Having worked at the ’82 Grill since he started at the College, Logan McCracken ’17 has seen some changes. The Grill has moved from large pizzas to personal pizzas, and McCracken himself recommended adding sauce options beyond red. Perhaps the most notable addition, however, is the chalkboards turned masterpieces lining its walls.
“They had menus up on most of them, but one of them was blank. [The manager] said, ‘Hey, can you draw something on it? You’re an artist, right?’ So I did, and they really liked it,” McCracken said.
Now he is both pizza maker and resident artist, adorning the Grill’s brick walls with purple cows balancing pizzas and seasonal scenes of mountain skiers and dandelion fields. Last year alone, McCracken completed around 30 boards for the Grill.
“I get to be one of the few kids who gets to be paid to be an artist here on campus,” he said. And since he’s graduating after this semester, he noted that one of our readers could be the next.
Not only have the chalkboards challenged McCracken to hone his skills in terms of medium — the boards’ texture and the chalk are an adjustment from paper and charcoal — but they also prompt him to think differently about intention.
“You’re more concerned about the viewer than you usually are,” he said. “Here, it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters if someone can see it in a dimly lit room. It’s [about] cheering up some drunk kid who’s sobbing into his nachos.”
For McCracken, the chalkboards are indeed all about the viewer — he gets his ideas for subject matter from the staff members and students around him.
“I ask around,” he said, pointing out the glass-plated boards now mounted next to the class banners at the Grill, all of which he created to celebrate springtime. “I drew a bunch of columbines because one girl from Colorado missed [them]; she doesn’t get to see them here. Someone asked for sunflowers so I thought, why not go van Gogh? I just [ask] people I know: What would make you happy to see?”
Though McCracken, who hails from Mount Carmel, Pa., started out as a physics major, he’ll likely be graduating as studio art or art history.
“I’ve done better in the past with things you can control more, like drawing or oil painting, acrylic,” he said. “Maybe it’s the math-science background to a point — too detail-oriented and too controlled.”
A class in calligraphy, and the chalkboards themselves, have taught him to loosen up a bit.
“You learn to relax with it,” he said as he layered oranges and yellows on his current project, a still life of autumnal gourds. “You can see in these [boards] some loosening up, letting it be kind of painterly.”
Art, for McCracken, is a family affair. “My family, we’re not necessarily professional artists, but everyone is good at art.” He got early lessons in watercolor from his father and has picked up woodworking from his relatives as well, even helping his uncle build houses.
“A friend of mine was in art school in Philadelphia, and she had a tiny little apartment and couldn’t get furniture that would work for this apartment,” he said. “So I made her a special bookcase and a special reading table that tips up so she could set reference material [on it] when she was drawing.”
McCracken’s passion for the arts is hardly limited to the visual. He plays the trombone and tuba in the marching band here at the College and sings as part of the a cappella group Purple Rain. But careful observation and perception — traits that any Drawing I veteran will know are key to a strong still-life — guide him both in art and in life.
“I guess I’ve always been pretty good at looking at things,” he said. “I notice things other people don’t. So that’s helpful. It’s neat being able to just look at random things and find the beauty in stuff. People, too — it can make you a better person when you notice the nice things about other people.”