ANN ARBOUR, Mich. – With over 2.7 million followers on TikTok, David Zinn is known the world over for turning drab sidewalks, tree stumps and bricks into whimsical works of chalk art.
Zinn’s characters, who range from adorable animals to fantastical beings, lurk around Ann Arbor and come out to visit when the weather is nice. Unfortunately, the temporary creatures don’t last long.
However, fans will soon be able to welcome Zinn’s creations – whom he calls friends – home with the March 15 release of his new book, “Chance Encounters: Temporary Street Art.”
Flipping through the pages, Ann Arborites might recognize some of the quirky three-dimensional friends, like pigasus Philomena, the wide-eyed Sluggo, Nadine the mouse, and mustachioed Leonard.
The book also contains an introduction by Zinn, which he called “the most comprehensive explanation on paper yet” of why he draws, why he doesn’t plan to stop, why Ann Arbor and how doodling led him to chalk art.
the Tree Town Chalk Artist often find themselves squatting on the sidewalks of the city center, bringing new creations to life. With many people at home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zinn was able to tap into previously unavailable spaces, like a perfectly smooth patch of concrete in front of a parking meter.
“I had never drawn on it because it was set up directly in front of a machine for people to pay for parking,” he said.
It’s important for Zinn not to obstruct those who come and go when he draws.
“So I never drew in that spot because it was guaranteed that in the time it would take me to draw something, a lot of people would have to be standing in exactly that spot to pay for parking.”
It was “a strange and glorious moment” when he realized no one was there and the place was waiting to be part of a chalk drawing.
The pandemic also showed Zinn something else: his belief that, even if he were doomed to never leave his own street, there would be no shortage of drawing spaces. In fact, for an entire year he barely had to leave his own pad to find good spots, he said.
Just as he will never run out of new places to draw, he doesn’t think he will ever run out of imaginative creatures. Making new friends is easy for Zinn and he rarely draws the same thing more than once. His art is improvisational and he works with what’s already in place, whether it’s a piece of gum or a spec on the sidewalk.
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Zinn is well-known locally and globally, but TikTok gave the Michigan artist an even bigger following, which he says was a bit daunting. Despite being used to his fanbases on Facebook and Instagram, the chalk art account gained more than 2.5 million followers between July 2021 and last February.
Read: A Conversation with Ann Arbor Chalk Creature Creator David Zinn
He joined the video platform after one of his top advisers, a teenager from his neighborhood, suggested him. But the sudden explosion in popularity and intense amplification of his art is something new.
However, he said drawing and making art is always a therapeutic experience, which prompted the artist to use chalk in the first place.
A commercial illustrator, Zinn said getting out and drawing with chalk started out as a good excuse to brainstorm client ideas while continuing to work.
It also gave him the opportunity to see how his subjects interacted with the real world. Zinn joked that sometimes, if things go well with a design, passersby can catch him talking to his new designs as he figures out what they want to look like.
He says his creatures are his friends and he likes them to come and go.
“People think the sad part [of using chalk] is that you can’t take it home when in fact the best part, ironically, is that you can’t take it home. Because if you could take it home, you’d want to make sure it was good enough to take it home, and you’d wonder what you would do with it after you brought it home,” Zinn said. .
His short-lived characters also appear elsewhere. He’s seen pictures of his creatures popping up miles and miles away in other states and even other countries.
Some Ann Arborites actively go out to find his work, but the artist said his favorite type of discovery was accidental. He loves when people come across his art and have the chance to reflect on the “how” and “why” of his creations.
Those who want to reflect at home can pick up a copy of her new book at a 1 p.m. book launch on Saturday, March 19 at Nicola’s Books.
“Chance Encounters: Temporary Street Art” will be available wherever the books are sold.
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