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Ann Arbor chalk artist David Zinn leaves drawings in plain sight

Ann Arbor chalk artist David Zinn leaves drawings in plain sight
Ann Arbor chalk artist David Zinn leaves drawings in plain sight 04:06

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - David Zinn spends most of his days on Ann Arbor's Old West Side, kneeling on sidewalks and drawing colorful creatures in plain sight. 

He uses everyday imperfections like cracks in the ground, manhole covers, rocks and plants, as inspiration for what he draws. 

Just over a decade ago, he had a full-time job as an illustrator, but when he started doodling with chalk on the ground, that's when people really took notice. 

"People were vaguely interested in my commercial illustration, but when I started drawing something that had no usefulness whatsoever, people were a lot more interested in me doing more of that, so gradually that became not so much my procrastination from my job, but it became my job," said Zinn. 

That job has earned him more than two million followers across his social media channels.  

Perhaps his most famous creature is "Sluggo" -- a recurring neon green character who Zinn said emerged by accident. 

"The first time I drew him, he started out as an attempted drawing of a human child that went very, very badly," said Zinn, who ended up placing Sluggo's eyes high above his head, and the character was born. 

Though he's drawn all over the world, the majority of his work can be found in his picturesque historic neighborhood. 

"I know from Facebook albums that I used to keep that I draw at least 100 things every year," said Zinn. "I draw probably 90% of them within walking distance of my house. And I've been doing this for well over 10 years, so that's more a thousand things that I've drawn on this side of Ann Arbor." 

Drawing outside, he has forged many relationships with members of the community. 

Even a small drawing can take up to two hours to complete since passersby often stand in amazement and ask him about his process. 

He's also a favorite among local children, who call him by his first name. 

"I've actually had parents leave their kids with me while they go do some shopping," said Zinn. "So, you go from being this exile to being part of the fabric of the community in one afternoon." 

Despite the impermanent nature of his work, he's done some permanent installations around the city, wrapping power boxes and painting brick facades. 

He said he's not saddened by the fact that his chalk drawings wash away; he's thankful for it. He said the pressure to be perfect and make something that's lasting simply evaporates when you create art that is there for a few fleeting days. 

"Not being able to take it home means you just enjoy that moment of making it without any of the baggage that usually follows," he said. "Holding onto things is usually a source of anxiety and letting go of things is usually where you're going to find the most peace." 

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