Chalk Lettering Murals

"Listen, Everyone has a story to tell."

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working on a chalk mural with the talented Russian Designer, Olga Vasik. She was on her way to Oregon for a snowboarding trip, and happened to be passing through New York. Our collaboration was quite spontaneous and I learned a ton through the process. Here's how it all went down...

I reached out to Olga on a Monday after I saw her post a photo on Instagram, saying that she was visiting and wanted to meet up with other lettering folks while she was in town. Although I had never had any communication with her in the past, I really admired her work so I was curious to know what she was like in person. I reached out and we met up at a cafe in the East Village.

If you know me, you know that I am fascinated by different cultures, so listening to Olga's story was super interesting for me. She told me about the small industrial city in Russia that she lives in with her 20-year-old cat. She also told me that there are not really any other designers in her part of the country, nor are there design schools. She talked about her experiences with freelancing and her favorite projects she's done. The main thing that struck me was her devotion to quality, history and good craft. She told me,

"It's the job of the designer to create order from all the chaos in the world."

This stuck with me and I began to pick it apart from different angles in my head. It started to make sense to me as a design philosophy. It also was a surprise to hear that she doesn't consider herself to be an artist, while I thought there was so much artistry that goes into her work.


Towards the end of our conversation, we were talking about the chalkboard murals I have been making, and that I was going to be working on one later that week. Immediately we both knew it was a perfect opportunity to collaborate.

When it came to choosing what to write on the wall, we came up with a few ideas, including a lyric from the White Stripes song *Seven Nation Army*.

"Everyone has a Story to tell." 

This quote really summed up our night at the cafe. We were just two strangers from opposite parts of the world, that happened to have a lot in common.

We brainstormed ways to collaborate on the mural, and came up with a good strategy. We divided up the letters took a couple days to sketch our own ideas. The idea was to create an assortment of styles that represent the different strangers and their stories. I explored different styles for L, S and E, and Olga worked up some sketched for I, T and N, and we ended up having a lot of similar ideas. 


We mixed and matched the sketches until we were happy with the composition and began to lay out the framework on the wall.

We each drew our three letters onto the board stepping back every few minutes to see it from afar. (It's tough to really get a sense of the full design when you are so close to the wall.)

We took time to make sure the composition was well-balanced, and it turned out that we needed something a bit heavier in the middle. So I shaded the letter S to look 3D, and luckily that ended up becoming the focal point of the design. It's happy accidents like that one that remind me why I love working by hand.


While we were working on the mural, we continued our discussion from the coffee shop. I explained that we were not really solving a problem by making this mural, but rather just expressing ourselves through the lettering.

I explained how there is no such thing as a pure artist or a pure designer. If there ever was, those people would be insane! I believe we all have a little bit of both (that includes those people who don't make things). It's true, however, that some of us are definitely more artist than designer, or vice versa.

#Art is the goal. Design is the medium.

As we made this mural we realized that in that moment we were making art *through* our design. It's a subtle distinction, but keeping this idea in mind made me feel more confident about what I am doing.

Bottom line: Listen more than you talk. There is a whole lot to learn out there.


Dare To Love

Eric Friedensohn Will Pay Dare To Love Sketches

Collaboration with Will Pay

A few days before making this mural, Will had broken up with his girlfriend, and was getting ready to move to Seattle. This was also right before Valentine's Day, so naturally we had a great topic to work from.

The concept was that, even though love can hurt, or get you down, it's still worth pursuing for it's benefits. A life without love is a missed opportunity.

This piece was completed in 4 hours without any pre-planning, not like my other projects at all. It was definitely a challenge...

We sketched on paper and also directly onto the wall, critiquing each other's ideas, and then eventually erased the board and started fresh.

It was really a blast working with someone who I already knew so well. I can say for sure that this won't be my last collaboration with Will.

Until next time, DARE TO LOVE!

Bring Your Funky Self

My first chalkboard collaboration with Will Pay was a colorful explosion. We illustrated the words "Bring Your Funky Self" to debut the new series and show a little bit of our personality at the same time.

Since this was our first chalk mural, it definitely wasn't the cleanest type. Though, with each new mural, I can see the improvements happening.