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Offbeat artists make their marks

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Offbeat artists are amusing and amazing the public in Britain, America and New Zealand. In the last few weeks:

  • Britain's brilliant 3D pavement (sidewalk) artist Julian Beever tricked passers-by in central London with a realistic drawing showing comic characters Batman and Robin scaling the wall of a burning building to rescue a terrified occupant, while a crowd below gazed up at the drama. In fact, it was a two-dimensional picture in chalk.
  • The environment-driven "urban guerrilla" Banksy won world media attention by cleverly doctoring some of Paris Hilton's CDs and placing hundreds of them in shops/stores. Shortly after that performance, he smuggled a life-size hooded figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee into the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland theme park in California. It remained there for more than an hour before the ride was closed down and the figure removed, proving that someone in charge lacked a sense of both humour and showmanship.

Two other quirky artists whose works are displayed on the internet are America's Scott Wade and New Zealand's Maurice Bennett.

"Scott uses his finger to draw amazingly intricate illustrations in the dirt that builds up on the rear windows of his Mini Cooper and his wife's Mazda," columnist John Kelso wrote in the Austin, Texas American-Statesman.

" That's right, the man does artwork on the windows of filthy cars. Among his works are the Dogs Playing Poker, Mona Lisa, Kinky Friedman in a big hat next to the Capitol, a cartoony man being tongue-lashed by his old lady, even one of me in a gimme cap."

Scott, who lives on dusty Roadrunner Road, eight miles north of San Marcos, Texas, said "You'd be surprised how many potential canvases are ruined by some kid walking up and writing 'Wash Me' on it."

Maurice Bennett, aka The Toastman, calls himself "New Zealand's most renowned artist" and makes portraits on toast. "My toast work has been featured on Ripley's Believe It or Not," he says on his website.

"The portraits require many thousands of slices of bread, toasted to different tones to create skin highlights and shadow. They measure many meters in height and width, and are displayed as billboards or in public spaces, as the best view is gained from being some distance from the work."

He created a portrait of the rap artist Eminem by using more than 5000 M&M candies/lollies/sweets for a Colour My World competition conducted by the candymaker.

He is now working on a 4000-slice cocktail toast portrait of "the most famous New Zealander at the moment", Peter Jackson, director of the film Lord of The Rings. It will measure 2.4m square.


Story first posted October 2006

Copyright 2006

Eric Shackle

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