Napkin Doodling at Art Materials World

Sketching on an Everyday Surface with Incredible Results

All our napkin doodles from Art Materials World.
All our napkin doodles from Art Materials World.

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:

Never pass up the opportunity to give an artist a napkin at Art Materials World and get back art! Thank you, Shar Sosh!!
Never pass up the opportunity to give an artist a napkin at Art Materials World and get back art! Thank you, Shar Sosh!!
Scott Gellatly impresses us every time. One hour of watercolor sketching and he turns a napkin into a work of art.
Scott Gellatly impresses us every time. One hour of watercolor sketching and he turns a napkin into a work of art.
A bright and cheery flower for our napkin doodle "challenge" from Tristina Dietz Elmes DietzArt at Art Materials World 2017! Thank you!
A bright and cheery flower for our napkin doodle “challenge” from Tristina Dietz Elmes DietzArt at Art Materials World 2017.
Stefan Lohrer dropped off his first napkin doodle with the wrong person and couldn't bear to take it back so he made us a second edition. He took his theme from the seashell embossing on the napkin, creating a seascape with a trio of sharks.
Stefan Lohrer dropped off his first napkin doodle with the wrong person and couldn’t bear to take it back so he made us a second edition. He took his theme from the seashell embossing on the napkin, creating a seascape with a trio of sharks.
Artist Vic Hollins calligraphies one of her favorite words for the napkin doodle challenge at Art Materials World.
Artist Vic Hollins calligraphies one of her favorite words for the napkin doodle challenge at Art Materials World.
This double-sided napkin doodle from our favorite soon-to-be published artist/author Matthew Cole is but child's play compared to what he has in his new book, This Is Not a Maze. Stay tuned!
This double-sided napkin doodle from our favorite soon-to-be published artist/author Matthew Cole is but child’s play compared to what he has in his new book, This Is Not a Maze. Stay tuned!
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The flip side of Matthew’s doodle.
Mario Robinson blew us away, sketching a quick portrait that left us amazed.
Mario Robinson blew us away, sketching a quick portrait that left us amazed at how quickly it came together: 4 minutes!
We love the surreal quirks of artist Robert Syrett's work. Thanks for napkin doodling with us at Art Materials World!!
We love the surreal quirks of artist Robert Syrett’s work. Thanks for napkin doodling with us at Art Materials World!!
Christian Masot was feeling the avian influence at Art Materials World. Behind him you can see the artwork he'd been creating of hummingbirds and his napkin sketching resulted in an angry bird, er, owl.
Christian Masot was feeling the avian influence at Art Materials World. Behind him you can see the artwork he’d been creating of hummingbirds and his napkin sketching resulted in an angry bird, er, owl.
Michael Storie of Pentel unfolded his napkin for an impromptu portrait sketch amidst whiskey, a quartet orchestra, and dinosaur bones at a special event at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Thanks Michael & thanks Art Materials World!
Michael Storie of Pentel unfolded his napkin for an impromptu portrait sketch amidst whiskey, a quartet orchestra, and dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum of Utah.
With just a few minutes and few strokes, Adrian Weber created a quick pen and ink portrait. Feeling the emo.
With just a few minutes and few strokes, Adrian Weber created a quick pen and ink portrait. Feeling the emo.
A Caran d'Ache artist decided that three doodles was the charm.
A Caran d’Ache artist decided that three doodles was the charm.
Rae Missigman was more than game to napkin doodle with us, creating a black on white pattern that fills the "page" with whimsy.
Rae Missigman was more than game to napkin doodle with us, creating a black on white pattern that fills the “page” with whimsy.
Ed Brickler's quick firefly doodle is just a hint of what he's working on in his latest work.
Ed Brickler’s quick firefly doodle is just a hint of what he’s working on in his latest work.

 

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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