The Famous San Francisco Night Chalker, Strikes Again
The “Artist You Should Know” series highlights Bay Area artists who are doing incredible work, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place.
Late at night when the city is dark and empty, the street lights cast long, quiet shadows on our sidewalks and buildings. Most people are home in their beds adhering to curfew. But not the San Francisco Night Chalker. He sees canvases, and lots of them.
It’s not often you see street art that asks us to think about space around us a bit differently. In a pandemic, and a city full of freshly empty spaces, artist Tusk 1 found heartening ways to fill those dark corners with his own cast of characters. Our city has 25,000 street lights, beaming down on surfaces each night, it takes an artist’s eye to see the potential fun in them.
Meet San Francisco’s Night Chalker, we call him ‘Ben’, you can call him Tusk1, an artist you should know…
Artist Name: Tusk1
Medium(s): Chalk, paint, ink.
Why do you use chalk…at night, who is the San Francisco Night Chalker?
After the lockdown started last year, I started going out on a lot of bike rides at night to get out of the house after working from home all day. Then one night, I saw an interesting shadow cast from an LED street light and came back the next night to draw something. What I find interesting about working with shadows at night is that they never move, which gives the pieces a dual life because during the daytime the pieces look very different without the confines of their shadows.
All Photography by @Tusk1_
The medium that made the most sense for these drawings ended up being chalk. I actually love working with it. Depending on the surface quality, it can produce some really smooth buttery lines and has a great feel to it when drawing quickly. I also love it’s extreme impermanence. Some of the pieces I do only last a single night before the rain washes them away or they are removed. Sometimes the only person who sees my work is me and that feels special in it’s own right, as it’s really about the process.
What’s your most recent favorite project?
It probably has to be the first mural I painted after the lockdown. With all the boarded up storefronts in our area, I wanted to bring some color and contribute something that felt genuine. I had something planned out in the sketchbook but when I saw the space I decided to scrap the plan and just do something freestyle in the moment. A lot of my work attempts to show how vastly different every human is and how we all share certain traits as a species. There’s often an element of connection and what happens when our lives overlap with other people’s lives.
You do storefronts? I do, and it’s something that I’d love to spend more time doing.
Where’s the most creative spot in the Bay Area?
Without a doubt, downtown SF and along the shoreline of the bay for what I’m into. There are endless places and spaces for new pieces. I seem to be drawn to more industrial parts of town as well as boarded up businesses at the moment. Once you start looking around for something specific like shadows, you can really find special places to draw everywhere, even just walking around the block.
I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school!
I do have a BA from Wisconsin. I studied art and design.
Any SF artists you think are particularly outstanding right now?
Too many to name them all, but there are a handful that constantly inspire me. To name a couple: Zio Ziegler, Nychos, Victor Reyes, Heather Day, Lango Olivera, Doze Green (not sf but I love his work)
Favorite street art right now?
Anything that feels thoughtful and incorporates good design principles. I love when artists think about the use of space and composition more than just slapping their name all over everything. There’s a place for practicing your handstyle and letterforms, and that place is on some old plywood in the backyard.
How do you think the SF art scene has changed over the years?
When I wasn’t actively producing much public artwork 10 years ago, it felt like the scene wasn’t either, but that’s probably my own projection. Things felt viscerally different when the tech industry started booming around 2010 in SF. I lived in the Mission at the time and for about a 5 year period we all noticed a shift in the collective creative vibe in our neighborhood. More and more little shops and art galleries closed up to make way for expensive juice bars and fancy salad restaurants, although I believe we’re on the precipice of a resurgence of creativity in this city.
What’s coming up for you? Just a bunch of new paintings and hopefully a lot more night chalking. I’m looking to work on some more large scale murals around the city this year as well.
To see more of Tusk1, follow him on Instagram @Tusk1_
and check out other SF artists at our “Artist You Should Know” series.
All Photography in this article by @Tusk1_