With a taste for crafting, drawing characters and everything else creative, Rozzie Lee, Calgary’s Chalk Artist, first discovered that art was her passion when she was a child.
“Anything that could be made by hand, I always wanted to be a part of it. Art was something I felt was a strength throughout my life,” Rozzie Lee shares with us.
Throughout high school, Lee was a part of her Art IB program where she was able to further develop her skills. There was a time when she first considered the idea of becoming a painter after high school and exhibiting her work in galleries, however, she didn’t like the idea of her paintings sitting around and waiting for someone to buy them.
“I enjoyed painting, but I knew it wasn’t the right career direction for me.”
Upon graduation, Lee entered into Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD)’s foundation year where she was able to figure out which program she wanted to specialize in.
“After my first year in general studies with preferred electives, I knew I really enjoyed graphic design and illustration.”
Working in graphic design was a good direction because it would later give her the opportunity to work in the industry and still be creative.
Lee decided to enter the Visual Communications program, which she admits was tricky to enter due to it’s high demand and competitive entrance requirements.
“It was life changing. The experience really shaped my drawing skills and allowed me to draw at a much higher level,” she states.
She considers the program to be one of the best and notes on how she was able to obtain the basic skills required to become a commercial artist.
“I have the mindset that this can be practical and useful in a retail market space. Everything we do is visual communications.”
After graduating in 2007, Lee was a graphic designer for local Calgary business VoodooPC, a boutique computer gaming company, which was later acquired by Hewlett-Packard.
In 2010, she started in a full-time position at Blackfoot Motosports until May of this year.
As a Marketing Manager, her role encompassed many aspects of the retail business including digital and print materials, in-store displays, managing social media and event coordination for demo days and customer appreciation events.
In more recent years, she began building her commercial art portfolio outside of her full-time job.
Lee never intentionally decided to specialize in chalk art. Her work in it first began when she started creating chalk work at Q Haute Cuisine, one of Canada’s premiere restaurants and popular wedding venue.
“I drew regularly for Q Haute Cuisine, and started to build a portfolio.”
She began doing chalk art – one every few months for the first couple of years, before she slowly started to gain her own clients.
She built an online portfolio at CalgaryChalkArtist.com so people looking for this type of artwork could easily find her.
“They found my website, and I started getting commissions.”
Lee notes that chalk is a very different medium to work with because it’s a soft blunt stick that doesn’t always transfer very well onto surfaces. It’s not as precise as a pencil or a brush.
She says chalk drawing on sidewalks or large chalk walls requires a different technique than menu boards, where more fine details are required.
“Menu boards take a little more time, control and grip strength. Often I use chalk markers which give a sharper edge and don’t smudge when dry.”
She says she feels a sense of pride, self-worth, and value by having clients approach her and trust her to fulfill their creative needs and bring their concepts to reality.
“To make a living off of something I love to do is a dream come true.”
Lee admits that generating art for other businesses has been satisfying as they often serve a need or a purpose.
“I feel like my work becomes a part of the community, and that’s what drives me to create.”
She says word of mouth and referrals are how many people find her, especially clients from weddings and commercial projects.
“It’s really special to create something for a couple’s wedding and play a role in one of the biggest moments of their lives.”
The drawings she has the most fun with are the ones that involve animals, such as the ones she created for Calgary’s Regal Cat Café.
“It was a great experience to be a part of the launch of something so adorable and unique.”
A drawing that was meaningful for Lee, as well as a tremendous amount of work, was the most recent Valentine’s Day artwork displayed at Q Haute. She had the freedom to draw anything she wanted on the two-story tall chalkboard.
“I got to be creative and think: what do I want to challenge myself with in this drawing? I wanted it to be memorable, romantic and a standout portfolio piece.”
Lee understood it for the great opportunity it was since the chance to experiment on a large chalk wall like Q Haute’s doesn’t come very often.
She drew hot air balloons flying over an old Paris scene, stating “Love is in the Air,” over the Eiffel Tower.
“I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.”
However, doing what you love doesn’t always come easy. For Lee, having a full-time job alongside doing art part-time became difficult with the heavy workload involved.
“I didn’t have time to take care of myself and I wasn’t very happy because my energy was going towards two different things.”
She was exhausted mentally and physically, which began to take a toll on her personal life.
Additionally, another challenge she had to overcome was trying not to compare herself with other artists throughout social media.
“I have to constantly remind myself to stay positive and keep doing what I love in my own unique way, and it will all work out.”
For aspiring artists, Lee recommends taking post-secondary education.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says, adding on that she met a lot of different people who soon became friends, and she was also able to learn a lot about how the business world works.
“I couldn’t do what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone to ACAD.”
Another piece of advice is to keep experimenting and working with different art mediums such as watercolour, printmaking, sculpture, etc.
“Learning and using different mediums will keep you sharp in the world of art and flex your creativity,” Lee shared.
Networking with other artists is also highly recommended because it’s a way to become more involved in the art community around you.
“When artists collaborate and work together, we learn from each other and grow collectively.”
Finally, her best piece of advice for future artists is to put your energy into things that are important to you and your family.
“You need a strong foundation when it comes to mental and physical health. Put your time towards what really matters in life and what makes you happy because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”