Published FCAA Newsletter, Nov 2015
Author: Beth Shistle
No matter what the time of year, chalking out in the Florida sun can make your festival experience miserable.....well, uncomfortable to say the least. Spending long hours on black asphalt means that temperatures can be much hotter than forecasted, sapping much needed strength and energy. Here are some thoughts and tips for the newbie chalk artist on staying cool when the weather heats up.
Dress for success. The clothing an artist chooses for the day can have a big impact on comfort level and performance. Wear loose fitting, light colored clothing that will help reflect the sun and allow for ease of movement. Exchange heavy t-shirts for lighter varieties that breathe. Consider investing in a couple of high tech cooling pieces of clothing like those found in sporting goods stores. Wear sandals instead of closed in sneakers and socks. This will allow your feet to breathe and your whole body to feel cooler. Just remember your feet when applying sunscreen! I recommend Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 70 by Neutrogena. It sprays on invisibly with a weightless, clean feel that won't make you more sticky in out in Florida's humidity.
Bring your own shade. Wear a hat. Besides expressing your own unique artistic style, wearing a hat will give you good protection from the sun and heat. I recommend one with a wide brim all the way around, providing lots of shade for the face and back of the neck. The optional adjustable chin strap comes in handy during those windy days and when chalking by the water. My go-to, shade-providing hat I found at a local sporting goods store also came pre-treated with mosquito and gnat repellant as an added bonus.
Besides hats, chalk artist sometimes bring their own shade in forms of tent canopies and umbrellas. Easy-to-pop up canopies found in your favorite department stores can be wonderful. Because of the angle of the sun, however, you may end up shading your neighbor, which they will love you for, while you are still stuck working in the sun. Or you may have to set up over your neighbor's spot to shade your own, for which they might not love you so much. So if you don't want to lug around a big canopy with all your other gear and chalk supplies, umbrellas are another option. Securing them is the trick.
Watch out for that wind! Umbrellas and canopies can suddenly be blown over into your fellow chalkers or adoring fans. One season I equipped myself with a large patio umbrella with a very heavy and cumbersome umbrella weight. Being a light traveler, though, my favorite shade is a small umbrella with a screw on type clamp. It has a silver reflective lining that works very well keeping it cool underneath. The clamp is strong enough to securely fasten it to my rolling chalk cart. The stem is bendable so it can tilt in any direction. With this umbrella I don't have to bother my neighbors too much. I can easily roll my cart around my designated area anywhere I need the shade.
Here are a couple of other tricks that keep artists from becoming overheated in the hot sun. Keep a small cooler filled with ice floating in a couple inches of water nearby. Wear a bandana around your neck. Have an extra one in the ice water. When your bandana gets warm, exchange it out for a chilly damp one. Some chalk artists wear a stretchy turtleneck-like band called a Balaclava that can be moistened with cold water. Balaclavas and Neck Gaiters (like fishermen use) can be used the same as a way as a bandana, except they can be pulled all the way up over your head like a hood to keep the sun off and the head cool. Frogg-toggs makes an all-sport "Chilly Pad" cooling towel that can be placed around the back of the neck to keep cool while being less drippy and longer lasting than bandanas. Any of these items can be kept in the ice-water cooler until ready to use.
The cooler can also serve as a place to put water bottles many festivals provide. Which brings me to my next tip. Drink, drink, drink that water! Stay hydrated! I cannot stress this enough. I found that my energy level stays much higher during the peak of the heat when I take frequent breaks to drink lots of water.
Plan ahead to chalk efficiently. Pace yourself. A little pre-planning can help you save time so you can take a break during the hottest part of the day and still finish your masterpiece. Here are some strategies. Arrive at a festival a little earlier, if allowed, to get more work done in the morning when it is cool. Use techniques to save time. Pouncing or combine pouncing with gridding can make the work go a little faster. Using larger chalk such as Crayola sidewalk chalks or Eternity Chalks as an underlayer or for large spaces can speed progress. Sometimes working the most complicated part of the piece in the morning when feeling fresh will allow for working the larger, easier parts during the hottest part of the day when concentration becomes difficult.
One doesn't always have the choice of where to chalk, whether there is some shade or full sun all day. With a little planning and preparation, staying more comfortable is a possibility, allowing for an enjoyable and successful chalking experience in the hot Florida sun.
PS The most outrageous thing I have ever done to stay cool during a "middle of the summer" chalking gig was to bring an electric fan and a very long extension cord. I really hate the heat!