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Modern-day Artist Uses Sidewalk as Canvas


TV report transcript

Since the prehistoric days of cave dwellings, human beings have satisfied their urge to draw. By using a piece of stone to scratch a figure on the cave wall, the earliest artists created the first images. Melinda Smith has the story of a modern-day artist who uses chalk instead of stone...and whose canvas is the sidewalk.

CAROLINE IRONS, SIDEWALK ARTIST

"I've had people yell at me to come and hand me money and say 'you don't have to live this way,' because I'm usually full of pastel and chalk all over my face."

Caroline Irons is used to that kind of reaction from people who pass her by. Every day she sits on the sidewalk in front of the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C. The Corcoran hired her to create replicas of the museum's paintings and perhaps entice people to come inside.

TOURIST

"I think I got it! Hold it! Try again, art student. Great! Thank you!"

For hours at a time, she draws and patiently answers questions from her fleeting audience:

PASSERBY

"How long will these stay for?"

Because her works of art are temporary, she's learned to be philosophical about the effort she puts into them:

CAROLINE IRONS

"It seems like every time I really surprise myself, like 'Wow! I just did that!' It rains(laughs) I'm used to it. It's not so bad."

Caroline calls herself a sidewalk entertainers struggling artist who is as charmed by her audience as it is by her:

CAROLINE IRONS

"I've met people from Croatia today...Italy...Bosnia...Portugal...and that's got to be the best part about this. Just being able to hear so many languages pass by me. It's so...it's just great!"

Here she is copying a painting in the museum by an artist named Benjamin West. It's called "Cupid Stung By A Bee." She admits it doesn't look exactly like the original. After all, Benjamin West had a much larger canvas on which to work.

On the day of our visit, the weather was ideal:

CAROLINE IRONS

"I don't have to bake in the sun. The worst part is when it's really hot and the sidewalk actually burns the bottoms of my legs."

Caroline has continued her sidewalk art as long as the weather has been good. By learning from the masters, she says she has developed a better sense of her own composition and color:

CAROLINE IRONS

"I'm doing what I love and I'm doing exactly what I want to do. There's absolutely no complaints..."

"Oooh! Was that cool?"

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