Where some see a place to walk their dog or just a parking spot at home, Santa Clarita-based chalk artist Monique Newman sees a canvas.
Working for free — but also receiving a few homemade baked goods from time to time — Newman creates colorful pieces of work specific to each driveway or sidewalk she decorates.
Her hands are stained in her latest choice from the palette of colors, her back may be a little achy from bending over to outline the new addition to the piece, but Newman said she creates her works, whether they be for a birthday, or graduation, or even for a family looking for a ray of hope, out of a calling.
“Way back when Santa Clarita used to host the Bella Via chalk festival, a friend from Grace Baptist (Church) purchased a large square and she asked for help, so I started with chalk art at that point,” said Newman. “But when COVID hit and you’re out walking — so many neighbors were out walking — I just thought I’d love to put some positive things out there as you’re walking by.”
Starting a little over a year ago, Newman began decorating the concrete around her neighborhood near Calgrove Boulevard. Once her art began to pick up steam on her social media, other people began to see if she would come decorate their driveways during a time of quarantine, tedium and monotony.
Before long she had dozens of birthday pieces, with baseball players, characters from the “Mario Kart” video game and/or favorite characters wishing kids a special day. On Easter, she made a highly detailed square depicting the Christian story of Jesus Christ rising from the tomb on the third day.
“It’s been really fun to lift people’s spirits, kids who have really limited access to friends during their birthday celebrations, to surprise them in the morning.”
Each one, Newman says, takes approximately one to two hours, depending on the detail. At one point, she was asked if she could do something for two parents, coming home after being with their child on life support. She obliged, and made a piece with a Winnie the Pooh saying: “If there comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay with you forever.”
“It was just something simple, but the way it was received by that couple, it just felt to them like a message from their son they just lost,” she said.
Last week, Newman was doing a “Congratulations” message for a West Ranch High School graduate, indicating the school, UCLA, that he would be heading to in the next couple of months. Kyle, the graduate, was seen hours later posing with his name and piece of art, smile beaming.
“It’s very interesting,” said Newman. “I’ve had some responses that really blew me away.”