Surf, Sand, and Smiles Collide: The Local Chalk Artist Spreading Joy
Have you been lucky enough to catch artist, James Maltman, creating an Australian-inspired chalk mural along the Dee Why Beachfront?
The artist returned to his former local beach to meet some old friends but ended up "blown away" by support from the community as he worked on the art piece ("They were even bringing me homemade biscotti!").
We caught up with him to learn more about chalk art and his ongoing creative connection to Dee Why.
How did you get started as a chalking artist?
I started during lockdowns. I lived in Dee Why, and needed to find a way to keep my 3-year-old entertained. I found some chalk in the house, and we took it to our front path. Before that, I had never really drawn, certainly not with chalk. Slowly, I improved and noticed families on their walks stopping to admire the drawings. I started to do more, with my son deciding on subjects. Lots of my early work was from his favourite shows like Bluey. From there, I built the courage to head to the beach to create art on the sea walls.
We loved seeing your work in Dee Why. Can you tell us more about the piece and the Aussie characters involved?
The Northern Beaches Council has always supported my work. Although I recently moved out of the area, they asked if I wanted to draw a mural at Dee Why Beach. I jumped at the chance to reconnect with the community.
I landed on surfing characters as it felt like I was returning to how it all began - drawing characters my son loves and throwing in some for the older crowd. I’m most proud of having Blinky Bill hold a Bubble O’Bill Ice Cream!
Can you tell us more about your connection to Dee Why?
My wife and I lived in Dee Why for about ten years. Only a short walk from the beach felt like I was on an eternal summer holiday. I loved the beach, cafes, restaurants and people. It’s a melting pot of cultures and personalities.
I’ve felt an immense connection to the community through my chalk art – families on their morning walks, groups gathering around while I create a piece or a friendly nod and smile of a local while I draw in the early morning hours.
It makes me extremely happy to think I’ve been able to bring just a little joy to the amazing people of Dee Why.
How did Dee Why locals respond to your work as you were creating it?
I was nervous the first few times I drew at the beach but gained more confidence every time. I often came early in the morning; I got to see some incredible sunrises and build a connection with regular locals walking, surfing or swimming down at the beach. I moved away last year but have been able to return a few times, and each time I get the warm response of "YOU'RE BACK!"
What role does a suburb play in your designs? Where to next?
For me, it’s about being part of a community and suburb. The community of Dee Why has done so much for me.
I’m now living with my family in Sydney’s northwest suburbs and have brought my chalking to a new community. I fit my chalking around work and family life and continue to do small commissions, but mostly my work is voluntary and just for joy rather than money.
How can people support your work?
Follow me @now_yourechalking. Share my work, tell your friends, hire me for an event, say hello if you ever bump into me while I’m drawing or buy me a virtual coffee at www.buymeacoffee.com/NYChalking