In a Nutshell


A long, long time ago, somebody decided, it would be great fun to pave the muddy walk-ways with stone, as they did, they became known as pavements; then a person came along with a broken clay pipe and  scribbled the words “I AM STARVING!” on the floor; people took pity, and started throwing money!

"I am starving" PUNCH MAGAZINE Illustration 1844.

“I am starving” PUNCH MAGAZINE Illustration 1844.

A little while later, somebody wrote “I AM DESTITUTE” and decorated it with little swirly bits in coloured chalks, making it look pretty.  People stopped to look, took pity, and started throwing even MORE money.

…later on, a person started drawing lovely little pictures with filigree boarders on the pavement, writing “ALL MY OWN WORK” underneath. MORE people stopped, looked at the pictures & threw lots & lots of pennies into the hat…….and this is how pavement art was born!

That’s it in a nutshell: In Britain they became known as Screevers, in Italy – Madonnari’s….the rest is history 😉

9 thoughts on “In a Nutshell”

  1. What a great site, Philip.
    It’s just full of great information and ideas.
    Greetings from Western Kansas,
    where we role up the streets at sundown.

  2. Thanks Ellen, glad you enjoyed your visit & thanks for the postcard.

    Another piece of the jigsaw, that was until now, the untold history of the pavement artist. Keep your eyes peeled, and if you come across anything related that I may be interested in then be sure to let me know…..I love that saying “role up the streets at sundown” 🙂

    Best regards…..Philip

  3. Hello Philip,
    I was searching for glass lantern slides from the Great Chicago Fire I am writing a book about, at any rate I stumbled upon your blog in the process, what wonderful
    find, I enjoyed reading some of the entries. I have to return to it again with my wife who is also into the visual arts. thanks for sharing. Cheers from Chicago!

  4. Greeting Philip,
    I was searching the intranet for glass lantern slides from the Great Chicago Fire I am in the process of writing a book about and somehow I came a cross your blog.
    It was a wonderful find, I enjoyed reading some of your entries. I will have to share it
    with my wife who is always interested in the visual arts. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers from Chicago!

  5. Hi Philip
    Thank you for a lovely website. I can’t believe I have only just found it. Lots of great information and photographs. You will see why I am so interested in your site if you have a look at my blog Pavement Graffiti ( or my website Pavement Appreciation ( Both are related to the PhD project on pavement writing that I am doing at Macquarie University in Sydney. I will be returning to look at more of your posts.
    Best wishes

  6. Hi Philip

    Congrats on a very interesting site, do you have any other information on the origins of the term screever? You may be aware that the Irish term for writing is scríobh (pronounced screeve), and a writer is a scríobhnóir (screevnor).
    Le dea ghuí – with best wishes


  7. Hi phillip. I have just found out that my great grandfather was a street artist named john tanswell.i was told to look under… all my own work a history of art {of cabbages and kings 1894 } and that there was an interview with him but cannot seem to find it at all.please can you give me any information on how to find it thank you kind regards.

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