Ken Winchester sure has a way with words.
Every week for the last six years, the James Bay resident and co-owner of Niagara Grocery has come up with a catchy phrase or pun to go along with a picture that he draws out of chalk on a sandwich board outside the store to entice people to come in.
“I realized that if I do something fun and make a pun, people would smile and come into the store,” Winchester said. “It became one pun after another. Simple messages, not controversial.”
When the store started carrying local free range meat, he drew a picture of a burger and wrote “Burger She Wrote.” In another phrase, he said “When did my wild oats turn into gran flakes?” At one point, he also paraphrased Shakespeare, saying “I come to seize your berries, not to praise them.”
“The word I would use to describe it is ephemeral, temporary. It’s like a concert — you really enjoy the music in the moment and then it’s gone,” said Winchester about his love for chalk art. “Unlike a painting or water colours, you walk around and enjoy the art and in a couple of days it’s washed away. That’s kind of what’s cool about it.”
The chalkboard has received a lot of praise over the years from residents enjoying the puns and drawings. It even caught the attention of John Vickers, the executive director of the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival Society.
“The chalkboard had some great artistic skills on display and someone had mentioned Ken’s prowess with chalk to me and thought he would be a good contribution to the festival,” Vickers said. “He’s one of the most positive people you will ever meet.”
For the past four years, Winchester has participated at the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival, often drawing farm scenes to encourage people to eat fresh and eat local.
This year, Winchester will have a designated eight by 10 foot piece of asphalt to draw on, adding he will likely draw a scene involving a tractor.
But spending two, eight-hour days on your hands on knees gets tiring. The lesson he’s learned from previous years: bring gloves, knee pads and lots of chalk.
“With chalk art, you get down on your hands and knees. It’s very physical. You focus on a square footage at the time and then move on, and after eight or 10 hours you stand up and look back and you have this small work of art,” Winchester said.
Winchester will join more than 30 other 2D and 3D chalk artists from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico as part of the festival from Sept. 12 to 13 along Government Street and at the Bay Centre.
For more information visit victoriachalkfestival.com.