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Interview with Summer Jefferson of Chalk and Paint.

September 23, 2014

Besides Chef Bruce Kalman’s food, one of the most iconic things about Union Restaurant is the beautiful chalk drawings by Chalk and Paint. The main chalk board has been pictured in magazines, blogs and Instagram feeds all over America.
 
So we had a chat with the owner of Chalk and Paint, Summer Jefferson, to learn a little bit more about her process, her background and her art form.
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Union: Did you go to college for art?
Summer: No, I studied anthropology in college. I’m an artist through osmosis. My mom was an artist. My grandma did calligraphy and painting and my father is an architect. I would copy my mom and grandma’s alphabet. I grew up around a lot of that. My dad could draw anything. I would get sketch books and pens for Christmas and would sit and draw for hours. Anything. A picture from a magazine or a still life. I only took a couple of art classes in college.
 
Calligraphy was always a love of mine. Lettering was always something I was good at. I dabbled in graffiti. My art is old school. I do everything the way my dad taught me to do it, by hand. I draw everything by hand.

I’ve always been very visual. I can look at a font and copy it or create it. I would use different typography for school work and scribble the border of my assignments with my name in different fonts. In high school, I was the one who could design and draw so I was always drawing someone’s binder.
 
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Union: How did you get started doing art as a business?
Summer: Everyone wanted me to letter something for them. Then, I would see chalkboards around town and think, “I can do that.” I was already working as a preschool teacher, introducing art materials to the children. Children learn through clay and paint and art. I take what the children learn in class and use art materials to help supplement those lessons.
 
My first sign was for The Gourmandise school in Santa Monica. Then I worked on set for Tastemade a couple of times which is where I met Bruce. Most of my clients are word of mouth.
 
Union: Who came up with the design for Union’s chalkboard?
Summer: The chalkboard was a collaboration. It was great to work with Bruce because most people don’t know what they want and Bruce had definite ideas about what quotes he wanted and some basic design ideas. He wanted the farmer’s market list and he wanted to represent both California and Italy because of the fare. His tattoos also had some influence on the design. Italian ingredients. He came to the table with printed stuff from old cookbooks. It was definitely a collaboration but he allowed me plenty of artistic license.
 
Heather Marshall, my sister, is also a great artist. I brought her in on the job because of the scope of the project. I tend to do the precision work and Heather has a free hand. She can draw just from looking at an image.
 
Union: What do you like about working in chalk, specifically?
Summer: I love it because there’s definitely skill involved, but it’s accessible to everyone because chalk is cheap and it’s so malleable. You can do a whole thing and it can be gone the next day. I like the impermanence, which can also be frustrating at times. With Union’s board, we put a light coat of varnish over it to hold the art in place.
 
Before I started working in chalk, I saw a couple of people using chalk with typography, doing really cool big installations… I thought “Wow, I want to try that.” And I’m always learning something through trial and error. I just love the look of it. I almost prefer black and white to color. The print quality of it.
 
Everyone has had an experience with chalk, whether it’s hopscotch on the ground as a kid… or whatever. To see chalk elevated to an artistic level, people are drawn to the cheap medium elevated to a level of fine art. Or when someone uses chalk for really interesting perspective, it has a WOW factor. Part of the appeal is the fact that if you went and wiped it, it would go away. For the moment, it’s this beautiful piece.
 

Summer and baby at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.
Summer and baby at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

 
You can see more of Summer’s work on Facebook @ Facebook.com/chalkandpaint.
 
Or you can follow her on Instagram @chalk_and_paint
 
To inquire about pricing, you can contact Summer at summer@chalkandpaint.com.