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Demand for chalk artistry in Toronto keeps growing

Posted by Tim / December 29, 2012

Chalkboard artist torontoIt was only this past June that I wrote about Rajiv Surendra's work as a chalk artist in Toronto. Since that time, business has boomed and he's been busy doing larger, indoor chalk boards for restaurants like John & Son's Oyster House and entire walls in offices spaces including one in the headquarters of Kraft Foods Canada (seen above). I caught up with Surenda over the holidays to find out what's up with all the demand for his work.

Why do you think there's so much demand in Toronto for chalk artistry right now?

Chalk walls seem to be a fresh new way of putting up some art in a working environment that doesn't feel stuffy or elitist; it's a really fun medium. We're all familiar with chalk and chalkboards from having to sit in front of them for our entire adolescent lives at school; so chalk art takes that seemingly mundane medium and elevates it to a much higher level.

It's why I solely work with white chalk on these boards; it's black and white as it appears in nature - black slate boards, and soft, white sedimentary limestone. When clients ask for work with coloured chalk, insisting that certain words need to stand out I try to convince them to trust me to make those words stand out by relying on layout and composition to do so, still using white chalk.

What's the difference between chalking a board vs. an entire wall?

A board usually isn't much larger than the breadth of my arms, but a whole wall involves quite a bit of physical labour, moving ladders around constantly just to lay down a few basic lines. The wall work is often intended to stay up permanently, so I focus on incorporating quite a bit of intricate detail.

Chalkboard artist torontoWho was your first wall client?

My first office wall was for Smith Roberts, a communications agency with an office in the Distillery district.

How long does the typical wall take?

A whole wall usually takes a couple of days to complete. The wall I did for the headquarters of Kraft Foods Canada, which was 25feet wide and 9 feet high, took 7 days, working an average of 12 hours a day.

How many walls have you done so far?

I've done about half a dozen large walls so far...the trend is catching on in restaurants too. I'm starting to incorporate other elements to heighten the standards for chalk work. In the new oyster bar that opened up on Yonge Street, John & Sons, I used gold leaf to create simple borders around all the chalk walls, which framed the chalk work beautifully.

Chalkboard artist torontoWho are some of your other wall clients?

Other clients include - Le Gourmand, Weslodge, Woodlot, Sanagan's Meat Locker, The Harbord Room, The Brainstorm Group (ad agency), Married to Giants (commercial and film editing), Taxi (ad agency), The Bellevue, Rock Lobster, The Spice Trader, Indie Alehouse, Olliffe Butchers.

Chalkboard artist torontoWhat does a company need to do to maintain their walls and prevent them from getting damaged?

I've varnished a couple of walls, which protects them, but I really don't like doing this. There's something about the ephemeral quality of my work that makes it quite special. People are pretty good about respecting their working environment, and when they know that they have to be careful around these 'chalk walls' , they're surprisingly good at doing so. Some places have opted to paint walls that are not in high-traffic areas, behind the reception desk for example.

Are you still doing smaller boards?

Yup! I still try to do all the requests that come my way; sandwich boards, wedding signs, menus. I am very grateful to the cafe and restaurant owners that helped me to get my business off the ground, and keeping that in mind, no board is too small for my little white sticks of chalk.

Chalkboard artist torontoPhotos provided by Rajiv Surenda

Discussion

24 Comments

Dart / December 29, 2012 at 02:28 am
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It always amazes me what people can turn into a business. I hope someone in Edmonton takes our free business training and turns chalk artistry into a business in YEG!
Bodoni / December 29, 2012 at 10:02 am
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This young chaps lettering is quite nice; kudos to him for turning his passion into a business!

I was a bit surprised that Dana Tanamachi wasn't mentioned in either article. She's been at the forefront of this chalk typography trend for awhile in NYC, and is probably one of the main reasons we're now seeing it pop-up in Toronto. I'd be interested to know if Rajiv was inspired by her work/business model.
bingy / December 29, 2012 at 11:41 am
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I was about to mention Dana, she's a true master, better than anyone right now and pretty much put this on the map.
http://tanamachistudio.com/
Me / December 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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VERY nice work.
Anne / December 29, 2012 at 07:15 pm
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Have you seen the boards in The Bay on queen in the basement lately? They're more drawings than text, but really colorful and nice
Russell / December 29, 2012 at 07:26 pm
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Amazing talent. The article neglected that he's also an actor, most famous for playing Kevin G, who completed dominated 'Mean Girls'. I love you, Kevin G!
blurg / December 29, 2012 at 09:30 pm
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ha ha look at all the ad agencies jumping on board an idea that's already 4 or 5 years old

