by: John Rodriguez
For 37-year-old, cigar-smoking, guerilla artist James De La Vega, the New York City streets are one large easel for him to paint upon. Paint upon with ample supplies of chalk. Walking along the city pavements, garbage and bike lanes, De La Vega leaves philosophical messages along with his own creative sketches via the simple use of chalk in his while he wanders across them. Recognized for his pieces, De La Vega has become the Big Apple’s most prolific artists. Who knows maybe you have even come across him and may not have even noticed it.
“Become your dream,” is De La Vega’s signature motto and graces a white chalk drawing of a fish leaping out from within a bowl into a glass of water beside it with his signature upon simply scrawled, “DELAVEGA.” Keep your eyes to the ground because one morning you may come along De La Vega’s piece usually gracing the grounds outside of subway stations or anywhere along a sidewalk around your neighborhood.
Be observant because you may find yourself walking over these inscriptions from a fishbowl, to a love hear, a raincloud, an hourglass, you may find a fish replaced by a snake or turtle appearing around these chalk-designed drawings. Along with his sketches, you may find De La Vega’s other mottos like, “Be mindful if your mind is full,” or “Sometimes the king is a woman.” Despite his efforts in decorating our streets, do not expect De La Vega’s work to remain the chance of some cleaning the street or a passing rainstorm will eventually wash away these momentary pieces.
In an interview about his artwork, De La Vega reports that he can sketch about 100 drawings and inscriptions upon the street in a day. Not to be confused with graffiti artists, De La Vega persists that his work has nothing in common with graffiti and that he is simply, “I’m painting seeds.” De La Vega’s street art began in Spanish Harlem, about 20 years ago in his home neighborhood where he sprawled his drawings of murals across abandoned buildings with the sole intention to “beautify,” and to, “give people something to be proud of.”
De La Vega’s modus operandi involves him leaving his sketches and sayings along the streets within a pattern that comes to him instinctively with a sense of where he is playing a key factor to how he leaves his inscriptions behind. Currently, De La Vega’s pieces can be found along the asphalted roads and pathways of Central Park and will surly bring him new fans with summer being upon us and the park drawing in tourists and locals wanting to bask in the seasonal heat.
During a session within Central Park’s the Loop, De La Vega walked along the runner’s path avoiding the pathway of runners and pausing briefly in-between steps to sketch. Once a piece of chalk was used down to its stub, he simply reaches for a new stick and continues onward. While the runners go pass him, some losing their focus on what they are doing to watch De La Vega, De La Vega comments that, “This is a niche audience. They’re very vulnerable. They probably have doubts about the future.”
When onlookers stop and watch as De La Vega sketches along the floor, view realizing who he is from viewing pass works of his, he does not make any attempt to explain what he’s doing, but he does comment that, “Drawing for me is a way to explore,” and that it is his, “intention is remind people that they don’t have to be so powerless—that they can construct dreams.” So just for a moment, break away from the constant rush of your world and look down. You may find an inspirational message lying on the ground to motivate you.