Where the sidewalk ends…and art begins

Former Camas resident returns to add a new twist to Camas Days

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Sidewalk chalk artist Steve Platt begins a painting in front of the Liberty Theater building in downtown Camas on Friday. Platt, a Camas native, returned to his hometown to make an appearance during the Camas Days festival. The painting was completed by the end of the day on Friday.

As Steve Platt sits sprawled on the sidewalk, you can’t help but want to stop and take a look.

Vibrantly colored chalk in hand, the artist intently marks the concrete, then smudges the bold line with his fingers to get just the right effect. The image is a smattering of colors now, but at the end of the day it will be a work of art.

The three-dimensional picture Platt created for Camas Days has the viewer looking down into a rugged canyon. Highlights include a stream and a waterfall.

“I think I might add a fly fisherman at the bottom,” Platt contemplated as he began his endeavor on Friday morning. “But we’ll see how things go.”

Platt grew up in Camas and graduated from Camas High School in 1974. Although he now lives in Yakima, his mom Oleta Platt resides in Washougal.

A teacher and artist who favors oils, acrylics and colored pencils, about 10 years ago Platt was encouraged by a friend, Caren Mercer Andreasen, to participate in the Sidewalk Painting Festival, which is held during the course of two days every September in Prosser, Wash.

“I hummed and hawed, and she talked me into it,” Platt said. “After that, I was hooked.”

He has since taken his unique brand of art to a variety of events, from street painting festivals in Vancouver and Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, and shopping malls in Tacoma and Olympia.

Platt begins every sidewalk painting he creates with a detailed sketch that could go through many revisions. Each is a unique work of art.

“Every one of them has been different,” he said. “I haven’t done the same one-ever.”

Platt, who has taught art at Grand View Middle School in Yakima for 20 years, said he enjoys traveling to different areas and sharing his art.

“It’s fun, and it keeps me out of trouble,” he said. “I love the festival atmosphere. People are happy, walking around, and having a great time.

As one might imagine, Platt draws quite a few curious onlookers.

“People can see the whole process, from beginning to end,” he explained, adding that once in Bellingham, Wash., a family stuck around for four straight hours–watching Platt at work, chatting and asking questions. “It really peaks people’s curiosity.”

Platt said he doesn’t mind the temporary nature of his art, which in the case of the work he created in Camas could be washed away with the rain and thunderstorms expected later this week.

“As long as I get pictures, I’m happy.”