The sun is out, winter’s snow has long ago melted away; spring has come to Valparaiso University, and with the return of warm weather comes the return of another familiar sight around campus: chalk art. Most students are familiar with the chalk-drawn landscapes that frequently dot the sidewalks around campus during warmer months, but many may not be familiar with the woman behind the chalk. That person is none other Elly Walsh-Rock, sophomore biology and secondary education major from Downers Grove, Ill.
“Sometimes people are like ‘Oh, you’re such a good artist’ and the thing is like, chalk art is not a hard thing to do, all it is is just mixing different colors of dust together,” Walsh-Rock said about her work.“I am not a visual artist at all, but just because I see things and I’m like ‘wow, that’s really cool’, that needs to be done something with and made to look beautiful and that’s what I try to do.”
Whether they’re difficult to create or not, her chalk drawings have garnered a fair amount of praise from those who have seen them.
“To be honest it’s kind of overwhelming,” she said.
Walsh-Rock frequently takes pictures of her artwork which she posts to Facebook, and according to her the reactions she gets to these posts are “shocking.”
“I was really bad about interacting with people when I moved away from home, and so the chalk art and posting was a way to be like ‘hi, I’m still ok, everything’s fine’, and it’s really been astonishing to have people who I was really good friends with in high school see my chalk drawings and comment on them,” she explained. “I don’t even know how to describe it, but I’m still amazed every single time I do one and like 100 people tell me that they like it, or 150 tell me that they like it, I have no words for how incredible it is.”
Walsh-Rock takes the inspiration for her chalk drawings from her father, and from motivational speaker and chalk artist Ben Glenn.
“My dad took a class from him [Glenn] and my dad does chalk art at our high school for freshman orientation really similar to the drawings that I do, so that’s kind of where that came from,” she said.
“I started chalking the summer after my senior year of high school,” Walsh-Rock said. “I was working in a summer camp and I had some chalk and I was like let’s try this.”
Her drawings are always either sunsets or sunrises, the ambiguity of those two times of day being something she enjoys. Usually these suns are over either a lake or else over the mountains. Walsh-Rock explained that the mountains are inspired by the mountains her dad typically draws and the lakes come from the view of watching the sunset over Lake Michigan during the summer where she works.
“I love being able to do this on the sidewalks on this campus, or just on the sidewalks in general, because I’ve had one of the greatest happenings of my life I spent with these four little kids who saw me drawing and they just came and they drew with me and it was so cool,” Walsh-Rock explained. “I’ve met really amazing people from doing chalk.”
Elly also talked about what it’s like to create a type of art that doesn’t last very long. The nature of her chalk drawings means each drawing is gone with the next rainfall.
“I kind of like the fact that it’s not there forever and that it’s a really fleeting moment,” she said.
“When you’re a kid and you draws tons and tons and tons of coloring pages and they just kind of build up and I really like the idea of it not doing that,” she said. “It exists and then it doesn’t.”
She added that the fact that her art doesn’t last very long helps her understand that things don’t last forever.
In the end, Walsh-Rock just hopes to capture some of the natural beauty in the world in an art form that anyone can enjoy.
“Being an artist doesn’t really have anything to do with it,” she said. “It’s just doing it for the sake of trying to make something beautiful.”
Contact Peter Crapitto at firstname.lastname@example.org.