WRITTEN BY REBECCA TEAGARDEN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
JOHN ROZICH | Michelangelo With Chalk
He may be the Puget Sound area's most well-known yet least well-known artist. Certainly his work has the widest audience, and chances are you've seen it many times. Who, what? Rozich creates those elegant blackboard sketches announcing happy-hour drinks, coffee prices and menu items at more than 60 coffee joints and restaurants from Portland to Everett, Chicago to Hawaii. There's probably a Rozich hanging in a cafe or restaurant near you.
Q: Were you the kid who, when he got called up to the blackboard to solve a problem, the teacher eventually had to say, "OK, Mr. Rozich, that's enough. You can return to your seat now" because you would never leave?
A: I was intrigued, I don't know why. I remember when the teachers would rarely bring out the colored chalk and we'd all go, "aaaahhh." And it was just those washed-out pastels, that milky pink and the milky green.
Q: How did you get into this?
A: A friend of mine's dad had a bowling alley on the east side of Detroit. I did some boards for him — poster boards with markers announcing music groups in the lounge. And they said, "We have more work for you." Later, in college, I switched my major from architecture to art. When I got into design classes I thought, "This is stupid." So I switched to drawing and painting. Beba's Deli on Queen Anne was my first place, 1983.
Q: Do you ever hear people comment on your work? What do they say?
A: I hear them say, "Is that paint? What is that? How does he do that?" But the best one was one day when my daughter was at a coffee shop and she told them the menu boards were great, just to see what they'd say. And the guy behind the counter goes, "My dad did those." And my daughter says, "No, my dad did those!"
Q: Example of typical and atypical job.
A: A typical one is, "I have a cafe, and I want my menu and my logo." But I'm doing one right now for a couple in Belltown. It's four big ceiling panels in a room for their daughter. It'll be a sun with a lot of different animals. There's also a woman in Magnolia who has a huge chalkboard in her dining room. She has me change it out about every six months.
Q: What's the average time it takes to create a pastel-on-chalkboard masterpiece?
A: Three to four days.
Q: Who's your favorite artist?
A: Edward Hopper. I love Edward Hopper. I've learned so much about color and shadow from studying that guy.
Q: How does it feel to be erased?
A: It's fine. It's OK. After I was at the UW for a year and realized that teaching wasn't what I wanted to do, I worked in display at Frederick & Nelson. We had to change the displays every two weeks. So I learned to give it up.
Q: The down side?
A: Too much coffee.