It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a Sharpie and simple instructions.
Blank table. Supply of Sharpies. Go.
A group of local artists took up the challenge to use a restaurant table as their canvas this month at Cafe Balzam, at the Takhini Hot Springs.
The resulting art now covers most of the tables at the tiny creperie.
Co-owner Thibaut Rondel said the eatery is focused on using as many local ingredients as possible in its food and supporting as many local artists and craftsmen on its walls.
Cooking is an art form as well, he said.
“So we thought it would be great to display lots of local stuff: craftsmen, artists, food as well. “
But a lot of the cafe is made up of windows, limiting the available wall space to hang art.
“We thought we could put art on the table, why not? It’s fun,” Rondel said.
Artist Amber Walker tackled a four-person table.
Walker normally works with ink on paper, so using a Sharpie was a new challenge.
On top of that, she did most of the detailed drawing on her piece, “Bird of Paradise,” freehand.
“I was scared, to be honest. I was like ‘Man, this is Sharpie, and you’re doing some of this freehand. But it turned out pretty good,” she said.
The bird is spread across nearly the entire table and is done completely with black marker ink from two thinner sharpies and one larger fat one.
The tabletop is the largest piece of work Walker has ever done.
“I wanted to do something that represents what I do. When I first started inking I did birds,” she said.
Rondel estimates he bought 200 Sharpies of various thicknesses and colours for the artists to use.
The work was done over two days. Walker arrived on the second day and completed her piece in about five hours.
“It was also a challenge for me to do it that way and I was happy for that. I work really slowly usually. So having that challenge, you have one day… I was really proud of that.”
She estimates something like this could take her about a month to do if she was allowed that long.
Cafe Balzam has been open for about five months.
Rondel and Karina Lapointe offer patrons a range of crepe options – that day’s menu included a cherry blossom crepe with black cherry mascarpone.
The menu also sports tourtieres and other savoury options, most with a French connection.
The location became well known over the winter for its monthly poutine offerings, made from scratch with cheese curds flown in from Quebec.
Even though the winter season has wrapped up, some form of the cheesy treat will be added to the summer menu starting in June, Rondel said.
That’s when it can be enjoyed alongside the barbecue that’s been set up on the patio.
So far, seven of the nine available tables have been decorated.
Rondel said he is looking for other artists to complete the last two.
“It’s pretty nice, because if you take a look at all the tables it’s mostly about wildlife and the Yukon,” he said.
Artist Stephanie Murray is probably most well known for her 3-D sculpture and installation work. She says working on the table allowed her to reconnect with some of the art she did while getting her bachelor of fine arts.
“All throughout the degree I did tons of 2-D work. I thought this was a really cool opportunity to kind of get back into the two-dimensional world and try out some things that I had been working on.”
Her resulting piece, “Wild Daydreams and Forest Research,” features a section of animals among stylized tree rings.
“It’s really a combination of wildlife and these geometric explosive parts. Originally it was sort of inspired by some ideas I had for some tattoos,” she said.
The Sharpies themselves presented their own unique challenges, she said.
“They’re just so bold and striking. I’m used to, sort of, gentler things. That was a curveball.”
Both Murray and Walker agree that being among a group of artists all working at the same time helped them deal with some of the Sharpie-induced curveballs.
“It really is perfect, especially if they’re artists you haven’t met before,” Walker said.
“It’s nice because you can kind of get a sense for what they’re doing, and it propels you forward to see them working.”
Participating artists were entered in a draw for gift certificates to the restaurant. The plan is for the tables to eventually be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the artists.
Contact Ashley Joannou at