Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things Found on Napkins

This theme is harder than I expected. Did you ever stop to notice how few things are actually found on napkins, unless put there by humankind? I even looked for those little gems of profundity scribbled on napkins…solicited and even set up some stations to elicit poetry, cartoons, maps, whatever!!! Let the imagination soar! Results? Nothing! Nada! Zip!

Is our creativity so destroyed? Has the economic crash obliterated fantastic graphic design on napkins? Are we so busy that we are subconsciously waving a white flag of surrender: the totally undecorated white napkin!? Or is it the last bastion of white space?

I’m a little disturbed by this. Almost as disturbed as I was when I found us decorating toilet paper. Toilet paper? Who needs to decorate that, I clearly remember thinking. But yes, I agreed. Such is the need for the human spirit to express itself, that we even leave our imprint on our toilet paper.

So the fact that we’re not expressing ourselves on napkins anymore seems ominous to me, a portent. Historians may describe this cultural phenomenon as the beginning of the end. A subtle shift in the Zeitgeist. Just remember you read about it here first.

But I digress. This is only a sketchbook project, after all. I must return to the task at hand, cultural collapse notwithstanding…

Ok, so what can I make out of my own napkin collection? A few quasi-poems written in ballpoint pen, with a date. The occasional quote from a book I was reading on a plane, with an ad for Coca-Cola. And a Starbucks one, with an idea from a friend for an art project. I am underwhelmed.

Ahhh…but look what I found in Italy!!!! Now here are some graphics to sink one’s creative juices into…

After abortive attempts at printing them on various image transfer papers, I give up and start drawing the napkins themselves. Or at least their graphics.. A sketchbook is for sketching, after all, right? (She affirms with an intuitive grasp of the obvious.) Sketching it will be…how’s this for napkin sketches?!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Intimate Life of Sketchbooks & Coffee Houses

Trying out a bunch of different types of image transfer papers: Jacquard Silk Inkjet Printing Paper, Lazertran Inkjet Waterslide Decal Paper, and Tailor Computer Printer Fabric…printing a few images of napkins and café scenes on the three types of paper, trying placement, size and texture, and then trying different color tones: sepia, faded, green… deciding I don’t like anything!!!

At least, not for the sketchbook. At least not yet. Way too heavy for this thin paper. But this early in the process, who knows...anything is possible….

I do love the coppery-toned pictures taken at Café Intermezzo here in Atlanta, my favorite. Actually, I think my whole sketchbook is inspired by this café, which in turn took its inspiration from café life in Austria and Germany. Check it out:

“Your visit to your café isn’t simply a benefit, a treat, a perk…it’s an absolute necessity for your life to move ahead with quality. It’s as essential as breakfast and lunch…indeed, it is breakfast and lunch. Food for thought, food for life come to you through your moments in the coffeehouse. The beverages and pastries you enjoy there are secondary to your just being there.

“Alfred Polgar wrote in the Café Centrál in Vienna, ‘The actual delights of this wonderful coffee-house can only be shared by those who want nothing other than to be there. A lack of purpose sanctifies the sojourn.’

“Count Gasparo Gozzi, in his 1770 book, Memorie Intuiti, which he wrote almost in its entirety in a coffeehouse, wrote, ‘I should recommend coffee-houses as excellent recipes for fleeing from worries, and raising the spirits when one feels gloomy.’ He further wrote about another man at the coffeehouse: ‘He had no greater joy than that, which was to sit some hours at the coffee-house, listening to the various conversations, analyzing different minds and characters.’”

Sigh…just when I was beginning to think we are way too obsessed with Starbucks in particular, and coffee in general, this café makes me want to go and sit for hours, with a total lack of purpose other than to raise the quality of my life. And I am soooo happy to learn that Café Intermezzo has opened up a third coffee shop in the area: Concourse B, in the Atlanta airport!!!! I am SO going there on my next trip out….with my sketchbook…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Perk

Percolating…first step in the creative process…sitting with my collection of napkins, some potential collage papers, and having explored some websites for ideas, wondering where to begin…first inspiration comes: burn the edges!!!

Envisioning a sort of nouveau ancient look, to evoke a smoky European café…maybe cross-pollinating with a cozy English pub look, complete with fireplace, glass of sherry, and wood paneling, I imagine a place where one parks, sips and discusses for hours with soul mates, finding the wherewithal to continue the herculean voyage through life, with notes jotted on napkins to remember all the epiphanies the next day. What kind of a sketchbook would go in that scenario?

Using incense sticks and cones, I burned all the edges. And a hole or two in some of the pages, in honor of my friend Martha who is toying with a sketchbook about cigarettes. Cigarettes, pubs and holes in sketchbooks...yep, works for me!

The paper, now impregnated with a smoky odor of Jasmine and Mango incense, now recalls a fireplace that might be crackling in the background of the pub/café...

