Sidewalk style

The Arts

May 1, 2020

A graphic designer takes power-washing to new artistic heights with fun stencils and kid-fueled color palettes. 

by Michael J. Solender

Since the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, social distancing has kept Robin Tonelli from venturing far beyond her Carmel Woods neighborhood home. She’s taken advantage, however, of the newfound time at home to tap into her artistic flow, engage her children in art projects and delight neighbors strolling by on their daily escape-the-house walks with fun, quirky driveway art.

Tonelli creates clean graffiti artwork using her dirty driveway as a canvas, an electric pressure washer as a “brush,” and plastic stencils to create designs, from geometric patterns and T-Rex footprints to hopscotch courts and unicorns. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter fill in the patterns with colored chalk and other embellishments. 

photo by the Littlefield Co.

“It’s really a wonderful form of art therapy,” says Tonelli, an environmental graphic designer who co-founded with her husband ROBINRENATO Architecture & Design. “We’re all unplugged from our screens — the kids love it, and it’s impossible to mess up. The process simply uses water and dirty concrete — there’s no paint or chemicals.”

In 2018, Tonelli established Driveway Art as a fun side business with her “partners in grime,” Torrie Savage and Paula Bartlett, owners of #thesavageway, a sister company and creative marketing agency. “I saw what Torrie and Paula were doing using clean graffiti to help companies with environmentally sound branding and envisioned a residential market in the DIY home-improvement space for something similar,” Tonelli says. 

Since launching an online site, Driveway Art has sold stencils throughout the U.S. and internationally as far away as Australia. The stencils are priced from $25 to $45. Tonelli says the top sellers are Cobblestone,  Hopscotch and CLT Links, a geometric design that can be used to create an outdoor “rug” on your sidewalk or driveway.

“Springtime is certainly our busiest season, with spring cleaning typically in full force,” says Tonelli, who noted an uptick in interest this season given recent stay-at-home orders. “It’s funny though, people often ask me how they can make their driveway or sidewalk dirtier in order to get better contrast. It’s really not magic — just eco-friendly water, our stencil and their creativity.”  SP

To learn more, visit  

Featured photo by Mandy French Photography

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