Monday, March 4, 2013

Julian Beever, the “Pavement Picasso”

by Shutong Zhan

I still remember when I first saw Julian Beever’s Eiffel Tower Sand-Sculpture as one of the cool pictures my friend sent to me. I was struck by this first 3D pavement art I have ever seen. Even as today, I am still amazed every time I see it. Last month, as I went through the art collection in Lily library, I came upon the book Pavement Chalk Artist, written by Julian Beever himself. At that moment, I decide I would find more about him for this assignment.  
Eiffel Tower Sand-Sculpture (by Julian Beever)

Julian Beever is an English chalk artist, who is one of the most famous 3D street artists, also known as the “Pavement Picasso”. He grew up in a small town in England, and finished a three-year BA in Fine Art at Leeds Polytechnic after high school. He often said that in his three years at college he did not learn anything that he could not have learned on his own; however, his introduction to pastels was an exception. This is one of the two major events happened in college that lead to his career as a pavement chalk artist. The other event was his experience in street performance, such as juggling and puppet show, where he gained tremendous self-confidence in public performance and found his enjoyment of freedom in the street.

Beever is most famous for his large-scale anamorphic drawing on streets. Anamorphic technique is doing a drawing in a distorted and stretched form, so that the distortion will appear to resolve into the correct shape and form if one looks at the image from one particular viewpoint. Beever was not the person who invented this technique. Anamorphic drawing was seen long before and the most celebrated example of such technique can be the skull in Hans Holbein’s “The Ambassadors” drawn in 1533. An example of Beever’s anamophisis is shown in the two images below (Back Off, Creep!). At first glance (upper image), the work seems like unfinished chalk drawings of oddly morphed animals. But once viewed from the one right angle (lower image), the image magically snaps into shape, showing a giant snail creeping onto a tourist.

Back Off, Creep! (by Julian Beever)
 To achieve a 3D drawing on street, Beever usually begins by sketching out the picture in black and white as it should be seen from the view point – not from above – in a small sketchbook. Once he is on site, he will sets up a camera on a tripod, focusing it down toward the sidewalk. Then he will translate his sketchbook into the pavement, with the help of the camera for position and size. There are certain rules he needs to follow as a 3D artist, such as all vertical lines should eventually converge at a vanishing point below the camera. Using anamorphic technique, Beever was able to create illusion of solid or hollow forms going in to, coming out of, or standing on the ground.

Here is a link of a video showing the time elapse of his pavement art White Water Rafting.
White Water Rafting (by Julian Beever)
Batman And Robin to the Rescue (by Julian Beever)
Push The Boat Out (by Julian Beever)
Treasure Hunting (by Julian Beever)

Beever became worldly well-known entirely due to the internet, when he showed some of his earlier work on a website. Especially his very first anamorphic picture of a swimming pool and a highly realistic drawing of a Coke bottle caused quite a stir. Even though they were drawn in the early 90’s, it was not until the early 2000’s that they were seen by the world on the internet. 
Swimming Pool in the High Street (by Julian Beever)
Coca Cola Bottle (by Julian Beever)
Beever’s personal favorite piece of work is Meeting Mr. Frog, because Mr. Frog had a very good interaction with his daughter, and the piece serves as a family souvenir.
Meeting Mr. Frog (by Julian Beever)

Beever has not always been drawing anamorphic style. When he first started working as a street busker, he did mostly conventional 2D portraits on busy streets in London and Europe. This helped him to gain valuable fundamental techniques using pastels. Applying these techniques, he attempted the more innovative 3D illusions that made him one of the most famous pavement artists. Two examples of his non-3D works are shown below.

An Original Composition of a Christmas Nativity Scene (by Julian Beever)
The sarcophagus of Tutankhamun (by Julian Beever)

Beever enjoyed working on pavement, because being in the street gives the art work a life of its own and captures a moment in time, according to him. He also explained, "My art is for anybody. It's for people who wouldn't go into an art gallery. It's art for the people,"

Beever, J. (2012). Pavement chalk artist : the three-dimensional drawings of Julian Beever. Richmond Hill, Ont., Firefly Books.
Beever, J. (2013). "Julian Beever's Official Website." Retrieved March, 2013, from
     (2010). “Julian Beever Interview – A Moment With The Pavement Picasso.” Retrieved March, 2013, from
Reporter, D. M. (2011). "Crazy paving: Britain's top street artist will cheer you up with his amazing 3D illusions." Retrieved March, 2013, from
SunSeven (2012). "The Incredible Art Of Julian Beever!". from

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