to travel to places she’s never been through her artistry, and has been able to pay the bills through projects for larger corporations and advertising agencies. Her first paid chalk piece was done in 2007 over in Naples, Florida. Made for the opening of a new housing development, she brought (and paid) her two daughters to help create a reproduction of a photo of birds in a body of water. Her first 3D illusionary art piece was a 3D car done for the Hardrock Casino in Fort Lauderdale to celebrate the opening of a new parking garage.
When it comes to the design process for each of her works, she says some don’t take very much time, only two to three hours. Others, however, can take longer due to the back and forth with the client, or working out the scale of the artwork. Working on each piece can vary in duration: “Onsite, the pieces can take anywhere from 4 hours for a small 3D (6′ x 10′) or up to 3 days, and sometimes with 2-3 artists for larger pieces (20′ x 40′)”. She usually works alone, but often has help with the layout from her partner, Craig Houdeshell: “Layout can take 1-3 hours, which can include putting down a grid or template with chalk, and then either painting or chalking in the design”. On the more technical side of things, Chaparro uses a PC with CorelDRAW, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator to put together her layouts, in addition to some drawing on a Samsung tablet: “I usually start by searching photos on the internet, or my own photos, then I might work on it with Photoshop and edit it, and then I might draw on it with the tablet. Then, I bring it into CorelDRAW and skew it and grid it. I print it out on paper, then laminate it, so it stays clean while I’m working with it in the field”.
Her toughest piece to date was done at a festival in Kansas City. The organizers wouldn’t allow her to use washable tempera on a slick concrete outdoor rink, and chalk wouldn’t be able to stick to it without some kind of coating. Chaparro and some of the other artists there had to come up with a way to coat the surface for the large 3D pieces to look the way they were intended. With some quick thinking, they “ended up with a mixture of 7UP, salt, and a little flour. It was cheap, almost clear, and would wash off and not stain”. The most challenging part of creating her works? The weather, the surface upon which she’s working on, and trying to create art that continues to get better and better: “The weather is a huge variable that can change at any moment. The surface is different at every location and I usually do not get a chance to test on the surface before I get there, so I come prepared for anything”.
Chaparro continues to find inspiration for her artwork by bouncing ideas off her partner, as well as always looking for inspiration in other places, such as her personal library of images to pull from when she gets stuck. When asked why she decided to share her art with the world, she explained, “I actually started doing this as something to do with my daughter, but I soon realized what a great thing this was for kids who are artistic. Art kids don’t get a lot of chances to get positive feedback, and these festivals provide that. It’s like the applause that actors get, and they get it for two days straight”. The street art community is clearly a very wholesome atmosphere where the artform is celebrated and admired by all who attend. Chaparro says seeing other interact with her completed works at these festivals is the best part: “Sometimes I get tired and feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over, but then someone will see it and it will be their first time seeing a 3D piece, and it makes it all the better!”. The constant flow of people at these events saying positive things about the art is similar to an actor on stage getting applause, she says: “It is somewhat addictive”.
Art clearly holds a special place in Chaparro’s heart. She was encouraged early, having received lots of positive feedback on her work, and believes it’s a way of self-expression, “but the street painting and mural art is all about bringing art to the masses. These festivals are like big open air museums. People get to see and experience art that they might never see because they won’t go to a museum, and I find that really exciting”. While she normally works alone, she enjoys the teaching aspect of the medium and sharing her love for the artform with the public. When asked what advice she’d give to those who may be interested in art/drawing, she had a simple answer: “Do it! I tell people all the time, you won’t know if you are good at something unless you try it…You have to put yourself out there, but it’s worth it. How sad would it be if you had this (or any) talent and never discovered it?”. Her other piece of advice? “Keep practicing. I’ve done pieces that weren’t my best, but I keep working at it. I practice sketching, I keep learning new techniques, I watch what other artists are doing, and learn from them. It’s an ongoing process, and that’s what makes it so great”.
It just goes to show no matter how experienced you are, you should never stop learning and always strive to be better. No one is an expert on anything, they just keep at it and improve more with every day. To learn more about Jennifer Chaparro and to see more of her incredible artwork, visit her designer page and her personal website at http://www.amazingstreetpainting.com/.
All photos were taken by
Jennifer Chaparro or her partner, Craig C. Houdeshell of Blinking Eye
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