By Margie M. Palmer
Mission Valley artist masters non-traditional medium
Mission Valley chalk artist Cecelia Linayao said she has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember, but her parents, much like a lot of immigrant families, initially hoped she had pursued a career in law or medicine.
“When your family comes to the U.S. from another country, they always want you grow up to be something that is a little more solid,” Linayao said. “They always felt that art was nice, but it wasn’t something that I’d be able to build a career in. I’ve been very fortunate to choose my passion as my profession. Not only did I choose it as my major when I attended Cal State Long Beach, I’m lucky that I’m able to be working.”
Linayao has won multiple awards for her chalk paintings and has traveled all around the world to create them. Most recently, she created a 12-foot chalk mural on canvas of Pope Francis that was presented to him on Sept. 25 when he addressed the United Nations.
Chalk, she is the first to concede, is a non-traditional art medium. When students pursue a degree in fine arts, they are generally trained in drawing and painting. Linayao said it wasn’t until she saw street art for the first time at a chalk festival, that she knew this was her calling.
“It was something so different from what I experienced in classical education. This was big and loud and it was 12 feet of full color, and I wanted to be able to do that,” she said, adding that at the same time, it was a bit intimidating.
“When you’re working with canvas or paper, it’s always so much smaller. My first street painting was 6-feet by 4-feet. Do you know how big that is?” Linayao said, laughing. “After that I was hooked, and today I don’t do anything that is smaller than 12 feet.”
One of the biggest pieces she has done to date was a recreation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Linayao said she worked with a talented group of high school students and young artists to bring the piece to life.
“I feel so fortunate to do this as my profession that my way of giving back is to always involve students or people who aren’t able to make art their profession, but love it and want to be involved with it,” she said.
Those who are interested in seeing her in action can do so at the Little Italy FESTA! on Sunday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Street painting, and specifically chalk art, she noted, is an Italian tradition that dates back to the 14th century.
“It’s wonderful that they continue that tradition here in Little Italy and I love that they insist on Italian-themed pieces. That way we are teaching people about art and art history without them even knowing it,” Lilayao said.
She also pointed out that street art works are temporary; they aren’t designed to last for a long time. All of that really forces the artist, and the audience, to embrace the moment.
“It’s one thing to see it in photos but to see it being created is an entirely different experience. It’s amazing and special, and there are all those layers in this type of art which is what makes it so different than the traditional in-studio painting,” she said.
“When you’re in the studio you don’t get audience feedback and you’re not able to vibe off that energy. Working in my studio is so different from the contrast of doing public performance art.”
If you’ve seen chalk art in the past, she said, that’s not to say you shouldn’t attend another live art performance.
“The art is different and you are different because you’re not in the same space you were last year,” she said. “For people who have never seen chalk art live, now is your chance to experience it. The fact that it’s temporary is what makes it so special.”
Linayao will be displaying her chalk art Oct. 10 at the Little Italy FESTA! For more information visit littleitalysd.com/events/little-italy-festa. Learn more about Linayao’s work at cecelialinayaofineart.com.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.