Ian Morris remembers what happened on February 14, 2004, not because it was Valentine’s Day, but because he had less than $2 left in his pocket to survive.
The Victoria resident decided he had to do something to earn himself money to buy dinner and get through the rest of the day.
With his last few dollars, Morris decided to buy a box of white crayola chalk, grabbed a chunk of burnt wood and started to draw.
In black and white, he reproduced a portrait by Rogier van der Weyden, the Renaissance dutch painter.
“I made enough (money) to get through the day, so that was encouraging,” said Morris.
He’s come a long way since then.
Morris has participated in chalk art festivals in Edmonton, Port Angeles, Medicine Hat and Victoria.
His work has earned him a world-wide reputation as an anamorphic (or 3D as it is most commonly-known) chalk artist, but he’s also been invited to the 2015 Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, the largest chalk art festival in North America.
Morris will be attending the event free of charge and is receiving a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from Kurt Wenner, the artist who invented 3D chalk painting.
“The equivalent of what they’re offering me is a scholarship to Oxford to learn from Stephen Hawking for free,” Morris said. “I’ve got a world to learn from Kurt Wenner on how to improve my skills and ability. It’s all surreal. To receive this kind of recognition is a great honour.”
John Vickers, organizer of the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival, has known Morris for more than a decade.
“Going to this event, it really does put him on an international stage. Ian is very humble, thoughtful, just a super nice guy. As everybody knows he has been applying his trade on the sidewalk,” Vickers said. “He’s a world-calibre guy here on our sidewalk downtown and we just don’t know it.”
In Victoria, Morris has established a specific sidewalk on Government and Yates streets where he chooses to decorate with his 3D paintings several times a week.
For Morris, his work is about creating a connection between artist and audience.
“To me, it’s not the picture itself or the art-making, that’s merely a tool to create a common ground,” he said. “People walking along are enclosed in their own spaces and have a fear of interacting with people they don’t already know. I create a common space and it’s amazing what can happen.”
The Sarasota Chalk Art Festival runs from Nov. 9 to 16 in Venice, Florida.