The Man Behind the Chalk

by Heather Swick

An ephemeral art form leaves an enduring mark on area businesses.

What do Richard's on Main, Old Chicago at Grand Prairie, Peoria Brewing Company and the Summer Camp Music Festival have in common? Each has showcased the artwork of Devin McGlone—the talent behind the elaborate chalk-drawing murals, menus and signs that bring vibrancy and life to a wide array of area establishments. With subjects ranging from realistic to cartoonish, his colorful work catches the eye, a reflection of his background in animation.

Over the past nine years, McGlone has built a name for himself, lending an edge to dozens of local restaurants and bars, but it all started at one downtown pub. "I used to hang out at Richard's," he recalls. "They had a little board by the door, and I started drawing on that.” From there, word of mouth quickly led to other gigs. “The manager at Richard's knew the manager at Old Chicago, so I started doing their rotating beer tours’ design." Today, it’s hard to find a bar or restaurant in the area that hasn’t been brightened by his artistic touch.

A New Medium
Like his brother, a tattoo artist, McGlone has had a lifelong interest in art. After graduating from high school, he moved to San Francisco, where he attended the Academy of Art University, one of the largest art and design schools in the country. "I was always into drawing," he explains. "After high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I chose animation and went to school for that."

He stayed on the west coast for seven years, earning his BFA and working at a hotel sandwich shop before plotting his return to the Midwest. "Since I could work a day job and pay bills anywhere, why not move to Peoria, [where] I could hang out with my brother and sister? It was supposed to be a two-year plan,” he adds, “which has lasted about 11 years."

Describing his body of work, McGlone cites a series of standout jobs, but struggles to choose a favorite. "The board by the door at Richard's was great because I could do mostly what I wanted… and that gave me my start. Doing work for Old Chicago helped cut my teeth on what was, to me, a new medium.”

Another unique opportunity came about via the Summer Camp Music Festival, which draws about 20,000 visitors to Chillicothe every May. One of the festival’s organizers "saw my work and thought it would be something neat to have out there," he says. "She asked me to do 20 boards for the two VIP tents, based on previous poster art. I liked how some of that turned out."

McGlone’s work for Peoria Brewing Company, including the design of its logo, is another highlight in his portfolio. “I come up with the artwork for all of their beers and for both in-house menu boards, as well as tap handles and other items." He’s also participated in Chalk the Walk, a street art festival in which he and other chalk artists create displays on the sidewalks in and around Tower Park in Peoria Heights.

The Road to Permanence
McGlone’s artwork, however, is not exclusive to the crumbling pastels of chalk. He enjoys working on larger pieces as well, having created a mural for Brewers Distributing at the Peoria Civic Center and painted the exterior wall of Kenny's Westside Pub on Farmington Road. One of his favorite projects was his participation in a one-day art show in Louisville with his brother.

"I only had five [pieces] to my brother's 30 or so… but it was fun to do things outside of writing tap beers on a chalkboard," he laughs. "And I was able to paint—which is something I hadn't done too much of since leaving art school."

It’s a medium in which McGlone plans to continue working, though he’s grown accustomed to the transience of chalk. "[It’s] nice because I can erase it, whereas paint is more permanent," he explains. "That's the reason I didn't get into tattoos like my brother... But I have done some painting gigs for local businesses."

Another market he would like to tap into is the screen- printing business. Designing and printing t-shirts, he notes, is a fun change from chalk—and a challenge as well. "I picked up screen-printing shirts for businesses, but I’d rather start making some screen-printed posters. I'd be interested in selling my work, and maybe branching out into sculpture or hand-painted signage."

While completing a chalk illustration for The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern, McGlone made the acquaintance of a man who also worked on signage and murals. "This guy knew a woman from Australia who works on chalk drawings for restaurants as a career," he says. "I think that would be a pretty cool full-time job."

Someday, he adds, he could see himself working full-time on his art, but for now, he appreciates the routine of his day job in transportation services at G&D Integrated in Morton. "It's nice to have that cushion," he says. "But going forward, doing it full-time is something I'd like to try."

Though much of his work is temporary, McGlone has left an enduring mark on his community, a legacy he thoroughly enjoys. And while he looks forward to expanding into new areas, he says he remains focused on the moment. "I'm most excited about the next thing that comes my way," he declares, wiping the chalkboard clean as if to illustrate the point. a&s

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