David Trinko: Artist brings whimsy to the mundane

David Zinn likes to bring his little “imaginary friends” to life with chalk, using the imperfections of the sidewalk as a perfect canvas.

“I like to draw things that look like they’re part of the real world,” he said, talking to a group of onlookers during Downtown Lima’s First Friday celebration. “My specialty is … trying to just do very small creatures that look like they actually are where they are. These are all pretty much my imaginary friends. I used to just draw them flat on the ground, but then I realized, because they weren’t on a piece of paper, they looked like they were part of the world.”

Zinn, of Ann Arbor, Mich., is well-known on social media, as people share his various street art creations. He particularly enjoys finding something faulty, such as a plate or crack in the sidewalk, to help him break past the pressure of a completely blank canvas. He often draws “Sluggo,” a bright-green figure with big eyes above his head.

Friday at Lima’s free event, Zinn took some of the bricks on Town Square, outside ArtSpace/Lima, and added a pair of cheerful mice that appeared to be just below the ground. He uses anamorphosis, a technique that offers a three-dimension view from a spot chosen by the artist. He added a pair of small feet a few feet away to help people see the best vantage point. He also takes advantage of pareidolia, a human trick to try to find patterns and order out of the world when there might not necessarily be any.

In his collection, he’s made manhole covers look like the centers of flowers or grass in a crack in the sidewalk appear to be hair. He was two popular books, “The Chalk Art Handbook” and “Chance Encounters: Temporary Street Art by David Zinn.” He takes pictures of many of his creations, sharing them on social media. He also shares information on ZinnArt.com.

“We have this weird ability to not just see what’s in front of us but also what’s not in front of us, but maybe it kind of looks like it’s kind of sort of in front of us. That’s paeidolia,” Zinn said. “It’s why we see clouds that look like puppies. That’s why we see dog noses in knotholes. It happens all the time.”

Zinn said he coined the term “augmented pareidolia”: “I start with, ‘What is there? Let’s see what I might want it to be.’”

Zinn, who previously did illustrations in children’s books, said he prefers working in the “ephemeral” art that washes away with the next rainfall. He said he enjoyed the constant challenge.

“Most of the time I’m making art, I was supposed to be doing something else,” he quipped.

He encouraged people to avoid the fear of judgment on their own artistic tendencies. Several teens and children attending the First Friday event took the opportunity to draw turtles, flowers and even a colorful blue jellyfish.

It breathes life into your everyday living. He used the example of a pink-and-purple striped glove he found in his neighborhood a few years ago. He thought about moving the “lovely glove” but worried moving it would make it harder to find. He shared a photo of the alien he drew around the glove.

“While I have it, I might as well play with it and make more people at the corner of Fourth and William know that Spegnatz the Cold-Footed thanks you,” Zinn said. “It did not work. This glove followed me around for the whole winter. By the end of the winter, he’d actually met a nice mitten, and they had kids. It’s true. It’s in my current calendar, if you want to check that out.”


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.