If you’re walking down Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach and you see a pair of eyes atop a little green alien poking up from the sidewalk outside the City Council chamber at City Hall, don’t be alarmed.
It’s just Sluggo, a chalk-drawn creature imagined by Michigan-based street artist David Zinn.
Sluggo, along with Pigasus and a myriad of Zinn’s other critters, are popping up on sidewalks, rocks and storm drains around Laguna Beach this week as part of the city’s temporary art installations. The artist will make up to 16 drawings around town, culminating with a workshop at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Heisler Park Amphitheatre.
The public is invited to play along with the “Hide and Seek” temporary installation by snapping photos of at least eight of Zinn’s artworks and posting them to social media with the tags @VisitLaguna, @DavidZinn and #MyLagunaBeach. The first four people with photos of eight different creatures will win a signed print of Zinn’s work.
Zinn, who has lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., his entire life, said he had a few places in mind for his chalk artwork in Laguna, such as Heisler Park and City Hall. But often a certain crevice or a curve in a storm pipe cries out to him for a creature.
“It’s really hard to shut them out,” he said. “It’s like having very aggressive imaginary friends. They’re right there going, ‘Hey, hi.’ Very needy, very emotionally needy friends.”
The chalk drawings don’t stick around along, and that “ephemerality” is key, the artist said. Knowing that natural elements will soon wash away his work helps him get over the initial fear of a “blank canvas.” He also appreciates not having to secure a gallery or a permit to display art.
“When you finish the piece of artwork — and you know this when you start drawing it — you’re just going to walk away and start another piece of art,” Zinn said. “It has no future. And having no future is actually, in a weird way, a nice way to live. Because now all you have is the present.”
Zinn’s knack for sidewalk art began about a dozen years ago as a form of procrastination, he said. His day job was designing posters for theater productions and brochures for a solid waste department.
“I was literally drawing garbage,” he said, laughing. “My art went straight into the trash, professionally. That was very reassuring.”
When he grew tired of his “useful” artwork, he would go outside and draw on his driveway. Thanks to a wave of social media support, the popularity of his creatures took off.
Zinn’s artwork has garnered him 332,000 followers on Instagram and taken him to festivals and communities around the United States and the world. The Laguna Beach City Council approved $10,453 at its last meeting to pay for Zinn’s work this week.
“David has brought a new energy and vibe to Laguna Beach,” the city’s cultural arts manager, Sian Poeschl, said in an email. “His installations bring a different dimension to the concept of public art, to the term ‘temporary,’ and appeals to new audiences of all ages. I think David is setting a high standard and excitement for what’s to come.”
Zinn has seen re-creations of his work in Sweden, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“These pictures wander indefinitely and they go wherever they need to go to cheer people up,” said Zinn, who carries a wooden box stocked with a rainbow assortment of Crayola and other chalk.
His artistic journey through Laguna Beach began Wednesday morning at Heisler Park, where he drew Pigasus, a flying pig.
“I hope to find them everywhere I go,” he said of the little pink creature peeking out from a concave rock. “Something impossible has already happened. The pigs have flown. And once the pigs are flying, everything else is on the table.”