{12.3.14} An Adventure in Chalk Lettering

When the owner of my favorite local coffee shop asked me to help out with the renovations of his coffee shop, of course I said YES! Towpath Cafe in the Village of Fairport, recently underwent a remodel of his coffee shop to include a wine bar. With the renovations, came new paint, new tables, new decorations, and a new drink menu – That’s where I come in!

He gave me two 25×39 frames containing blank chalkboards, a photo of their cafe drink menu, and told me to have at it! I’ve never done any sort of chalk art, other than writing on the small chalkboard on my studio door, so I knew I was in for a fun and adventurous project. I approached this project the same as the life preserver project – in that although I had no experience in the medium, I knew I could apply other artistic skills to achieve the appearance I desired.

I began on the computer. Using Adobe InDesign, I created two blank canvases the same sizes as my chalkboards. From there, I designed the drink menu using a handwritten script font – one that was pretty similar to my own handwriting. I designed both boards on my computer first – simply so I could space out each line, assuring that all the menu items would fit. I placed all the text on a black/gray background to give me a better idea of what the text would look like against the dark color of the chalkboard. It also allowed to precisely measure the height and width of the letters.

I started the actual chalk art with old-school crayola white chalk. I used a level and basically drew out my baseline grid – think lined paper – in faint white chalk. This allowed me to write straight on each line, knowing that eventually I’d erase my lines.

From there, I began the hand lettering of the menu items with their sizes and prices. It was a huge disappointment to me to find that the $35 in chalk markers I bought wouldn’t work with the type of blackboard paint that was used on these store-bought frames. I was really excited for the bold pastel color they create, but for whatever reason, the board wasn’t taking the ink from the markers. So, good-ole fashioned regular chalk it was! I was able to find some fine-tipped chalk which was great for creating fine lines. The old school chalk gave the boards a classic feel, which I think fits with Towpath’s renovations.

Line by line, letter by letter I went, making sure not to erase the work with the side of my hand! I worked left to right, top down, which helped a lot with not erasing any of my previous work. Chalk is tricky for that exact reason!

Once I was finished with the lettering, I went back and added some gear elements. Since Towpath is right by the lift bridge in the village, they decided to add several design elements in the interior design to reflect the gears of the bridge – including a beautiful wall mural painted by Lorraine Staunch, a popular painter in Fairport.

I added some gear elements to tie in this theme, and I think it adds just a little something extra to the text-heavy chalkboards.

It certainly was an adventure for me to create such detailed hand lettering – not to mention in chalk – and in such a large format. One of my favorites aspects about working in chalk, especially old-school chalk, is that it gives such a lovely handmade feel! Every stroke of the letters really has that ‘made-by-hand’ appearance.

I love dipping my toes into new mediums, and I love supporting small businesses. It really gave my heart a swell of satisfaction to be able to contribute to the new look of Towpath. It’s always been my go-to coffee shop, and to be able to put my stamp on it, really is an invaluable feeling to me. Stop in to Towpath, grab a hot beverage with a friend, listen to some local music and check out the great new art!

Posted in Crafts

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