3 Questions for Chalk Artist Julie Jilek

Part of the art is watching it wash away.

MAYBE YOU’VE SEEN Julie Jilek before, sitting comfortably on the sidewalk, headphones around her ears and chalk dust coating her hands. A professional chalk artist, Jilek can often be found outside in the summer months, working nearly around the clock for days at a time to finish colorful compositions that might well be washed away by sudden rainstorms.

You also draw and paint. What’s different about working with chalk?

The biggest difference is the unpredictable nature with street art. The surface, the environment, the weather, the public interaction. You show up, assess your variables and do the best with what you have to work with.



Many times, the elements you think will pose a problem end up working in your favor. For example: a large crack down the center of your square. Is it nerve-wracking to work in front of large crowds of people? Or exciting?

You are forced to make very quick and bold decisions, which is part of the thrill. I’ve only had one event where my piece was an absolute bust and I was quite relieved knowing that the image would be washed away shortly. I most certainly felt the pressure that weekend. Hopefully that was my one and only major wash!

Does it bother you to see rain wash away your work?

The destruction is just as important as the construction. It’s a good lesson in non-attachment. We get to share something with the public – without making too much of a physical impact on the environment.

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.