The Chalkmaster -- Toronto's own Man of Chalk, voted 1999's best graffiti artist by NOW readers, whose easy-to- wash-away but hard-to-forget murals have graced many Queen and Bloor Street sidewalk panels, is in trouble. He's stranded. In Halifax. With no money to get home.And while the grey pall of Toronto sidewalks isn't nearly as clear a sign of danger as the bat signal shining over Gotham City, his community does miss him.
Some know the man by the name of his alter ego, Dave Johnston. While his name may be a bit fluid, his talent's firmly established. He does things with chalk that some OCAD grads couldn't do with a whole art supply store. And he learned, appropriately enough, by sitting on the sidewalk. "That was my escape,' he tells NOW from the East Coast.
"I was a Mr. Wannabe Tough Guy, and never feared a single thing. But the minute I held my daughter, I knew fear and beauty and love all at the same time."
That's why he fled east -- to be with her. But with a small population and less disposable income, Halifax can't sustain him the way Toronto can. Not that he complains. "They're friendly. It's a wonderful place that way, but it's just not my home,' he says.
Anyone who's seen the Man of Chalk on the pavement knows he's a consummate showman. I remember how he once interrupted our conversation to do magic tricks for curious boys sitting beside us.
They were wide-eyed, just like me. I can think of no better mascot, really, for Toronto, for honest living, for hard work.
"It's kinda neat how you make these 90-second friendships,' he says. "And for those 90 seconds your world and their world is all that matters.'
Those split-second friends are his source of inspiration. He does draw superheroes, after all. "When I started, people gave me money to help me out. They didn't know me, but they were there to help, just because they wanted to.
They're the superheroes, and I love superheroes. They represent everything we wish we could be. They get judged a little, but they fight the good fight. Not for money, not for personal benefit, but because it's the right thing to do.'
Toronto misses its Man of Chalk. I invite us all to get his pictures back on our naked streets. You can contact our hero at www.chalkmaster.com.