National Geographic Video

While still very young I was the featured artist in National Geographic’s documentary, Masterpieces In Chalk. The film won many awards and helped to resurrect and spread pavement art across the globe.


While working on the street painting for the film, I had to confront the nature of my own creativity. I wanted to demonstrate that I was capable of inventing original compositions on the spot, so I deliberately didn’t make any sketches for the piece I was to create. I had been accused many times by onlookers of copying Renaissance paintings, and the public often refused to believe that I created my own unique original compositions. Creating an original work of art is novel in the world of street painting, and it was important to me that the director Kevin Peer captured this in the documentary. My method of working at the time was entirely spontaneous, much to Kevin’s concern, as the director he was hoping to see some preliminary drawings. It was difficult for Kevin to accept this approach, as he would have no way to know if a spontaneous creation would end up being good enough for the film. I decided to paint the Muses, which as a theme lent itself to improvisation. The Muses also symbolize the idea that even though works of art are ephemeral, the inspiration behind them is immortal. Inspiration may be lost or forgotten, but it is eternally present whether or not we are able to perceive it. Whenever I create a work of art, I can feel inspiration come through me–it is what creates the ideas behind my work; I don’t generate the ideas themselves.



Byzantine Christ

This is a byzantine style rendering of the figure of Christ inspired by the Christ Deesis mosaic in the great Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul. I have been fortunate enough to visit the church on several occasions- it is truly one of the wonders of the world.

Byzantine ChristThe Hagia Sophia Church was dedicated to Christ as the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity. incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Sophia is the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom. “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God”. It is particularly famous for its massive dome and remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.The original mosaic shows a rather severe looking Christ. I did the image for my book, Asphalt Renaissance to show an early style of devotional image. I softened the features while keeping the formal and stately composition. The work is done on a very rough surface, which recalls pavement art, but also the texture of a mosaic.


The work is part of a series of sacred images that are available as print editions.

It can be seen at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The address is below:

Andrea Smith Galleries


336 Hwy 179 Sedona AZ 86336


My page on their website is here: Kurt Wenner


The nativity theme is a favorite christmas subject for pavement artists. I did two of them during my first years in Rome. The first was a copy from Tiepolo and the second from Honthorst.








When 3D pavement art became popular I designed my own nativity composition. I executed this composition twice, the first time in the Xanadu commercial center in Madrid, and the second time in Perth, Australia. The Perth version was filmed as a time-lapse video.


The time-lapse can be seen below:




The figure of Moses was the first subject I ever painted on the street. My first try was at the Rome train station. I was not able to complete it, so I did another version on the Via del Corso, also in Rome.  Below is my account of the experience:

Moses Drawing24Early the next morning, I headed for the piazza determined to start a street painting on my own. I knew there were risks involved, such as having my fingers stepped on, or being moved on by the police. The idea of being able to apply all that I’d learned in the past months to a full-scale painting kept me from backing down. At the time, the train station was anything but gracious or comfortable. It had been under construction for many years, and was covered in rusty siding that funneled commuters into a narrow corridor. Black-market sellers, drug pushers, and Gypsies all sought their victims here. By the time I arrived at the station, my heart was pounding. I wove my way through the commuters, looking for an appropriate spot to set out my materials. As a visual reference, I was using my drawing of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. An endless distracting dance of feet fell all around me, but soon a small group of spectators formed, and in their stillness I was protected from the surrounding chaos. I experienced for the first time a phenomenon that would come to repeat itself over and over again: The power of the image transformed not only the space but also everything and everyone around it. As the image grew, so did the audience, and the synergy created between the two was a tangible, positive force.

Moses pastelBeing in the center of this radiant field gave me the confidence I needed to set out a few baskets to collect offerings. People tossed in coins immediately and enthusiastically. Given the shadier denizens of the area, I thought it would be difficult to hold on to the money. However, no one tried to take the coins from the baskets. At one point, a large group of garishly dressed Gypsies surrounded me. I tried to ignore their presence and concentrated on my work as they scrutinized the picture. They pointed and talked among themselves, in their own language, until they seemed to arrive at a collective decision. I braced myself. Suddenly, they all dropped some coins into the baskets, nodded at me, and then silently departed.

I only ever took very low quality photographs in the first two years of working on the street. It was lucky I took any at all. When it came time to publish my book, Asphalt Renaissance, I recreated some details of the early works to show the surface texture of the works and better tell the story. I  have made this image into a limited edition print. It can be seen at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The address is below:

Tlaquepaque Suite D102
336 Highway 179
Sedona, AZ 86336

Their website is here: Andrea Smith Gallery Home.

