A trip through any town in Israel in recent years, by any mode of transport, will have revealed an increasing use of graffiti to convey all manner of messages, be they of a political, social, romantic or humorous nature.

That, presumably, lay the groundwork for the advent of the country’s first International 3D Pavement Drawing Festival, which will take place on Bialik Street in Ramat Hasharon between July 11 and July 13. The event will be graced with the presence of President Shimon Peres and Ramat Hasharon Mayor Itzik Rochberger.

Over the three days, dozens of artists from Israel and abroad will take part in an urban art project in downtown Ramat Hasharon, creating artwork based on 3D techniques. The event is part of the 90th anniversary celebrations of Ramat Hasharon. Besides the street-level creative activities, there will be musical entertainment provided by Rita, the Ramat Hasharon Orchestra and the Umma Gumma rock band, as well as various groups from the local Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. The festival is not only designed to put our best outdoor art on display but also to nurture local efforts through workshops given by top artists from abroad.

One of the latter is California based Melanie Stimmell Van Latum, who partly earns her keep as creative director of the international We Talk Chalk collective, which incorporates artists from the United States, Ukraine, Holland and Italy, including US-based Israeli artist Anat Ronen, and combines 3D painting and multimedia.

Van Latum is an experienced 3D artist and animator and spent eight years on the animation team of award-winning TV series South Park. Naturally, she adopts a different approach to her street art work.

“Everything at South Park was done by computer; absolutely nothing was done by hand,” she says. “With 3D street painting, some of it is run through a computer, so maybe you can tweak it a little bit for the visual effect, but most of it is done by hand. You start with the sketches, and then you draw it out by hand on the cement, and then you paint it.” Another strong contrast with the process of creating computerized animation is the fact that bystanders can also get in on the act.

“There’s an interactive side to street painting. People are able to actually stand inside the art work or beside it and take photos,” she says.

There is also some interpersonal communication involved.

“People also interact with the artists, as they work on a creation over the course of a few days.

People can come back and ask more questions or see the art work evolve,” she explains.

That provides the lay person with intriguing insight into the creative process.

“It allows members of the public to find out how something like this is made, right from the very beginning to the very end,” says Van Latum.

That’s an entirely different mindset and creative space compared with Van Latum’s cloistered environment on South Park. She says she was happy to get out and about and to feed off different energies.

“I loved it from the start because of that interaction aspect. There were about 75 of us working on South Park, so there was some interaction among us, but it just wasn’t the same as being outdoors and having people ask you questions like ‘Why are you painting this picture?’ ‘What are you painting?’ South Park was about creating something for somebody else,” she says.

There is also a very different temporal aspect to the two areas of creativity. While Van Latum’s contributions to the TV series have been viewed by the public the world over time and time again, her outdoor work has a very brief lifespan.

“Most of the works are alive only during the time we paint them,” she explains. “A lot of the work we did in the US are completely temporary and are washed off the day we finish them. Most exist for maybe 36 hours or 48 hours.”

That is not always the case with work produced outside the US.

“I have done art in Italy, in front of a church, which is left there. It is such a well-respected art form there,” she says.

Apparently, we hold street painting in similarly high regard.

“They are not going to wash away our paintings in Israel,” says Van Latum. “That will enable people who couldn’t be there during the festival to go along later to have a look, and appreciate the work.”

But the first time her street art efforts were erased was quite traumatic for Van Latum.

“I was horrified,” she recalls.

“But you know, it’s like what I say at workshops – kids build sand castles and they know the tide is going to come in and wash them away. So I’m fine with that now.”

There are also personal growth benefits to be had.

“It helps to develop a sense of the importance of the here and now, to be in the moment,” Van Latum observes.

The International 3D Pavement Drawing Festival takes place from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 11 and 12, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 13. For more information: www.ramat-hasharon.muni.il

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