With smudges on his nose and green chalk covering his hands and knees, Daniel Valmas '11 hurried to put the finishing touches on his painting. Using his fingers, Valmas blended green into the street, creating the background of a scene highlighted by a jellyfish's hot pink tentacles slicing across the deep blue and green of an octopus.
On the next street, an artist used a paintbrush to smooth his artwork's chalk and bring a red dragon to life. Down the street, pastoral blends of color filled squares with serious and not-so-serious tributes to Rhode Island. Surrounded by other artists creating pastel masterpieces, Valmas and Marguerite Preston '11 had been at work on their eight-by-eight square since before 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Providence Rotary Street Painting Festival.
For the festival's 10th year, more than 100 artists and 60 vendors took to Westminster, Union and Eddy streets for the day. Armed with boxes of chalk, the artists competed for monetary prizes in categories for different age groups.
"We are extremely proud to be back on the street," said Suzanne Cannon, co-chair of the festival that was held in the skating rink at Kennedy Plaza last year.
The smell of the Rotary barbecue drifted over vendors offering jewelry, bags and art, and three local bands performed during the day.
Valmas, who is from Pawtucket, said he and his mother have been participating in the festival since he was in sixth grade. Last year, Preston helped him out, but this was her first year as a full participant.
Preston described coming up with their design as "a long and winding road."
Valmas said the pair imagined their piece as "paradise and earthly catharsis" during the planning stages.
"Yeah, that didn't happen," Preston said. The duo said they chose to depict two sea creatures in combat, because they wanted to draw something people would recognize but that wasn't a "majestic stallion" or a "cute kitty."
On the other side of the street, a fish peered out of the blue and purple swirls of a pond. The artists, from an art class at Cranston High School West, had finished early.
"They're used to working fast," said their instructor, Valerie Bruzzi, who brings her art class to the festival every year. The class entered two squares, and about 10 students worked to complete the picture of the fish, which was a reproduction of one of Bruzzi's paintings.
Tributes to Rhode Island were abundant at the festival, and one of the most original was submitted by four Rhode Island College students. First-years Kate Camara and Emily Pichette supplied a page-long story to accompany their square, which depicted a child so transfixed by a picture in a museum that the ice cream cone in his hand is melting. The picture that consumes his attention shows a pink octopus attacking the Claiborne Pell Bridge as a giant blue insect looms menacingly.
The legend the artists supplied is of a giant octopus attacking the bridge but thwarted by the fearless Big Blue Bug. By now, according to the legend, few remember the hero who preserved the Claiborne Pell Bridge — the mainland's connection to Aquidneck Island.
The two art majors, who participated in the festival last year, said their other ideas for the festival were "too generic." Inspired by New England Pest Control's giant bug, which is a fixture off I-95, the girls wove their tale. "We just built it off the saying ‘big blue bug,'" Camara said.