Chalk Artist Makes His Mark

Paul Bass PhotoA new face popped up above the pool table at BAR Monday afternoon. It’s anyone’s guess how long she lasts there.

Michael Micinilio put her there, in chalk.

Micinilio was paying a monthly call at the Crown Street bar and pizza spot. The chalk-artist and sculptor designs four new pieces in the restaurant, then returns to replace them when they wear out.

“This piece—unless someone runs a pool cue through it—should last a month,” he said, taking a look at the face he’d just drawn Monday afternoon. The other three murals, placed by booths, often last as little as a week; patrons have a way of running their hands through them.

In addition to his monthly BAR run, Micinilio makes a quarterly stop at a liquor store down the street; he is becoming one of the more prolific public artists in town. Following are two appreciations of his work, from the perspectives of a newfound fan as well as of the artist himself

One New Fan’s Take

Carl Roehrich happened upon “The Chalk Artist” at work recently, and sent in photos and the following write-up.

If you have ever been inside The Wine Thief on Crown Street, or if you happen to have ever been inside BAR at any point in the past decade, you’ve seen the work of “The Chalk Artist.”  Not just any chalk artist—The Chalk Artist.

This very talented artist is Michael Micinilio (pictured above). 

The chalk he uses ranges from giant rectangular pieces the size of a chalkboard eraser—which Micinilio refers to as “lecturer chalk”—to smaller, cylindrical pieces of chalk wrapped in paper akin to wrapped crayons, with fancy German or French language words inscribed in calligraphy. The foreign pieces are “quite expensive” and are used for final highlights and to get focal points to “pop.” (Notice the snowman’s fuschia buttons, or the grapes in the basket, which take on a 3-D appearance when viewed from several feet away.)  

The Chalk Artist says that his pieces are best viewed from a distance, where his use of shadow and highlights can give depth and a more rich viewing experience.

Micinilio did not share all of his secrets, but he did convey one interesting tip:  The use of the blackboard to create depth and shadow. Similar to the manner in which the watercolor artist will use the white of the watercolor paper for pure white instead of actual paint, the chalkboard artist will present the blackboard with no chalk in order to achieve the darkest colors, providing depth and shadow.

If you have not experienced these pieces, take a stroll on Crown between The Wine Thief and BAR. I would argue that The Chalk Artist, deserves a ranking along with New Haven artists like Kwadwo Adae, Jeffrey Sells, Michael Angelis, and the now-departed BiP.

The Artist’s Take

Micinilio sent in this information about his work and process:

Inspired by a richly creative childhood and a fertile imagination well steeped in fantasy and science-fiction, much of my artwork features fantastic characters and magical creatures. They appear all at once to be both otherworldly yet strangely familiar; some scary, some simpatico, some somber, some salacious, all of them sublime.

Although I work in a variety of artistic mediums, my primary medium is soft pastels. Sometimes referred to as artists’ chalk, painterly mavens have been using soft pastels for centuries as both a preliminary sketching tool and as a final painting medium. Soft pastels are known for their lush colors, infinite laying capabilities as well as their ability to impart stunning textural effects.

In my own work, the vast majority of my pastel paintings are first explored as pen and ink drawings. Within the pages of my sketchbooks, black and white doodles often run riot, emerging from mere scribblings into detailed, cross-hatched, finished drawings, all in an effort to explore a shape or concept either real or imagined. After deciding upon a drawing for my sketchbook, the selected image serves as a loose blueprint of sorts for a final pastel painting.

Although my current soft pastel work resonates with a colorful, kinetic contemporary vibe, I owe a good portion of my visual style to the study of works from the past, the art of the impressionist and post-impressionist masters. Artists such as Monet, Dégas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and van Gogh frequently blended colors not by physically mixing one color with another but rather by visually blending, layering one color over another. Often using brighter color palettes and sharp, outlined edges and line work, these artists created an entirely new visual style. Standing further back from my work, the myriad webs of crosshatched lines and blocked-in passages of shimmering, “scumbled” color combine to create a unique, cohesive, vibrant work of art.

In addition to other downtown New Haven establishments, if you have ever visited BAR or The Wine Thief, both on Crown Street, you have probably seen my work. I create new soft pastel art on four large, permanently mounted chalk slates at the beginning of every month at BAR. My chalk art for The Wine Thief appears four times a year, on the change of seasons, on a large 4’ x 5’ permanently mounted chalk panel in between the wine racks. I also create a mural sized, 4 x 8’ chalk art piece on a panel which is mounted directly behind the register.

I use the black of the chalkboard to serve as the darkest shadow areas in my chalk art. By working in this fashion, I am able to create some amazingly three dimensional visual effects.

The nature of my chalk art created for downtown establishments is further enhanced by the fact that it has a lifespan. Whether it’s up for one month, three months or a year, it will eventually be erased. While most artist’s and patrons would be appalled to see their artwork wiped away, I welcome the process—making way for something new, fresh and vibrant. The “fleeting” nature of my chalk art adds to it’s appeal; people are curious to see what’s coming next.

Contact Micinilio at (203) 650-8347 or.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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posted by: Charl on February 4, 2014  1:46pm

Absolutely love the featuring of the artists of The Elm City.  Truly, without the street performers, street artists, funky music makers, and boundary and limit pushing artists and artistes, New Haven would not be the city we all love.

The Independent really hits the mark with these articles, and this reader truly appreciates the focus on independent artists and performers.

With the hard-question-asking of the local government structures, the focus on local police officers (putting a friendly face and name before the badge) and this awesome attention to the creative talents which abound in and around New Haven make this media outlet a true gem among lots of turds masquerading as “news outlets” and “local media.”