Wayne County artist designs chalkboards for businesses

SMITHVILLE: Most artists spend hours in front of an easel adorning a piece of canvas with paint and their talented hands. Not Doug Spence, he’ll take a piece of chalk and a chalkboard any day of the week.

Spence, the semi-retired owner of Dougraphics in Smithville, has made his living since the late 1980s drawing pictures on chalkboards for restaurants, food markets and other business that want a unique and elegant chalkboard design.

“The way I got into this business was purely by accident; it was a fluke,” he said.

Spence was doing some graphics work of a different nature for the now defunct West Point Market in Akron.

“I was talking to the owner and he had a chalkboard displaying the day’s special,” he said. “The employees were doing them and they weren’t particularly good looking. I told him that he should hire me to do his chalkboards.

“He didn’t go for it right away,” Spence added. “I had never done a chalk drawing, but I am an artist and I knew I could do better than what he currently had on the boards.”

Eventually, the idea caught on and Spence was awarded the work on the chalkboards. From that initial drawing, word quickly traveled, and Spence found himself getting requests for chalkboard art from other business owners who visited the market and noticed his work.

Soon, Spence found himself traveling to area restaurants, such as Rockne’s and Grinders, with chalk in hand turning chalkboards into centerpieces.

Although, he became a chalk artist by accident in his adult life. Spence recalled a time in first grade when he was tasked with washing the school’s chalkboards and dusting the erasers. He would leave a decoration of some sort on the boards. By the time he was in third grade, Spence said that he had his first experience with censorship after being called to the principal’s office for one of his displays.

At 71 years old, Spence has discovered a new medium — clay. His work is featured on limited edition pottery hand-turned by David Sollenberger, owner of the Village Pottery in Smithville.

“If you can paint on paper, you can paint on pottery,” Spence said. “The big difference is that the surface isn’t flat.”

When Sollenberger saw Spence’s work, he wanted to incorporate it into some pieces.

“We wanted a retro look,” he said. “We came up with this cherry design that looks great on the finished piece.”

Currently, Spence’s cherry pieces, among others, are on display at the Village Pottery located in the Pioneer Village, 381 E. Main St.

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