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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An afternoon with Mould, Matisse and Picasso

The Sketchbook Project in San Francisco, June 17th 2011
Last Friday was my birthday. It was also day 2 of a three day stopover for the sketchbook project, a traveling exhibit of over 10,000 sketchbooks filled with drawings, paintings, sketches, poetry, cartoons, thoughts, stories....you name it, it was in the exhibit. San Francisco was the last city in the tour, and I was there for a reason. One of my best friends, Louise Mould, had a sketchbook in the exhibit, and it being in San Francisco on my birthday was the best kind of birthday gift!

Driving into the city
I went down to the city with my parents on one of those rare sunny days in San Francisco. The sketchbook project was set up a bit like a library. You pick a theme from a long list, and then a country, and they bring you a sketchbook from that place. I started with Louise's sketchbook of course, give that it was the whole reason I was there. As usual, she had filled it with beautifully detailed pen drawings with fine geometric pieces of coloured paper integrated into the otherwise black ink abstract drawings.

Me with Louise's sketchbook
 I took my time browsing through the gallery of images that Louise had so beautifully filled her sketchbook with. The theme of her book was "Secret Codes," which had me wondering on every page whether there was a code, and what it was! It is an interesting experience to be enjoying a piece of artwork that has been in the hands of a good friend way on the other side of the continent, and even more so because I was doing so surrounded by a large crowd of strangers. An intimate moment of connection in a foreign space surrounded by strangers.

Me enjoying Louise's sketchbook in San Francisco
The exhibition took place at Madrone Studios, and the gallery space had a high ceiling, and was flooded with light. A number of sofas sat around the edges of the room for people to enjoy the sketchbooks.

When you were done with one, you could go back and ask for another.

In addition to Louise's book, I decided to check out books from Tasmania (which included the journal of a ten year old girl whose sketchbook documented everything she could do in five minutes!) and New Zealand (a superbly executed sketchbook by a Ken Beatson, who lived through the Christchurch earthquakes, and not only documented the entire experience, but finds great moments of humour even in the face of tragedy -- is this a NZ characteristic or what??). I also took out some sketchbooks from Japan, hoping to see some reflections on the tragedies that the country has undergone this year, but the only two Japanese artists that had submitted sketchbooks made no mention of the earthquake. One other sketchbook that made a great impression on me was Miguel Ruibal's, from Spain. The man is a superb artist. You have to see his work to fully understand. If I ever publish my novel, I will be contacting him to design the cover!

 It was the perfect way to spend my birthday. After leaving the gallery we stopped by my now all time favourite tea place, Samovar, for a delicious meal and a cup of hot chai before heading over the the SF MOMA for an exhibit of the artwork that used to be in Gertrude Stein's Paris apartment -- Matisse and Picasso, among many others. The curators had set the gallery up to mimic Gertrude Stein's apartment, including a large selection of black and white photographs of the apartment with an array of well-known painters perusing art, eating meals together, and enjoying each others' company. A few items of furniture that had been in the Paris apartment at the time were also included in the exhibit, which made me feel as though I was actually wandering through the apartment with Gertrude! Having just seen Midnight in Paris last week, the experience was amazingly tactile. Very different than other exhibits I have been to. I was experiencing the artwork in the intimacy of a home, surrounded by friends and artists.

We headed back to Sacramento in the evening, fully satiated with creative energy. It was a superb birthday, and Louise, your notebook was beautiful. Two other women came looking over my shoulder and asking if they could check it out once I was done (which they did).Thank you, Louise. Thank you, Ken Beatson and Miguel Ruibal. And thank you Picasso and Matisse. I fully enjoyed my afternoon in your superb company!

For those interested in taking part in next year's sketchbook project, check out their website. It is a wonderful initiative to be involved in.


  1. Lovely way to spend a birthday. Miss you.

  2. Thank you Ariana,
    that sounds like it was a really fun day.
    I'm glad you enjoyed the sketchbook!

  3. Lucky you. Thanks for sharing