Tracy Lee Stum found voice through street painting. She travels all year round to paint eloquent stories on streets around the world. An excerpt of an interview with Tracy Lee Stum published in Lucky Compiler, sharing anecdotes of her experiences, inspirations and passions.
Tracy holds a Guinness World Record for the largest street painting by an individual artist since 2006. As a ‘Madonnaro’ Tracy uses the grey asphalt as her canvas drawing 3d images with colourful chalks. Born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Tracy got attracted to painting very early in her life. She studied privately as a child and completed a 4 year Bachelor’s degree program at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She continued her studies in naturalism at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy where she first experienced street painting. However, it is her visit to Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival in Santa Barbara, California in 1997 that enthused and introduced her to the world of street painting as an artist. In her own words, ‘I have surely found a suitable medium to express my visions of mind and heart.’
Street painting is a form of art that has very limited lifetime. The hours that are spent in painting are easily washed away. For appreciation of the audience it could best be preserved in a photograph. That it cannot be preserved in its original form lessen its impact in any way?
Actually, I feel that the ephemeral nature of the work increases its impact. The fact that it’s only temporary and an ‘experience’ brings an awareness that the lifespan of an item, idea, art work, even a person, etc. is not what’s important – it’s the present essence of that idea, item, art work or person, etc. that should be experienced. In that the painting washes away, that teaches a non-attachment awareness. These paintings are like a musical performance – you hear it and enjoy it, then it’s gone. But hopefully it has changed you in some small or large way – it’s the same thing with this art form. I dare say streetpainting & the inherent non-attachment teaches a very spiritual approach to life.
People, places and / or incidents that helped shape your views and influenced your art.
Certainly the Baroque and Renaissance masters who perfected anamorphic projection were hugely influential. Experiencing those works in Italy / Europe really put me on my creative journey. Santa Barbara, California was where it all started for me, by accident, when I stumbled onto the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival in 1997 – truly it changed my life. Participating in public street art festivals was pivotal – it opened me up to working in the public forum, which is unique for a visual artist. The support and encouragement I received from festival directors, fellow artists and fans confirmed to me that I was on path.
Street painting cannot be exhibited and / or sold in galleries. Apart from few opportunities of ambient advertising the chances of earning could be miniscule for an artist. How an artist can do justice to his work and still earn a living out this? Could this factor ever be a problem for a youngster willing to take up this art form?
Certainly practicing one’s art and the need to make a living are unrelated – it’s up to the individual to decide if and how they want to marry the two. I’ve never believed that an artist must be ‘poor and starving’, as the adage goes, so even as a young college graduate, I looked for the means in which I could pursue my creative investigations while earning a living. The thought of being a ‘something’ by day, painter by night did not sit well with me so I searched for ways to incorporate the two. Fast forward to my life now, I make a very good living with my work in that I am commissioned by all manners of organizations to support their initiatives with my drawings – arts festivals, private events, advertising, PR, etc. I do enjoy the collaborative approach so this works well for me.
I don’t think earning a living should give pause to a young artist wishing to pursue this type of practice. If it is heartfelt, I’ve noticed that the elements needed to support that success will present themselves. I started making street art as a hobby but due to being in the right place at the right time, it became my profession, without any ‘planning’ on my part. There is a terrific little parable that I love which sums up my experience: ‘sometimes when searching for the lost coin in the bushes, one may find the ruby.’ I’ve seen this happen for some of my workshop students as well – they take the initiative to ‘create’ something new, which then evolves into a supportive creative endeavor that others benefit from. That is a huge blessing for me in that I could help empower them to ‘pay it forward’. I encourage young people to pursue their passion, whatever it might be – there is a reason that passion exists and I believe that must be honored.
Image Source: The artist Tracy Lee Stum