News / Arts & Entertainment

Bartender Parlays Chalk Menu Designs Into Profitable Art Career

Bartender Chalks Up Unique Arti
X
August 16, 2013 2:01 PM
A Washington area bartender who is as creative with chalk as he is with cocktails is now creating one-of-a-kind artworks for high-profile clients. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently sat in with Patrick Owens on one of his projects and spoke with him about his craft.
A Washington-area bartender who is as creative with chalk as he is with cocktails is now creating one-of-a-kind artworks for high-profile clients.

During quiet hours on the job, Patrick Owens started drawing chalk images advertising the day’s specials on the A-frame sandwich boards outside the bar where he works.

He has doodled since childhood but never pursued art as a serious endeavor. Once he started working on the sandwich boards, Owens drew inspiration from popular American culture, including music, books and movies.
The artistry of bartender Patrick Owens' menu boards led to private commissions. (Courtesy Patrick Owens)The artistry of bartender Patrick Owens' menu boards led to private commissions. (Courtesy Patrick Owens)

We were on a strip of the street where there were tons of bars and everyone had these boards out and they all said the same thing: ‘$3 Rum & Cokes,’" Owens said. "So I tried to be as creative as possible…That was my whole point was to prompt interest for somebody walking down the street to say ‘Oh, that’s interesting. Maybe I’ll check out this place.’”

Soon after he started drawing, his art started to get noticed and he started getting private commissions.

Compass Rose

One of Owens' recent clients was the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the most visited museum in the country.

He got the job after a museum intern searched the Internet looking for a chalk artist. After an interview, Owens got the job.  

Owens was selected to create an artistic version of a compass rose, a traditional design on a map showing the principal directions, for the museum's new "Time & Navigation" exhibit.

Owens created a compass rose in chalk at the entrance of the museum, “both as an entryway treatment partially to get visitors in,” said Mychalene Giampaoli, an education specialist at the museum, “but also to echo the fact that maps are very extensively used in navigation.”

Owens spent nine hours working on the project in the area leading up to the museum's main entrance.

“The building crew didn't want to take down the stanchions [barriers] because they didn't want anybody walking on it to ruin the art."

She asked Owens how he felt about people walking over something so beautiful, “and  he goes, ‘what I love about my art is that it’s so ephemeral.’”

The museum gave Owens an image to work from, but allowed him some creativity.

“They had the scale and the dimension,” said Owens. “They knew where they were going to put it outside, but the specific image they left up to me. I wanted to integrate an actual rose in the center of the compass and they were all for that.”
 
As Owens' art keeps evolving, so does his technique.

These days he can often be found using a chalk marker instead of regular chalk to create his one-of-a-kind pieces.

Food-themed art

Another recent project was a wall drawing he created for a client who wanted a character called the "Swedish Chef" from a popular U.S. TV series.

A real chef, José Andrés, commissioned Owens to create a unique welcome to his restaurant; a large mural of a hand, holding a pair of tweezers, sketched and then completed with a black chalk marker, over the door leading to his bar.
Patrick Owens sketched and then completed this work with a black chalk marker, over the door of a local bar. (Julie Taboh/VOA)Patrick Owens sketched and then completed this work with a black chalk marker, over the door of a local bar. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
 Like the Smithsonian project, he was given an image to work from, and had to replicate it many times larger than the original.

“Basically they came to me with an exact image and I just had to find a way to put it on the wall,” said Owens.

The hand mural took about seven hours to complete, with most of the time spent measuring and sketching it out.

The mural was just one of the many designs Owens has created for Andrés, who owns about a dozen bars and restaurants in the Washington area.

Today, Owens could easily afford to leave bartending and do his chalk art fulltime, but says he would miss the social interaction.

“With the bartending I do enjoy it quite a bit, the social aspects of seeing friends roll in and meeting new people," he said. "I could split off in either direction; I could easily go fulltime as a bartender, or a bar manager or something else, or I could go full time as an artist and I’m being selfish right now because I kind of want the best of both worlds.”

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Washington DC local from: Washington DC
August 19, 2013 11:27 AM
Neat story and such a talented artist! Thanks for covering the local creative talents of Washington, DC's residents. It helps show Washington as far more vibrant and lively than the staid politics, policy, and lawmaking that most people associate it with typically.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.