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‘The art of letting go’: What working with a temporary medium has taught Greenport chalk-artist Kara Hoblin

Kara Hoblin hadn't used chalk since childhood when First and South owner Sarah Phillips asked her to design her 25-foot wall. Today, she's made a career out of chalk-art and mastered "the art of letting go." Courtesy photo: Madison Fender photography.

Kara Hoblin had her life in order. She had recently graduated with a photography degree from SUNY New Paltz, was preparing to move from Brooklyn to the North Fork — a place she’d loved since she was a kid — and was ready to start the newest chapter of her life.

Then it was all stolen from her — literally.

“The night before I was set to move, I packed up all my photo equipment into my car, all of my things,” Hoblin said. “The next morning, I got in my car, looked around. It took a few seconds for it to sink in… all of my things were gone.”

Someone had stolen thousands of dollars worth of professional photography equipment from her car overnight, leaving her with nothing.

“It was devastating,” Hoblin said. “I sat in my car and cried for a few hours. But when one door closes, another opens — you just have to be willing to walk through it.”

Hoblin knew she had to keep moving forward. She completed her move to Long Island from Brooklyn and began working full-time at a vineyard, but wasn’t really sure where to go from there. “Things were kind of up in the air for a while,” she said.

And then she connected with Sarah Phillips, co-owner of First and South.

“One day I was at her restaurant she said ‘hey, you’re an artist. I have a 25-foot chalkboard wall I need someone to take care of and I want you to do it,’” Hoblin said. “I was taken a little aback — I mean, chalk? I had never done anything like that before.”

Courtesy photo.

It was true. Hoblin began making art at a young age, but had worked mostly with more traditional mediums up until that point. The idea of chalk as an art-form hadn’t occurred to her. She had never even been to the Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, a chalk-art festival held in downtown Riverhead for the past 20 years.

“I wasn’t sure I could even do it, but Sarah laughed and said ‘it’s chalk. If it sucks, we’ll erase it.’ That really clicked for me.”

From there, the business started spreading like fire. She began adding more and more clients as people heard about her unique artwork. “I’ve never had to advertise — people will see some of my work and ask about it, that’s how most people hear about me I think.”

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

And then life threw her another curveball. It turned out that Hoblin had internal cysts that had gone unnoticed and undiagnosed — that is until one day, one of them burst, rupturing an artery.

“I was bleeding internally for two days before someone made me go to the hospital. I was feeling unwell but kept insisting ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ Finally someone told me I was white as a sheet and took me to the emergency room,” Hoblin said.

There, doctors told her she was lucky to be alive. Blood had begun filling her torso, surrounding her lungs and making it difficult to breathe. Her body was going into shock, and had she not come in when she did she likely would not have survived.

“It was kind of a wake-up call,” Hoblin said. “Suddenly I was 25 going on 95, hospitalized for six days. I needed surgery. I couldn’t walk, I needed a walker, needed help getting around. I lost a lot of clients while recovering.”

It was the start of the summer season — May — and many clients couldn’t wait for her to get better. “It was prime time and I was out. It totally sucked, but I couldn’t let it stop me.”

Hoblin, now 27-years-old, is fully recovered — both in her health and in her career. She has bounced back to around 50 business that hire her to create art for all sorts of industries. Restaurants are her most common clients, but there have some unique requests, including a marriage proposal.

“It was very sweet — they ride the Orient Ferry a lot and love First and South, so we incorporated those elements in the 25-foot chalkboard with the words ‘will you marry me?’ He brought her there for dinner — and she said yes,” Hoblin said. “It was a very special thing to be a part of.”

Hoblin is currently designing a coloring book featuring different locations on the North Fork that she hopes to self-publish in September, and at the end of the month will be hosting her first art show, called “The Art of Letting Go.”

Courtesy photo.

The show will feature around 25 of Hoblin’s pieces, and will only last one night. And after it’s over? “I’m going to ask the audience to help me erase it all.

“I know, it sounds crazy, an artist asking you to erase 500 hours of her work,” she said, laughing. “But it’s a real physical representation of what I’ve had to learn through all of this — sometimes, at the end of the day, what’s best for us is to let go and move on.”

The show will be held on August 28 at Heron Suites from 6 to 10 p.m. Since the show itself will only last one night, the pieces will be on display for the two days leading up to the event.

“What I really love about chalk as a medium is its impermanence,” Hoblin said. “When chalk came into my life, I needed to choose the glass-half-full. I needed to be open to change. I needed to learn how to move forward, and chalk-art is what spoke to me and said ‘it’s okay. Nothing is permanent.’”

It also taught her to stop self-doubting.

“When Sarah first asked me to do chalk-art, I immediately thought ‘can I do this? This seems impossible.’ And I think that’s a really normal, common reaction to something unfamiliar,” she said. “But learning to just go with things has been huge for me. Instead of saying, ‘can I do this?’ now, I say ‘when do we start?’”

Hoblin's work is on display all across the East End. This piece hangs in Harbor Books in Sag Harbor. Courtesy photo.
Hoblin’s work is on display all across the East End. This piece hangs in Harbor Books in Sag Harbor. Courtesy photo.
Courtney Blasl
Courtney is a freelance photographer, videographer, web designer and writer. She is a lifelong Riverhead resident.