Tess ODay gets at the heart of 23rd Chalk Art event

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - Forest Grove High School senior Tess ODay makes a heart shape with her fingers, mimicking the image she created for the 2013 Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival poster. The final design — a hand reaching into an upside-down heart made of pastel chalk sticks — started out as Plan B.

Plan A involved Yasmine Weil-Pourfard lying on a downtown Forest Grove sidewalk while her good friend and classmate, Tess O’Day, painstakingly placed sticks of chalk all around her body.

“It took three hours to set up the chalk — it took forever,” said O’Day.

Then they got the bad news: The Chalk Art Festival Committee wanted a vertical image for the poster art. Plan A was horizontal.

“So Tess changed it up a bit,” said Weil-Pourfard, whose hand was the only body part to make it into the new design: a chalk-outlined heart inside a square space surrounded by fluffy white clouds floating in a cerulean-blue sky.Tess O'Day's art was chosen for Chalk Art festival promotion.

O’Day’s artwork is now the official poster art for the 23rd annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival, which happens in Forest Grove this Saturday.

The News-Times asked O’Day a few questions about her creation and her artistic life:

Q: How old are you, and what grade are you in at Forest Grove High School?

A: I am 17 and will be a senior this year. 

Q: What is your first memory about the urge to make art? Did you paint, draw, write, act or dance?

A: There are too many to choose just one! I started out drawing and writing and then later added dancing, painting and acting into the mix. I can’t remember a point in my life where I wasn’t doing some form of art. I guess one of my favorite earlier memories is when my family would spend long days at the ceramics studio experimenting with clay.

Q: Your mom and dad are both art professors at Pacific University. Would you say they are your major artistic influences? What other mentors have you had along the way?

A: Both of my parents have been major influences for me. Aside from them, Philip Thias (my high school art teacher), my friend Yasmine and my sister Kate have also been mentors and inspirations in my artistic life.

Q: How would you describe your art at this point in your life? What mediums do you work in, and what’s your favorite?

A: Right now my favorite mediums are watercolor and ink. Recently I have started to get into photography as well. My work is usually cheerful and whimsical but I have also been doing pieces focused around education and standardized testing. 

Q: The poster you designed for this year’s Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival is beautiful in its colorations and its simplicity. What were you thinking about in coming up with the concept?

A: I have participated in the Chalk Art Festival for as long as I can remember; it has always been a part of my life. I wanted to create something that reminded me of the festival — colorful and happy. Ideas were also drawn from a photo shoot that I did with my friends last year.

Q: The hand reaches down into the chalk-rimmed heart in your picture for the festival. What does the image symbolize for you?

A: For me, it symbolizes the imaginative initiative that people take every year at the festival, as well as the community coming together and creating art. 

Q: After you graduate from FGHS next spring, do your plans involve college, art or both?

A: Right now I have a lot of ideas about what to do after high school, one of them being art college — for music, graphic design or illustration.

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