Vancouver chalk artist delights locals with surprise sidewalk drawings done after dark

·2 min read
This snoozing dragon was drawn in March on Comox Street in Vancouver's West End where chalk artist Elizabeth Cartegena has been leaving her mark usually under the cover of night. (instagram/violetncanvas - image credit)
This snoozing dragon was drawn in March on Comox Street in Vancouver's West End where chalk artist Elizabeth Cartegena has been leaving her mark usually under the cover of night. (instagram/violetncanvas - image credit)

Since last fall, residents in Vancouver's West End have been waking up to find chalk art drawings of cartoon-like characters doing wacky and whimsical things around the neighbourhood.

These delightful images are the handiwork of local resident Elizabeth Cartegena who decided she would hit the streets in October and draw something that would bring people joy during the pandemic.

Cartegena has been at it for months now, often stealthily sketching her scenes in the middle of the night and while her identity may be a mystery to her fans, she spoke Thursday with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"I kind of like the idea [that] someone is going to wake up and see this in the morning," said Cartegena about doing a lot of her work overnight.

This chalk drawing by Elizabeth Cartegena was photographed in Januray 2021 underneath the Granville Bridge on Beach Avenue.
This chalk drawing by Elizabeth Cartegena was photographed in Januray 2021 underneath the Granville Bridge on Beach Avenue.(instagram/violetncanvas)

There have been some cold nights though, during which Cartegena was grateful to her wife who would run her out some gloves to keep going, as some of her pieces have taken close to four hours to complete.

The artist has depicted little monsters carrying pies, dragons sleeping in the streets, and a penguin hauling a wagon-full of hearts down the street, among many others.

One of Cartegena's character's takes a stroll on a West End street with a pet lizard.
One of Cartegena's character's takes a stroll on a West End street with a pet lizard.(Instagram/violetncanvas)

"I love the idea of living in a cartoon life sometimes," said Cartegena. "It's kind of adding little creatures to the West End and [letting] people build their own little story around them."

She said every once in awhile she has been spotted working by people, usually in the early morning when the world is starting to wake up and Cartegena is wrapping up.

"People yell thank you from the balcony which is really nice," she said.

Cartegena's drawing of two penguins pushing a cart of hearts was photographed in February (close to Valentine's Day) on Alberni Street.
Cartegena's drawing of two penguins pushing a cart of hearts was photographed in February (close to Valentine's Day) on Alberni Street.(instagram/violetncanvas)

Moving into drier weather means the drawings are likely to stick around a little longer rather than washing away, although Cartegena said she likes working in the rain because it is quieter.

Regardless how long her art lasts, she hopes she is making a lasting impression.

"It's kind of nice to hear people's appreciation and kind of connecting with community," she said.

LISTEN | Cartegena talks to the CBC's Stephen Quinn about her chalk art:

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