My page is here: Kurt Wenner



TerpsicoreOne of the nicest experiences I have had was during the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration. I was invited to create a work for this large open-air family celebration. My involvement also included working with different schools in the Washington D.C.- Baltimore- Virginia area to train children for the event, which included pavement art that year. I had developed a 2-day school residency art program working in conjunction with the Music Center’s Education Department. The program was available to schools throughout the United States. In the end, I taught drawing with pastels to more than 100,000 students from elementary school through university level over the course of a decade and for this I was Awarded The Kennedy Center Medallion in recognition for outstanding contribution to arts education.


The event also included a one-man show of drawings, including many that I did for the festival composition. The theme was Apollo and the muses. I was not a 3D work, but used an attenuated wide-angle perspective I was experimenting with at the time. The figure of Terpsichore is in the center- back of the composition. The painted version actually ended up being smaller than the drawing. The drawing is available as a limited edition print from my online store. Click here for more information.


St. George

St. GeorgeThis was one of my first fully original classical compositions. I attempted to create it as a work of pavement art on the streets of Rome in 1983, but was never able to get a finished shot due to incessant rainstorms. it was a very popular image when I introduced pavement art to the U.S., and I recreated it a couple of times. Once was for the documentary “Chalk Magic”, which launched my art program for the public schools in 1984-5. I often used the image after that for demonstration purposes.

Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon. Saint George is somewhat of an exception among saints and legends, in that he is known and respected by Muslims, as well as venerated by Christians throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to Asia Minor. St. George is also acceptable as a secular figure and I was able to use the image in public schools where other religious images would have been unacceptable.

St George 600

St. George Pavement Drawing, Rome, Italy

The tonal drawing (above) is available as a limited edition fine art print. Click here for the direct link.


The Flower Girl

Flower Lady blogIn my first years as a pavement artist in Rome, I came to know many of the street people, such as the old crone selling roses. She was a common sight and looked to be about 110 years old, with a wizened troll-like face and a wooden leg.  She wore many layers of old skirts, which bloomed out from her waist like a large, tattered flower. According to Roman legend, she had squandered her fortune in her youth and was now doing penance. “The Flower Girl”, as she was called sarcastically, would walk many miles each day with a limping gait that caused the huge bundles of roses she carried to sway from side to side. She fervently peddled the nearly dead blooms, (said to be stolen from graves), for exorbitant sums. If a man handed her a 1,000-lira note (about 75 cents) he might receive only one petal!

DepositionWhen my painting site was especially crowded, the Flower Lady would appear out of nowhere and push her way through the spectators. Pretending to berate me, she would work the crowd, waving her hands in the air crying,

What’s this? Not again! I keep telling you not to paint these large, complicated works. What do we know about art? Give us some little Madonna or a saint and we’re happy. Forget these large masterpieces! You work for days, and does anyone understand it?  No, they don’t. Just look at these baskets — empty! You make nothing. Just paint some simple little Madonna and then people will give you something!”

Naturally, her harangue would cause the crowd to drop lots of money into the baskets. After they had dispersed, she would quietly circle the painting and pluck a couple of bills from each of the baskets as compensation. Before departing, she would leave behind an offering of some particularly sad roses.

She seemed as eternal as the city itself and it is difficult to imagine that she must be gone now. A city like Rome imparts the feeling of the eternal to experiences which can only be transitory.

In this photo I was practicing a composition of an original work on the theme of the “Deposition”. I did several works on this theme and prepared drawings as well. The second drawing shows another composition that I did for the competition at Grazie. This one got trampled at the event, and I later reworked the center part, but never completed it.

The History and Technique of Pavement Art

  Reawakening the Renaissance- An Evening with Kurt Wenner

Pavement art has a rich, colorful and varied history that is often “simplified to the point of being wrong” by writers who have little personal experience with the various traditions or the protagonists. Wenner will describe the cultural roots and methods of the Italian madonnari, the German strassenmaler, and the British screevers. All of these cultural traditions have been used as a foundation for the current emergence of pavement art as a global artistic phenomenon, which still provides opportunities for artists and students. Rare photos and engravings of historical pavement artists will accompany the lecture/slideshow.

This talk will also provide an overview of the various techniques used in pavement art.