Hilary Frambes spent most of her summer drawing on the sidewalk, but the Plain City woman wasn’t playing with kindergartners.
She was competing.
Frambes is an artist who “chalks” for festivals, competitions and for fun.
The finished works can be huge, some up to 20 feet long, and the subjects range from pop culture icons to seasonal imagery.
The daughter of a ballerina and an artist and the wife of a musician, Frambes graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design in 1992, where she majored in illustration.
While raising her children, Frambes says she always “kept her toe dipped in art” but it wasn’t until her kids got in grade school she really had the time to work as an artist.
Frambes currently teaches after-school art programs four days a week, runs wine and paint classes for adults at night, creates murals for local businesses and, on top of all that, competes in different chalk events on weekends.
Over the past five months, Frambes drew pieces in Easton, Hilliard, Dublin, Marysville and Westerville.
Most recently, Frambes traveled as far as Clearwater, Florida to compete in the Clearwater Chalk Festival where she created a portrait of Harley Quinn from the recent movie “Suicide Squad.”
There are innate challenges about creating works of art in the public sphere with a medium such a chalk — something as commonplace as rain can ruin a piece that took hours to create, the sun can easily dehydrate a person, people can literally walk across your work if they aren’t paying attention.
Despite all of these challenges, Frambes still loves the unusual art form.
“The whole experience is different because you are interacting with the public while you are creating… people respond to it and it’s a conversation. I like to interact with the crowd and I like to talk especially to the kids… the whole process is enjoyable and cathartic,” Frambes said.
The festivals create a sense of camaraderie among the artists as well. Competitors exchange tips, technique advice and inspiration. Frambes says that at times she “forget(s) that there is a competition going on” because the mood is so light. She explains that “it’s really just a celebration of art more than anything.”
The type of surface being drawn on, the effect that needs conveyed, how much time you have can all effect what type of chalk to use and how to use it.
Frambes prefers SOHO brand street pastels because the pieces of chalk are three times as thick as most and are more dense than other brands — meaning she can cover more surface area quickly and they don’t crumble under pressure in her hand.
Other artists crush their chalk, mix with it water and use a paintbrush to apply, a technique Frambes has used only once when she recreated (with some changes) Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” for the Columbus Arts Festival in 2014.
For all the unique qualities of chalk art, there is one seemingly fatal flaw — it is innately fleeting. But even this adds Frambes’ admiration.
“It’s transient… you make this art, you look at it and then it’s over. And then you make something else. When it disappears, it’s time to start thinking of what to do next,” she said.
“It forces you to keep moving forward.”
To check out more of her work, head to www.HilaryFrambes.com or look up “Laughing Dog Studio” on Facebook.
Reach Erin Thompson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1615.