Astoria Characters: The Street Painter

Anthony Cappetto is standing on the sidewalk on 30th Avenue.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Anthony started street painting after 9/11.
This is not how he’s generally known for making contact with concrete. Anthony is an internationally acclaimed street painter, and when he’s working on one of his illusionary 3-D murals, he’s sitting or lying on the ground using colored chalk to find the art in the asphalt. It’s the kind of creative endeavor where you get your hands dirty. And where your art is always wiped out. “I accept the idea of temporality and thrive with it,” he says and grins.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Anthony working on his project for the LIC Flea & Food.
Anthony, who is from the suburbs of Chicago, started drawing as a child. There was, he declares, nothing unusual about his pursuit. “Every child has an interest in art,” he says, “but it is tempered by society.”
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling He colors in the spaces by hand with chalk.
Anthony, who has a bachelor’s degree in architecture and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, managed not only to retain his artistic ability but also to channel it into a livelihood. He paired a career in corporate interiors architecture in New York City with what he likes to call “after-hours painting,” which is exactly what it sounds like. He didn’t know anything about street art until 1999, when he and his wife, Wendy Stum, went to Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, to visit the world’s oldest street painting fair.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling The design includes pumpkins.
“I was completely into it,” he says. The couple visited other fairs, and when Anthony and Wendy were downsized after 9/11, he decided to try street painting. “I was at the bottom of the rung,” he says. It didn’t take long for him to become one of the world’s top street painters.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling The image starts taking shape.
Anthony, a tall man with salt and pepper hair that’s a riot of curls, distinguished his work by incorporating 3-D elements, a technique that at the time was novel. Since 2001, Anthony, through his company, Art for After Hours, has completed more than 100 projects around the world for festivals, exhibitions, conferences and corporations. He’s chalked his way through the United States as well as the United Arab Emirates, India, Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Mexico. His New York City projects include one in Central Park and one in the World Financial Center. In October, he created a 3-D street painting – a jumbo jump-into-the-foam mug of beer with a side garnish of autumn pumpkins and a salt-encrusted soft pretzel – at the LIC Flea & Food. “I’m grateful for all of these experiences,” he says.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Anthony has created street paintings around the world.
Anthony’s works are meant to engage. Look at one and you want to step inside his world, where what you see is not what it seems. A 3-D bowl of spaghetti invites you to pick up the fork to take a bite; an I-beam floating in the sky makes you think you are on top of the world; and a skyscraper tricks you into believing you’re dangling dangerously close to death. Whether Anthony’s creating a mural for a festival or corporate client, his method is the same.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Chalk is Anthony’s main medium.
He solicits ideas from each client and presents a small-scale, hand-drawn sketch in color pencil. “I’m traditional in this respect,” he says, adding that he prefers the personal touch over the computer click. Once the concept is approved, he creates a small-scale technical sketch.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling The LIC work, partly finished.
“I mathematically calculate the 3-D proportions,” he says. “And I look at every angle people will view the art.” On the street, he hand draws and hand colors the full design. Although many of his works are chalk, he also works in acrylic and tempera paints.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Anthony’s is pretty much a solo act.
From design concept to last chalk mark, some projects can take months. For larger projects, he creates a team to help with the painting. At every step along the way, he gets feedback from Wendy, who is his assistant and marketing director. “She’s my muse,” he says. “She’s my harshest critic and my staunchest supporter.” He thinks about this a moment. “You might want to soften the word ‘harshest,’” he says, neglecting to suggest an alternative.
Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling Get ready to take a photo of the mural.
Since 2011, Anthony has been working 4-D emerging technologies into some of his paintings. “I try to do things that others do not,” he says, adding that he’s started to include animated augmented reality and virtual spaces in his streetwise works. “My work is conceptual, visionary and thoughtful in nature. I want people to walk away and think about what they have seen and experienced.”
Anthony posing with the LIC work.
Anthony looks forward to pushing the envelope – and the concrete – to the limits. “I’m 56 and not getting any younger,” he says. “In the next eight to 10 years, probably eight, I will start training other younger artists to develop my ideas. I’m also thinking about street art – painting on walls.” Astoria Characters Day: The 2nd Family Reunion is Sept. 23, 2018. Support Astoria Characters at GoFundMe Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at; @nancyruhling on Twitter; nruhling on Instagram,, Copyright 2018 by Nancy A. Ruhling