Chalk Portrait 7: Astrid Lindgren


Pippi Longstocking is hilarious. When first reading it I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud. Equally enjoyable to my kids are Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village, Happy Times in Noisy Village, and Christmas in Noisy Village . These books are just as amusing as Pippi with even more charm. The books are about a neighborhood of farmer kids in early 20th century Sweden. The depiction of their Christmas celebrations are especially delightful.

Speaking of Christmas, Lindgren also wrote a couple of short picture books about the Yuletide gnomes of Scandinavia. In Sweden families are visited by the tomten (which go by other names in Norway, Denmark, and Finland). The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox have lovely paintings by Swedish illustrator Harald Wiberg. We own all these books and have been reading them every year for many years.


P.S. I couldn’t get a really red chalk for the Pippi hair, so I have to confess that I faked the color in Photoshop. The “red” chalk draws as a very pale pink. I should really figure out how the other chalk-drawing designers get their rich color.

Chalk Portrait 5: Haruki Murakami


I want to incorporate typography into these portraits, so how could I ignore Haruki Murakami’s kanji characters? I pulled them from one of the Japanese editions of his books. I brushed his full name into the chalk up top, but I only had room for his family name at the bottom.

Chalk Portrait 4: Flannery O’Connor


Earlier this year I designed the cover for a book about Flannery O’Connor (it hasn’t gone to press yet). The university archive that holds a collection of her work sent me photos for possible use on the cover. Among them were some portraits from her college days (in the 1940s). O’Connor was a pretty cool gal back then. Did you know she drew a series of comics for her high school and college papers (see Fantagraphics’ book Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons).

My portrait is based on one of her college class photos. She was big into peacocks (she kept several as pets), so I’ve given her hip peacock feather earrings. I think I’m getting better at handling this chalk medium. Any requests for future author portraits?

Chalk Portrait 3: Julius Caesar


Gaius Julius Caesar was a well regarded writer in his day. He wrote accounts of his conquest Gaul and his war with Pompey The Great. I’ve read both books. They’re pretty entertaining. In his writing Caesar always referred to himself in the third person for self-promotional reasons: a) It forces the public to read his name repeatedly, and b) it conveyed a sense of objectivity (even though we all know who the author was).

The Latin writing in the background of this drawing is the first paragraph from his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. I added a fun AE ligature, which Roman stone inscriptions used a lot. Interestingly, the Romans did not use our letter “J”. Their letter “I” pulled double-duty for names like “IULIUS”. Also, it’s probably more correct to abbreviate “Gaius” with a letter “C” for “CAIUS”, but I wanted to draw a “G” since we already have a “C” for “CAESAR”. Check out this Wikipedia article on his name.

Chalk Portrait 1 : Tolkien


Last week we bought three 16 x 20 chalkboards for kids. I want to have fun with the chalk too, so how about I draw a series of portraits in December? And let’s make them all famous authors. Today’s portrait on December 1st: it’s J.R.R. Tolkien. I think it looks just like him. Wouldn’t you say so?