ROGERS PARK — Like many people, Eric Kessler found peace during the monotony of quarantine last year by taking walks around his neighborhood.
It was on these walks where Kessler decided to sketch the Rogers Park streets around him — and the sketches eventually became his new book, “A Walk Through Rogers Park.”
“It gave me a sense that I was connected to the community, even while having to quarantine,” said Kessler, a Chicago Public Schools teacher.
The book is a collection of 120 of Kessler’s sketches made throughout 2020 using a mix of pen, ink and watercolor. The sketches’ subjects range from well-known businesses in the neighborhood to ordinary homes.
Though a teacher by trade, Kessler’s always kept up his passion for art on the side, especially while teaching online, he said.
After teaching went virtual March 2020, Kessler worried about the success and well-being of his students and their families. Focusing on his art was one way he made a conscious effort to remain positive, he said.
“It was a way to channel any energy I might’ve spent worrying into something positive, creative and productive,” said Kessler, who moved to Rogers Park in 2019.
This illustration book is the first time he’s opened his art up to the public.
Kessler began selling his book in July and said he was “blown away” by the reception he received in the neighborhood.
With a stock of just 20, he advertised the book on Facebook and “sold out immediately.”
“I could not believe what a positive response I got,” Kessler said. “People messaging me, commenting, sharing — it caught me off guard in the best way possible.”
Now armed with a bigger supply, he said he’ll be ready to start selling again within the next few weeks.
Kessler is originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and said it wasn’t until he moved to Chicago that he fully appreciated the intricacies of the city’s neighborhoods.
A lot of Kessler’s art focuses on capturing architecture — whether that be of homes, alleyways or businesses — making Rogers Park a perfect choice of subject matter.
“I never had exposure to a neighborhood like Rogers Park,” Kessler said. “I immediately fell in love with the architecture, the way the buildings are all different.”
In one part of his book, Kessler compiled a section of drawings from a walk he took down West Pratt Boulevard, which consists of every part of the south side of Pratt from the Red Line viaduct to Sheridan Road.
“I needed to capture what it would be like for someone just on a walk down the neighborhood … nothing really fancy,” Kessler said. “But the beauty is in walking down, looking up, and seeing every building is different.”
Kessler, who now lives in Ravenswood for a shorter commute to his Irving Park job, said he could potentially see this book being the first installment of a series — but not right away.
“Teaching is my primary occupation, so I really don’t know how I’m going to do both, but I will find a way,” Kessler said.
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