Jackson Hole, WY News

Chalk artist Brittney Ziebell works in a sophisticated studio in her bedroom closet. Between folded sweaters up top and neatly lined shoes on the shelves below is a desk that’s home to dozens of multicolored chalk pens, differently shaped pieces of smooth blackboard and rags for smearing.

“This is just kind of my side hustle,” said Ziebell, whose day job is running marketing and events for the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club as well as planning weddings.

Ziebell never formally trained in art but always dabbled. When she moved to Jackson three years ago she was looking for an opportunity to do something “creatively stimulating,” and stumbled upon a part-time gig as the “chalkista” at Jackson Whole Grocer.

She drew sale signs displayed throughout the store, but she saw potential for chalk art to go further.

“As I was doing chalkboards for meatloaf, chalkboards for clementines, I was like, ‘This could be something really cool for wedding boards,’” Ziebell said.

That’s how Ziebell expanded chalkboard art beyond sale signs. She first submitted a skull surrounded by vegetation for the Jackson Hole Still Works labeling competition, and then realized that Western white skulls work well on a black background.

“Ever since I’ve been doing those skulls on the side for home and event decor,” she said. “I also do welcome signs and bar signs and menu signs, things like that.”

She always tries to make the vegetation surrounding a skull local: “Whenever I’m out in Jackson hiking around, I’m definitely very hyperaware of the local vegetation. If it’s a Wyoming piece I always try to integrate Wyoming wheatgrass and sagebrush.”

Ziebell enjoys that chalk presents the unique challenge of working with white on black.

“Your brain is so programmed to start on white,” she said.

Ziebell looks out for “high-contrast ideas,” and and has an interest in moving on from skulls to tackle snowy landscapes.

She patrols sign shops for spare pieces of black centra boards and creates pieces of varying shapes and sizes based on what’s available. Then she starts with an actual piece of chalk to outline a work, before completing it with chalk pens, rubbing with the rags and layering colors on top of each other.

A matte finishing spray allows Ziebell to make her pieces permanent, so they can function not only as signs, but as hangable wall art. Her Pinterest board has drawn attention from clients from Utah and Rhode Island to Canada. Ziebell hopes to amass enough artwork to start an Etsy shop or open a booth at the People’s Market, but, for now, she works on commission.

“They’re selling as fast as I’m making them,” she said.

See BrittneyZiebell.com to view her work. 

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063, county@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcounty.

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