such typical Toronto - a day late and a dollar short
cathie / December 29, 2012 at 09:52 pm
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Good for him for not forgetting the "little guys" who employed him at the start of his career, and that he will do small jobs. Too many successful people forget about that. Amazing work, and continued success.
Sean / December 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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Two thumbs up for the artist and the article!!
Justin / December 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm
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There's other artists working in chalk in this city, you don't have to keep going back to this guy.
jt replying to a comment from Justin / December 30, 2012 at 11:54 am
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could you name a few? would love to see what the other chalk artists are doing.
raymes / December 30, 2012 at 03:10 pm
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I am in awe. Such a nostalgic whimsical art/talent.
Ben Barak / December 30, 2012 at 04:33 pm
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Check out the amazing, ever-changing original murals done by Justin Cozens on the chalkboard at Unlovable. He does it "to keep his chops up" not to advertise businesses - a true artist using many media to express his unique vision.Find out more by watching him work at Unlovable...he started AFTER this TOBlog article http://www.blogto.com/bars/unlovable-toronto
Justin / December 30, 2012 at 04:35 pm
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I just object to the title of this article. I mean it's great that he's parlayed this into a business and BlogTO wants to let us know about his success but doing a second article on one guy doesn't mean "demand for chalk artistry in Toronto keeps growing". It's not. I've been doing monthly/bimonthly chalk murals at Unlovable for a year and a half. There isn't really any 'demand' for it that I've seen. Maybe in other cities thanks to Dana but not here.
Ben / December 30, 2012 at 04:36 pm
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Visit Unlovable, or Justin Cozens website for some mazing unique chalks
CJ / December 30, 2012 at 07:21 pm
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I do this in Nashville and fly all over for big jobs. It's fun, If it doesn't last I will go back to illustration. Dana may have made it popular but she didn't event it. It's been on magazine covers since at least the 70s, I found a fully chalked Newsweek cover from the late 70s at a garage sale. It's great that it's back. Chalk will always be around in some form, it works for education, advertising, business, it's why it's so popular.
Josh / December 31, 2012 at 02:13 pm
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Go check out Justin's work at unlovable. its great!
Rajiv / December 31, 2012 at 07:34 pm
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YAAAY!!! Thanks Blogto for the feature!
Craig / January 3, 2013 at 10:22 am
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Congrats to Rajiv for his excellent work and for this write-up.

As other comments point out, other artist do this type of work. One artist I am aware of is Jennifer Chaparro, whose work is in demand world wide. Two notable vertical (on a wall) pieces of her chalk art can be seen on her website. The first is a take off of "American Gothic" for the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival and the work she did for the Dalkey Dispensary, in Dalkey, Ireland. Photos are at her website.
Jennifer / January 3, 2013 at 11:37 am
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Great work, Rajiv! I do this, too, and travel all over. I am also a street painter/chalk artist and do the 3D art. I have been able to make a living doing this, too, which is great. I learned the basics of design at UCLA, but I learned all about large scale chalk art on my own. Check out my website at www.AmazingStreetPainting.com.
Rajiv replying to a comment from Justin / January 30, 2013 at 07:15 pm
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Hey Justin,

Great work!

I am actually inundated with requests in the city. So much so that I cannot keep up with the demand. If you're interested in doing this kind of work perhaps we can collaborate and I can hire you to work for me.

Let me know,
Thanks,

Rajiv
Rajiv replying to a comment from Justin / January 30, 2013 at 07:16 pm
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Hey Justin,

Great work!

I am actually inundated with requests in the city. So much so that I cannot keep up with the demand. If you're interested in doing this kind of work perhaps we can collaborate and I can hire you to work for me.

Let me know,
Thanks,

Rajiv
Erika / February 3, 2013 at 07:55 pm
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I just found out that Rajiv was in Mean Girls!
Anita Christamtsis / February 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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Look at you!! Fabulous work, Rajiv! But then I always knew you were fabulous!!!

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