Rick Shick almost didn’t make the first Verona Arts Chalk Fest last year. The digital animator had heard about the event but hadn’t registered, and then his daughter did a cartoon of herself that he thought was “awesome.” So he just showed up, and asked for a space. This year, Shick will be back at a very different Chalk Fest as one of its two featured artists.
Shick is a one-time art history major who works in what the film industry calls “invisible effects”: The things you see on a screen that never quite register as impossible in real life, like Superman flying over Metropolis. Yes, that was Shick’s work in “Superman Returns” and he says it wasn’t easy. “Just taking the traffic out of what the cameras had shot was a month of work,” he says of a process that sometimes included him hand-painting still frames to be included in the footage. But in the end, it worked. “You would never imagine the footage was shot any other way,” he adds.
A native of Michigan, Shick got his start in digital effects in 1994, working at a post-production company on the second season of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”. The show aired five days a week, which meant that Shick was constantly working on effects, and always on a shoestring budget. He learned stop-motion animation on the fly. “That was a film school in itself,” he says of the work. “We were experimenting a lot.” (Remember that the first feature-length computer-animated film was “Toy Story” in 1995.)
Eventually, Shick and his wife, a native of Montclair, made their way to this coast, where he continued his digital cinematics work and developed a sideline that is much more visible: Stan, the Par-T-Rex, a human-powered dinosaur. Shick had taken his family to a live-action dinosaur show and decided that he had to get in on the act. Though Shick says that he generally makes “really good” Halloween costumes, he needed to go to a costume shop for Stan, who is named for the special effects wizard who created the dinosaurs in the “Jurassic Park” films, Stan Winston. Stan was expensive, though, and Shick credits his wife for coming up with the idea of defraying the cost by having the dinosaur do kids parties. Stan is still doing his thing during the pandemic, although at greater social distance.
Shick has been experimenting with gentler forms of art during the pandemic, like building a fully-lit fairy house into a tree in front of his home on Fairway Avenue, just above Forest. “We’ve met a bunch of our neighbors as a result,” he says.
So why Chalk Fest? Shick says he had never drawn in chalk before last year, though he had done murals for a comic book store back in Santa Monica. This year, as last, he will be inspired by something done by his daughter Marnie, but he won’t say what it is, other than to add, “The drawing itself tells a cool story.”
Chalk Fest II will feature just two artists in front of Town Hall, Shick and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, last year’s winner. The dozens of other participants will be chalking from home. You can get directions to all the art through Verona Arts’ Facebook and Instagram pages on Saturday morning.