Blackboard Chalk Art from Japan – What is special about it?

3-D drawings featuring alluringly fluffy lions and glittery rainbows – chalk artist Rica does this all effortlessly using simple oil pastels and her fingers as tools. Rica started chalk art 15 years ago. She wanted to do something out of the norm and decided to pick up chalk art after finding a chalk art course in a study abroad magazine. Now, Rica holds chalk art classes in both Singapore and Japan for students of all ages and levels. The petite, soft-spoken lady has also appeared on popular TV programs in Japan such as NHK’s Ohayou Japan. She was also the one who did the chalk art in the interior of the Kinokuniya supermarket in Shibuya, Tokyo.

What most of the world thinks of when chalk art is mentioned is a far cry from the kind of chalk art that is popular in Japan. For starters, Japanese blackboard chalk art is actually done with oil pastels, not actual chalk. The art form originated in Australia before swiftly gaining popularity around the globe. Despite the similar techniques used, Japanese chalk art tends to be more often than not three-dimensional with striking attention to detail. 

Unlike the dynamic chalk drawings that are commonly seen on sidewalks at festivals and events, Japanese chalk art draws inspiration from the beloved blackboard drawings that make up a nostalgic part of school life for many Japanese people. These days, blackboard chalk art in Japan is a common sight outside cafes and at weddings, serving as an eye-catcher.

Chalk art is surprisingly easy, for a complete beginner like myself. For those who feel handicapped when faced with pencil and paper, rest assured that chalk art is unexpectedly difficult to mess up.

Having the drawing skills of a kindergartener, I wasn’t quite confident that I would be able to produce any decent artwork, let alone the beautiful masterpieces that Rica had on display. In spite of my misgivings, I sat down to the box of dauntingly numerous oil pastels and commenced my first foray into chalk art.

Rica was very gentle and patient, offering encouragement and never rushing me. She was also very accommodating, answering my nonstop questions in detail. Fortunately, I did not have to draw anything. All that was required was colouring in outlines that Rica had already pre-drawn. 

I would say that the whole process was not dissimilar to one of those adult colouring activity books, and equally relaxing. I was transported back to my childhood through the tactile experience of colouring with oil pastels and blending in the colours with my fingertips. Along the way, Rica would also explain to me where to shade and where to highlight, how much strength to use and how thick or thin to draw my lines.

Would definitely recommend to anyone who would like to try out a new art form that is practical yet flexible, tactile enough to appeal to one’s inner child, yet sophisticated enough for discerning adults. Rica’s lessons offer a bite-sized moment where you can completely lose yourself in creating art without having to worry about complicated techniques or materials.

For those who are interested in chalk art jamming with Rica, join her on the last day (25th April 2021) at Akadot Experience!

Check out Rica’s Instagram below!


About the author

Translator, writer, and all-around multilingual person.
Always on the lookout for interesting people and projects in Japanese/English/Chinese.