Workman brings ephemeral artwork to PHC plaza


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]- Chris Samuels
Upon first meeting the unassuming grin of freshman Conner Workman, you would never guess he is the mastermind behind the chalk art that appears in front of the Peterson Heritage Center every other week or so. The “doodles,” as Workman calls them, have run the gamut from a Yik Yak crowd-requested “dancing majestic bagel” to his most recent edition, a rainbow cartoon entitled “Emotional Outburst.”
If you haven’t seen Workman’s doodles in person — and they are well worth the short shuttle ride — there’s a strong chance you’ve seen pictures circulating on Facebook or Instagram like wildfire. They are usually limited to one 3-by-3 foot cement square in front of the Heritage Center on upper campus. They are cartoonish and realistic at the same time. Some, such as the “Boy and the Frog” and “Happy Halloween,” convey a sense of curiosity and wonder, while others, such as “The Dance of the Bagel,” are downright goofy.
This all started during Workman’s first week of college. In front of the Marriott Library, chalk was left out for students to draw with.
“That was the first one I did, and it was the first time I realized this was something I enjoyed doing and could do other places,” he said. “I drew a little squid. In fact, it was pretty funny because it was just one squid in like a sea of phallic images that everyone else drew.”
Born and raised in a suburb of Cincinnati, Workman attends the U for the top-ranked Entertainment Arts and Engineering program and is working towards entering the film and media arts emphasis. He is a pledge in Beta Theta Pi and has a good group of friends, but he says his doodles serve as “an outlet.”
When asked if he ever gets nervous about campus authorities stepping in, he said, “It’s harmless. I’m not drawing them on a wall, I’m drawing them on the ground.”
For now, fall’s fading daylight is Workman’s biggest concern.
“I was trying to draw the other night, and it was frigid. I don’t really see myself shoveling out snow in the winter,” he said.
The on-campus community has been similarly respectful of Workman’s art, save an unfortunate incident with an ice cream cone positioned to look like a unicorn horn on one of the “Emotional Outburst” characters. Students and staff generally go out of their way to avoid stepping on Workman’s art and are often seen drinking their morning coffee while taking in a recent drawing.
One of Workman’s favorite aspects of his art is the fact that it could be gone the very next day.
“I like the fact that it’s not permanent, like everything else. When rain hits it, it’s gone. I’m a perfectionist, so the impermanence is pretty great in the sense of, if I do anything that I’m not the biggest fan of, it will only be there for so long,” he said.
Workman is turning into a campus celebrity. During our conversation, no fewer than four random passersby stopped to get a word in with the “Chalk Guy.”
Workman says he doesn’t mind the nickname.
“I’ll take ‘chalk guy’ over some other horrible college nickname,” he said.
He’s approachable and doesn’t mind people watching him work.
“It’s always really satisfying to see people look at it and smile or take pictures. It just brightens my day and hopefully theirs,” Workman said.
[email protected]