Adair Arbor on Chalk Art, Nature, & Impermanence
Chalkboard art, like nature, is transitory. Since it can be erased, chalk lines are fleeting like many parts of the environment: such as a wildflower, a storm, the seasons. The art form, explains artist and former Second Gear employee Adair Arbor, is therefore the perfect medium to express the beauty and meaning of nature.
But not only has she found a way to add permanence to her chalkboard art, it’s also become the backbone of her business, Running Rabbit Art.
Arbor stumbled on chalk art during an inspired day working at Second Gear. On a slow morning she grabbed a six pack of Crayola chalk and sketched a design on a neglected board on the wall near the storefront. From that point on, the colorful art became a recurring adornment of the shop’s decor.
The board’s designs sum up Arbor’s artistic style which favors simple shapes and repeating lines found in nature: a mountain skyline, the veins of a leaf, or a tree ring. The constraints of creating art with chalk, for example, its limited colors and lack of precision, says Arbor, “is conducive to new ideas” and nudges her to tap into her imagination.
Her creative process begins with a quote from a nature writer. “It starts with the words and then I craft the illustration that fits around it,” she says. Her hope is the words and drawings will inspire store customers to reflect on their relationship with nature and inspire future adventures.
The weekly art did, at least, snag the attention of Second Gear consignor Chris Moore, a local graphic designer and artist. The two soon teamed up to launch Running Rabbit Art to produce postcards, stickers and greetings cards based on her chalky creations. Moore photographs her designs and they become the basis for stickers and other items they sell through local retailers and digital platforms, such as Etsy.
The pandemic, however, has urged them to adapt to the changing marketplace. For example, they are working on creating downloadable art, such as coloring books. “The crisis is forcing us to get creative,” she says. “But my family unit has been lucky. For us it hasn’t been catastrophic.”
In the meantime, Arbor was eager to help businesses that have shuttered during the economic apocalypse caused by COVID-19, including Second Gear where Arbor’s blackboard art has found a second coming. On a recent hike with furloughed Second Gear employee Jesse Goldman, the two hatched an idea to share her art to promote the launch of the store’s e-commerce effort.
“Second Gear was the first to buy our stickers and they encouraged me to do art on store time. When the store had to close I wanted to help in any way that I could,” says Arbor. “The shop was a beautiful launchpad for me and it’s rooted in community involvement. That’s the whole point of gear consignment: sharing what you can to create a mutually beneficial situation.”
- By Jack Igelman