The South Elgin mom of two daughters started a project on March 27 that was designed to help her kids try something new. Her artwork has helped her find fans around the nation as she spreads a little joy each day.
Herself a driveway artist (she says her only “formal training” were the elective classes she took in high school and college), she stretched her comfort zone to keep her kids off of screens for a few hours.
So, she borrowed an idea she’d seen on the internet: a drawing of an alligator in 2D with a young child using its legs to “hold” the gator’s mouth open in 3D.
Her photo of her 7-year-old Ashlyn turned into a neighborhood sensation, and thanks to Instagram, the idea took off.
“I was looking for things to do to keep the kids interested,” Lazzara says. “I’m not a professional artist, but I’ve always loved drawing, I loved art as a hobby. Then you have kids, a career and that goes on the back burner. This is a chance to revisit that passion and it’s been therapeutic for me. Drawing, I’m able to relax and have fun. This also encouraged my kids to be outside so they didn’t go stir crazy.”
A week later, Lazzara decided to try another piece of art. This one, portrayed Ashlyn as an astronaut, planting her flag on the moon. When the project went from once a week to daily, she started to see her social media following grow from 250 to more than 1,600.
“Ashlyn is 7 and she’s creative. She wants to brainstorm ideas of what we can do and she’s really into facial expressions,” Lazzara says. “I think that’s what people are really connecting with are her expressions. She’s the talent within the talent.”
Lazzara joked with friends early in the project that she’d start to run out of chalk. That’s when chalk appeared on her front doorstep, dropped off by a friend who remained socially distant with her gift. Because sidewalk chalk is at a premium, Lazzara says her credit card bill while staying at home is dedicated to keeping the family in chalk.
She and Ashlyn brainstorm ideas for new scenes each night to plan for the next day. Some come from what dress-up clothes are already in their closet, others come from pop culture (like blocking a shot by Michael Jordan after watching episodes of ESPN’s documentary, The Last Dance).
Even some come from the Lazzaras’ new legion of fans.
“I have had a couple of people send ideas and we’ve done a couple of them,” Lazzara says. “At the very least I add them to the list.”
Lazzara says that she’ll have what she thinks is an amazing idea, only to have it shot down by Ashlyn.
“I’m so humbled and grateful that people are following along and that we are making them happy. And it’s such a two-way street because they’re brightening our day with their comments,” Lazzara says. “We’re trying to keep the kids occupied and find any creative spark that gets kids involved. As parents, we put so much pressure to create opportunities to keep kids busy 24/7. If we put some of that creativity back on kids, they can surprise us. They’re a lot more creative than we give them credit for. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. What I hope is that Ashlyn looks back on this time as positive.”
Because the pictures are taken with Lazzara high atop a ladder so that all of the art can be seen, she has been able to take pictures of some neighborhood children while maintaining social distancing. She has also made friends with fans from across town who drive by and stay in their cars as they talk to Lazzara while she draws.
As interested and continually involved as Ashlyn is in the project, 4-year-old Averie is just content to play outside while Mom and her older sister draw.
Averie is in the maintenance phase of Leukemia treatments, so quarantine is a life cycle that the Lazzaras know well. Though Averie doesn’t participate much in daily chalk drawings, Stacy hopes the 4-year-old will join later this month when she creates a lemonade stand to commemorate the 2-year-mark of Averie’s diagnosis.
Connecting with Ashlyn during the project has helped bring joy to Stacy’s heart, too, she says.
“It’s hard being a cancer sibling,” Stacy says. “Life has revolved around (Averie) for the last couple of years … that Ashlyn is having her time in the spotlight melts my heart. It’s sweet for me to have this time with Ashlyn, as long as she’s enjoying it I’m going to keep going.”
Lazzara has been profiled by the Chicago Tribune, WGN television, People Magazine and a snippet about her drawings appeared on the Today Show.
From that she has picked up fans across the country. She says she feels bad when it rains in Chicago that people in Florida don’t know why a picture isn’t on social media that day.
“All of this, and I haven’t even left my driveway,” she says.
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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s July 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.