Leaving the sketchbook outside on a table to ‘air out’ a bit, then forgetting it, I later doused it while watering the plants. Oops! Now a number of pages have a nice crinkly look...not so bad! Definitely beginning to look like a sketchbook that’s kicked around a café or two.

Step 2: I tried an ink pad on one page to see if I could get a sepia look—quickly aborting that idea when I saw how porous the paper was. Next choice: rub Pearl Ex Pigment #664 Super Bronze into the pages with a paper towel. Much better. Nice coppery/pink glow to the paper, a bit of iridescence, maybe not so visible in the photo.

Now the book refers to a time a couple of decades ago, when (mostly) men and (more recently) women in cafes sat and lingered over a long coffee, writing grand thoughts on napkins. Before the days when we interacted virtually, we doodled on napkins.

What did we doodle? What were some of those grand thoughts?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Sketchbook Project

Ok, sketchbook it is…I’m finally immersed, after sitting on the sidelines for a while, and will blog through, as some of my friends have. It has been really neat to not only watch the development of the various sketchbooks, but also learn a few tricks, and meet some new artists around the world. So, I'm launched, fellow Sketchbook artists!

For those of you new to the blog, or who haven’t followed the saga via Facebook, and/or to save you a click to a website (which you can still do--see sidebar), here’s what it’s all about from the website home page:

“It's like a concert tour but with sketchbooks!”

“Thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums as they make their way on tour across the country.

“After the tour, all sketchbooks will enter into the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library, where they will be barcoded and available for the public to view.

“Anyone - from anywhere in the world - can be a part of the project. To participate and have us send you a sketchbook that will go on tour, start by choosing a theme to the right.

“All books will be included in an exhibition that tours the following cities:
Brooklyn, NY Austin, TX San Francisco, CA Portland, ME Atlanta, GA Chicago, IL Washington, DC Winter Park, FL.”

Here is the packet, as I received it, with instructions to return by Jan. 15. My theme is “Things Found on Restaurant Napkins.” Strangely enough, I had already started a collection of airplane napkins on which I had written poems. And then, while in Italy, I had randomly collected a bunch more, just because.

So here I sit, with my collection of napkins, and one sketchbook. Now what?!

Input welcome!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What next?!

My French blog is officially over...sigh...the French has slipped under the surface again, although I did meet someone last night who began speaking to me in French and asking if we could meet for lunch to speak more French! Man. I'd love to but where in the world do I crowbar that into the schedule?! In fact, last night, I got three invitations from one event, to add to another received by email. To add to the list of several from friends I need to catch up with after France. To add to the list of phone calls....blah blah in America.

As one dear friend wisely counseled, "Welcome to back to the USA where life moves quickly. Give yourself some intermittent moments of mentally drifting back to a lovely, slow moment of your vacation..."

And so I am...mulling over the next direction of this blog. I'm thinking of two: the Sketchbook Project (see Icon on the Sidebar) and Poems from the Boatyard. Both require my attention almost daily now, until deadlines are reached, and next week is some vacation time to devote chunks of time to them, rather trying to eke out an hour or two here and there, and I'll do that again in December over the Christmas holidays.

And I am setting up a separate blog for Poems from the Boatyard, which has taken on a life of its own. And not to compartmentalize my life, but I find it easier to think in different streams, so the waters don't get too muddied, but just splash over onto one another now and then.

Suggestions? Comments?! Input?!

Meanwhile, mentally drifting back to the slow, lovely moments of vacation in France, while enjoying a slow, lovely morning in Tyrone.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seeing Purple

Well, my first week States-side is over, I'm re-Americanized, and my body has made its way through jet lag. I’ve plunged back into desk/office life with a vengeance, fired up with new thoughts and ideas and connections. But where does France go?

One never knows, do one? One goes overseas, not knowing what will change, internally or externally, or what to do with the changes. Readjusting back to life here is in part discovering what those changes are, and what to do about them. Sometimes it’s just bumping up against some activities and deciding, “You know, I don’t think I’ll do that anymore.”

Or the mind has been challenged, changed or forgetful. One must readjust thinking accordingly. I jot down a few notes for a poem. I need to carry John 4:34, learned in a new way in the Alps, into my Tyronian world. And that conversation with one artist lingers…what was that website she recommended?

As someone said, “When I lived in the States, I saw red. When I traveled overseas, I saw blue. Now that I’m back in the States, I see purple.”

Actions bring with them a strange sense of disorientation, until one remembers one’s habits. (Oh yeah, I bring a bottle of water from home because I hate the taste of the tap water at work. And oh yeah, I go shopping now on Wednesday because I qualify for the senior citizen’s discount. Oh yeah, so that means it’s better if I go to the gym Tues, Thurs, Sat…and so on…) And I call my sister and Donna on Sundays…slowly, disorientation dissolves into remembering…reorienting…routine.

Which surely won’t last long, but there it is. I crave it until I get into it, and then I wonder when I’ll hit the road again…