A Denverite’s 3D art jumps off the sidewalk at this month’s Denver Chalk Art Festival

As a child, Chris Carlson did not want to participate in the circus. He wanted to become a stockbroker. By the time the Denverite graduated with a business degree in 2008, however, he was no longer so optimistic about the markets. Looking for direction, Carlson came across a photo of three-dimensional chalk art, a technique that uses precise geometry to make flat images pop off the sidewalk when viewed from a specific position. “I was fascinated by the illusion,” says Carlson, “so I started practicing anywhere I could find a hard surface.” Despite having no formal art training, he took to the form, and after a video of Carlson’s went viral on YouTube in 2012, he soon quit his job as an assisted living facility manager to make chalk art full-time.

At this month’s Denver Chalk Art Festival (June 1 and 2; 12th and Bannock Streets), see him create a custom piece in his signature style, which often combines fantastical creatures and landscapes with lifelike lighting and drawing techniques. “I was in a hurry to grow up,” Carlson says. “Now I just want to stay a kid as long as I can.”

This article was originally published in June 5280, 2024.

Nicholas Hunt