Elise Goodhoofd of The Chalk Artist

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Elise Goodhoofd, the force behind The Chalk Artist and is one talented and super creative gal; an impression that is only made clearer once you step into her bright and colourful art-filled workspace. She was recently named one of the top 7 Chalk Artists in Toronto by BlogTO, a well deserved accolade considering her long list of completed works across the city for clients including Google, Facebook, CBC, iQ Foods and The Raw Chemist. Her space is filled with inspiration from a gallery wall spanning the length of her space to the huge assortment of neatly organized art supplies at the ready to tackle her next piece.

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Tell us a bit about your business –  when did it launch? how long to projects generally take? How did you take the plunge into working for yourself?

I’ve been self employed for the past five and a half years. There was a lot of transition in my business to lead me to where it is today. When I started, I gave my business a fancy ‘creative’ name and tried to do it all – I quickly learned that I couldn’t. Three years ago I did my first chalkart for a party my roommates and I were throwing. At the party a few people asked if I could complete a piece for them. I started getting more and more jobs, organically. People would see a piece of my chalkart somewhere and be interested. I realized my unique niche quickly and launched a portfolio website To this day, 50% of my potential new work comes from my website and the other 50% through referrals. I launched a sister website (, shortly after, to profile myself as a graphic designer/artist. The benefit of having two websites keeps me open to different artistic endeavours in the future. 

My process for completing a chalkart job differs from client to client and their needs. I’ve created a very loose process that I apply to every job. The length of each project depends on the size of the surface, concept and deadline. I’ve done a range of sizes over the years: from a dozen 4″ x 6″ small customized chalkboard invitations to a 1000 square foot large ceiling of a night club.

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How or when did you decide to become a designer? (ie. was there a lightbulb moment? or did you always know?)

I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My dad ran his own graphic design firm and my mom, on the side of being a nurse, photographed weddings. This was before a designer could be someone with a computer and a photographer could be someone with an SLR and a big memory card. The highs and lows of being in an entrepreneurial family were always exciting to me. We went out for a celebratory steak dinner on a monday once and made our own stay-cations to save money at other times. I struggled a lot after high school in determining which direction to go. I never had a lightbulb moment but design was always familiar to me. I ended up taking a 3 year graphic design program at Seneca@York. I figured knowing design would be an asset in the future, regardless of what I was doing.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of running a business and being your own boss?

I will admit – as a business owner – I don’t have it all figured out. The highs are just as obvious as the lows. I’ve succeeded on large scales and failed miserably on just as large scales. It took me a while to accept my failures as small stepping stones that I learn and grow from. I’ve recently challenged myself to set long term goals and identify my core values. Through consistent, daily behaviours and positive rituals I am heading toward accomplishing my goals while sticking to my values.

In more concrete terms, my favourite parts of working for myself: the hustle, constantly meeting new people, being on my own schedule, exceeding client expectations, blaring music as loud as I want in the studio. The most challenging parts: knowing when to ask for help, being on my own schedule, organization, dealing with problems on my own, no water cooler breaks with colleagues. 

What are your favourite types of creative projects to work on?

I enjoy the variety of projects that I get to work on. The variety is in the industry, purpose of the art as well as the clients. Wedding & couple chalkart boards are interesting because I get to make something special for the couple in one of the happiest times of their life. Large scale jobs such as office reception walls or office accent walls are different because the process is longer before it comes together in the end. I like the challenge of the entire process. From preparing an estimate, to collaborating on the design, to working with art suppliers, to the art execution and then final invoicing.

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Tell us a bit about your moodboard and your design style:

I’m obsessed with colour. I also love typography. I included images that show out-of-the-box creativity – the flower ice-cream cone or disco pineapple. I added images that remind me to look to the past for inspiration – light flooding into grand central station and old pieces I’ve done. I also included images that remind me to always be looking ahead – yes I want to own a 1969 Mustang and go hiking on far away green hills. I am a big proponent for not being afraid to get creative and make a mess. Everyone should own a big box of colourful junk to cut up, glue, colour and create. I used mine to create this moodboard.

What is your starting point when beginning a creative project? What inspires you?

In an age where people can’t survive without their cellphones and the internet I like to go old-school for inspiration. I got a library card just over a year ago and can not fully express my new found love for the library. Did you know that you can download all current issues of new magazines to your iPad for free? or that the library emails you when the book you want is waiting for you? It feels like you’re stealing when you leave with a bag of books and you’ve only spent 5 bucks on your late fees. Seriously – GO TO THE LIBRARY! I also get inspired by other artists that have unique niched mediums. I try and limit my ‘social media’ inspiration so I don’t get sucked into the deep-dark-creeper-abyss. Although, I admit that I love a good pinning session. #MustJoinPinnersAnonymous

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What are your workspace essentials? And what tricks do you use to stay focussed day to day?

I really sucked at organizing my office when I first started. Over the years I’ve realized the EXTREME benefit of designating areas for different tools and supplies. I have a marker drawer, a supply tickle trunk, a paper cupboard and tech nook. Taking time to put things back and tidying on a daily basis has kept me sane. I live and work out of a 650 square foot condo and will get lost in the mess if I don’t maintain organization. Other essentials? Fresh flowers every two weeks (my treat to myself), a big calculator, a daily updated to-do list and good speakers with subwoofers (sorry neighbours).

What is your dream workspace?

I obviously made a pinterest board for my dream workspace. I hope to one day be working out of an old factory loft with ideal light at all times of the day, high ceilings with a giant floor-to-ceiling colour coordinated bookshelf, a giant 30 foot cedar slab work table, and a state of the art sound system to strike up the necessary mood to inspire. Ideally this dream loft will be situated above some french bakery or coffee shop that delivers my Americanos and fresh pastries before I arrive at work. I’d share the space with some talented individual that wears t-shirts with motivational quotes and gives great advice.

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What’s your favourite place in Toronto, or favourite recent find in this amazing city?

Toronto is the best. I’m convinced the CN tower and skydome make our skyline the most interesting in the world. I live in King West but want to move more west in the next couple years. I miss the randomness of Queen West. Let’s pretend its Sunday, here’s what I’d do. Grab a coffee at Jimmy’s Coffee and head west on Queen Street starting at Bathurst Street. I’d window and actual shop all the way to Ossington Ave. I’d stop for brunch at Lisa Marie and get the pad thai fries. After, I’d consign an old designer jacket at Fashionably Yours, get a pastry at Clafouti and eat it in Trinity Bellwoods Park. I always say I want to check out new neighbourhoods but I end up walking to Queen Street and doing the same thing.

If you could be a colour what would you be?

I’d be all of them. I feel one would get sad if I liked it more than another.

***** &

xo Danni

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  • Reply Jacquelyn | lark & linen November 24, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    What an inspiring interview! I’m going to have to check out her work (LOVE the idea of chalk art)

  • Reply Lauren November 24, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    This was such a great article! Expertly written and such great shots! Love how colourful Elise’s studio is in this piece <3 So much talent!!!!!

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