Ephemeral art

Many cafés have chalkboard listings of menu items, but Dragonfly Café and Gardens in Ashland has gone the extra mile by devoting a full wall to food listings surrounded by fanciful art.

Local artist Rebecca Gabriel spent four days drawing dragonflies, flowers and mushrooms on the wall, which had been prepped with special blackboard paint. She finished on Dec. 23. The chalk mural will stay up for six months, and then the restaurant will start over with a clean slate.

Gabriel went back to look at the mural during the New Year's holiday and noticed it's already been smudged a bit by kids trailing their hands through the chalk and adults leaning against the wall.

"What can you do? I touched it up, but I'm not going to keep doing that. You could drive yourself crazy. You've got to let it go," she said.

She said wear-and-tear is something artists have to expect with public art — especially when it's done in chalk.

Gabriel, who is best known for her masterfully done, emotionally complex nudes, said it was fun to work on a piece of impermanent, whimsical art. She's been dabbling in chalk art since August, when she drew an overheated dog on a green chalkboard for a Bloomsbury Books window display about the dog days of summer.

Gabriel, who works at the book shop, said the store later purchased a black chalkboard. She drew a white tree for Bloomsbury Books' January window display.

Gabriel said she enjoyed getting out of her studio and creating art at Dragonfly.

"It was so gratifying for me, working in the restaurant, and having people come in and be so excited about the dragonflies and flowers," she said.

Gabriel said she believes people like to have art in their lives, and especially crave bright colors on stark, foggy winter days.

She noted that she developed a great deal of respect for the people working at the restaurant during the time that she was there.

For people who want to create a chalkboard wall at home, Miller Paints at 1618 Ashland St. sells latex chalkboard paint for $15.49 a quart.

Painting experts there recommend first coating a wall with regular paint primer, then applying two coats of chalkboard paint according to label directions. Allow three days for the paint to dry before writing or drawing on it.

Miller Paint has green chalkboard paint in stock but can order black.

For people who don't want to commit to chalkboard paint on their walls, The Yellow Cupboard art, craft and school supply store at 629 A St. has blackboards.

A small 10-by-16-inch blackboard costs $6.95, a medium 18-by-24-inch blackboard costs $9.95, and a large 22-by-32-inch one costs $18.50.

A box of 12 pieces of chalk in assorted colors costs $6.90, and a felt eraser is $2.

The store also has chalk pastels, but those must be washed off of blackboards with soap and water.

Gabriel said she recommends regular chalk over the more expensive pastel chalk because it's easier to wipe off. She said black chalkboard paint or a blackboard is ideal because the black — contrasted against colorful chalk pigments — can be used as part of the composition.

"Let black be part of the color scheme. It's almost like looking at a color negative. It automatically has an otherworldly look," Gabriel said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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