Sketching on an Everyday Surface with Incredible Results
You use a napkin and you throw it away. It’s disposable, flimsy, forgettable, but practically every artist I know can’t resist sketching or doodling on a napkin if given half a chance. It’s wrapped up in nostalgia, fun, play, and just how any surface can become an artist’s surface simply because they choose it.
At Art Materials World in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had a chance to see dozens of artists at work as they displayed their talents and the usability of the products they were there to represent. I threw many of them a curve ball when I asked them to draw a doodle or make a quick sketch on a napkin for me. A few turned me down, but most were game after their initial surprise. And in one case an artist hunted me down about doing one because word traveled fast about what we were doing.
I like this idea because it put the artists on the spot–not in time, as many did the sketch on their own time and returned it to me hours later or the next day–but because they had to think in a new way. It sparked them to ask questions like:
-What can I and can’t I do with a napkin as a surface–since it is almost as delicate as tissue paper, absorbent, and, in our case, patterned with seashells.
-Do I unfold it and make my “canvas” bigger? Work on both sides?
-How do I match (or not) my work or idea to the surface? Is sketching on a napkin making low art? High art? Or is there no universal answer to that?
We thank all the artists who participated. Working with you was so much fun and, like all artists usually do, you delighted us, intrigued us, and infuriated us! Here they are: