Artist In Waiting

Krista Connor

Commissioned by her boss, Kelley Stone’s “fun and whimsical” chalkboard illustrations help brighten Bella Coast Restaurant

Walk into warm yet industrial modern Bella Coast Restaurant on Concord Pike and one of the first things to grab your eye from across the spacious room is a 17-foot-wide chalkboard.

On the board is a playful rendering of how to make three Italian staples: tomato sauce, cheese and pasta. Drawn in evenly balanced tones of red, white, yellow or brown chalk are tomatoes, a cow, milk bottles, a man eating pasta, eggs, and more. Complementing the images, in simple, sometimes flowing hand lettering, is a quirky recipe for each staple: “Pick your tomatoes” for the sauce. “Find a nice cow…or goat” for cheese.

Nearby, spanning the width of a partial wall over the open kitchen, in large, hand-lettered italics is the phrase “Life is too short not to eat well.”

A chalk-drawn pig, cow and chicken, with droll quotes lettered on their bodies (e.g., “God gave the angels wings. He gave us pork.”), a detailed map of Italy and Bella Coast’s logo also adorn the wall in the open, brightly lit restaurant.

All of the images are the work of Kelley Stone, a part-time waitress at Big Fish on the Riverfront.

Today, Stone can smile about her Bella Coast chalkboard creations, but that wasn’t the case last October, when Big Fish Restaurant Group and Bella Coast co-owner Eric Sugrue recruited her to do the chalkboard art for the entire restaurant.

“[When] I came in and saw how big the blank chalkboard was, I said, ‘Oh, boy,’” says Stone.

A Delaware native, Stone has been a waitress at various restaurants in the Big Fish Group since 2000. She’s been doing small sign and decorative pieces for the restaurants since her co-workers and management learned of her degree in fine arts and artistic skill. But this is her most extensive artwork yet for Big Fish.

In fact, she had only one or two previous chalk art commissions, but Sugrue felt she was the right artist for the job at the new Concord Pike restaurant. And she was eager to meet the challenge.

Sugrue suggested “fun and whimsical” chalkboard art, and Stone took it from there.
Freelancing and working on paintings on and off since receiving a degree in 1990 from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, Stone has never had the chance to focus on her craft full time, like many artists. But these days, she’s cut back her waitressing hours because the Bella Coast buzz has already led to other opportunities, including a chalkboard at BadHairDay? salon in Rehoboth.

The Bella Coast pieces, which took 15 hours to complete, started with sketches and white chalk—the kind teachers use. Once the sketches were complete, Stone would add detail with pastels and neutral colors, then go back and do tedious q-tip touch-ups. Some pieces, like the huge chalkboard, were done freehand, while others, like the Bella Coast logo and the most difficult drawing—the map of Italy —required a template. Then tracing came in, along with more q-tipping and refining. For taller places she couldn’t reach, Stone spent hours balanced on ladders or planks that were placed across booths.

The result, she says, is very raw, and the colors contrast nicely with the blackboards and surroundings. “It gives the place character,” she says.

Currently working night shifts, Stone aims to find more time for commissions and hopes to one day make art her career.

“Whatever art I do, I want to draw people’s attention,” she says.

Contact Stone with inquiries at kelstone@verizon.net.

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