Halifax artist drawn to drawing strangers finds following online

·2 min read
Maxwell Macaulay with a sketch of Melissa Chunick sitting by the window of Cafe Lara on Agricola Street in Halifax. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)
Maxwell Macaulay with a sketch of Melissa Chunick sitting by the window of Cafe Lara on Agricola Street in Halifax. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)

Maxwell Macaulay started drawing people going about their daily lives around the Halifax area just for fun.

But what began as a hobby is turning into a career, thanks to a growing following on social media, which has helped create a demand for his sketches.

"I like the idea of how happy people are when they receive the drawings and that's why I mainly do what I do," Macaulay said.

A couple of years ago, the 23-year-old started drawing people — who often don't even know he's there — and then presenting them with the portraits.

He's produced about 300 sketches since then of people in bars, coffee shops, parks and other public places.

Steve Lawrence/CBC
Steve Lawrence/CBC

The smiles he was putting on people's faces gave him the idea to record the process and capture their reactions on his phone to post on social media under the handle @slick.skills.

"All these people in Halifax were enjoying it, so I figured probably people online would like it as well, so why not give it a go?"

His online following has been building ever since on several different platforms, including TikTok, where he now has almost 400,000 followers and has gotten millions of likes for his videos.

"I like, just boomed," he said. "I think it's because it's raw and real."

He never expected any of this when he threw himself into art in part as an escape from feelings of anxiety that led to depression, emanating from an unhappy spell through high school where he was bullied.

"I was struggling a lot with mental health and the only thing I could really lean on was my art. It's a stress reliever and something I really enjoyed," he explained.

Steve Lawrence/CBC
Steve Lawrence/CBC

Macaulay is now being contacted from people around the Halifax area as well as places around the world who want to hire him.

"That's been great. I have a lot of people wanting me to draw themselves or their family," he said. "People want me to draw their dogs of course, that's a common thing."

The commissions have allowed him to leave his job as a house painter to focus on his art.

Steve Lawrence/CBC
Steve Lawrence/CBC

But his surprise sketches are what he gets the most out of. On this day he presents a drawing to Melissa Chunick in a coffee shop.

"I love it, I think it's super cool, it's a good way to brighten up someone's day," she said, adding she plans to get a frame to display the drawing in her home.

As a next step, Macaulay is looking at ideas for a book and ultimately would like to have a store showcasing his art.

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