So I have been playing with the idea of doing a project of some sort with CHALK TALKS. No, chalk can not talk, but that documented liar, charlatan and fraud Glenn Beck can, and he has forced my hand.
One of the most basic and rudimentary forms of visual communication and often used to influence children (and by Glenn Beck, his unsophisticated, vulnerable viewing audience who votes) chalk talks have been directing and developing damaged minds since a charcoal stick could mark a wall. Heavily used by schools, the military, churches, Alcoholics Anonymous and anywhere a, well...to put it bluntly, simple mind can be deceived or impressed.
The whole concept of presenting visual information on a simple black board to inform, trick and convince is visual propaganda. In fact, it may be the secret history of propaganda. Using humor, skill in rendering, confusing slight of hand and deception, the chalk taker also develops a convincing patter to go along with the images. At least Glenn Beck hasn't developed that...being a blithering bloated bag of confused wind...but he's resurrected the art, and even his amateur, pathetic version of the skill has convinced some to believe in things against their best interests...a testimony to the power of the chalk art.
And art it is...I pride myself at finding forgotten forms of art. The chalk talk is a primary example, never mind that it was, and is, aimed at the uneducated and often helpless masses. When used properly, it is as effective as any visual form, or at least it has been...and when you see Stephen Colbert or a political reporter drawing on the digital screen, the technique is the same but presented even simpler. It took years to develop true chalk talking skills, like magic...and most reporters lack the time it takes to master the art. So here I present to you some splendid examples of the visual skills which were used by chalk talkers.
Many of the images are religious...no mistake. Most chalk talkers had a religious agenda, and many were preachers (and in some cases, talented but let's face it, failed fine artists)...but the technique was heavily used in sunday schools and at church dinners. Magicians were used at birthday parties. Psychologists were used at business meetings and buffons with drawing skills were used at pep rallies and the school assembly. They are all fascinating and I hope my health holds out so I can bring you more. With a history going back to Vaudeville, the characters, the monologues and the graphic quirks produced by this forgotten league of competent doodlers deserves a bit of attention, and I aim to try!
A note...I'll spare the good, hard-working legitimate teachers working on your children's behalf every day in school in the REAL chalk jungle. Far from being charlatans, millions of selfless and underpaid educators used the board in a similar way, but for a far more noble purpose...and they deserve our thanks.