Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Speaking at the San Francisco Writers Conference

The other week I got to speak on a panel at the San Francisco Writers Conference. One of the best things about it was that it was held in an absolutely lovely meeting room at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, a room banded with frescoes and filled with golden sunlight. The other best thing about it was that the panel was comprised of half a dozen or so super smart and experienced nonfiction editors from a wide range of publishing houses - tiny, medium-sized, and massive publishers, niche and general-interest publishers. The questions were thoughtful and the answers the panelists gave insightful. Sometimes, as an art book editor, I feel a smidge like a fish out of water at events for writers - like perhaps I am often not the person they came to hear. But in this case I felt I added nicely to the mix and the discourse. Of course, being busy talking and listening during the thing, I was not able to take photos of the event itself. A common occupational hazard. You just snap a few pics beforehand and call it a day.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Before and After: New Games Cupboard


When we moved in to our apartment nearly fifteen years ago, we had the brilliant idea of storing our board games on top of the refrigerator. This was a large, and otherwise wasted, cache of space - and anyone who has ever lived in a small pad knows how valuable those are. The selection of games originally included some of the sort you play (chess, Boggle, Balderdash), as well as Bill's relatively large collection of games aimed at teen girls from the eighties (for those too young, or too old, to remember, this was a thing hip twenty-somethings did back in the early oughties: collect vintage things, particularly toys and games, for their kitch value). Once we had a child of our own the selection expanded - first to include preschool games like Mousetrap, and more recently to include strategy games the whole family can play together - things like Dungeon and King of Tokyo and Splendor. At some point over the course of the years we also started storing our breakfast cereal and chips and cookies and a basket of garlic and onions up there. And you can see the result in the "before" photo above. Not only was it rather messy and cluttered looking, but also - as anything left sitting out long enough in a kitchen does - the game boxes got greasy. Every time you got one down to play it you had to wipe cooking grease off it with a paper towel. It was disgusting. And so. Suddenly, not very long ago, it occurred to us that we could put a cabinet with doors up there! At first I think we were picturing just placing some sort of shelf unit on top of the fridge itself. But then we got chatting with a friend who happens to be a very talented carpenter and all around handy person and he pointed out that, not only would that be bad for the fridge, it wouldn't look very good, and also, you know, they make these kitchen cabinets that hang on the wall? He oh-so-kindly helped us find the right cabinet on the Ikea website, we ordered it and put it together, and then he came over and installed it (he really is the best!). Below you can see the finished results - first with the doors closed, and then with them open. Pantry items on the bottom shelf, games we actually play in the middle, and a winnowed down selection of Bill's collection at the top. In that way you do (or at least, I do) when a satisfying home improvement has occurred, I now find myself walking into the kitchen several times a day just to look at this awesome set up.



Monday, February 26, 2018

And Now Nine Things

These drawings for the journal I'm illustrating continue to come fast and furious. This week we have: pajamas, a modern building, a swimming pool, an Ella Fitzgerald album, a rolodex, a peony, a bulk package of toilet paper, a phone, and stacks of jeans sitting on a shelf at the jean store.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Deborah Roberts at Jenkins Johnson

My god, you guys. The show of artist Deborah Roberts' work currently up at San Francisco gallery Jenkins Johnson is staggeringly, mind-blowingly, jaw-droppingly wonderful and amazing. I first saw four of Roberts' collages at the Studio Museum of Harlem last fall, and they have hovered and glowed in my mind ever since. To walk into a room filled with more than a dozen of these beauties is almost overwhelming. No hyperbole, folks, this is the real deal. Get over there!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Color Poem #38

there is great debate at
home as to what color
my new bathrobe is

I maintain it’s a dark bluish
an underwater kelp forest
color like a mermaid’s tale

mabel insists it’s a greenish
look at it she says compared to
something green like daddy’s robe
and you will see how really blue it is

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Publishing for Creatives at Little Paper Planes

I taught a Publishing for Creatives class at Little Paper Planes the other weekend and it was fantastic. A dozen enthusiastic students full of great ideas came to learn about the publishing process, how to pitch a book, and so forth, and we had a lovely time. Here are a few sneak peeks of the class hard at work.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


The Top Ten things that have been inspiring me just lately:

1) The cover design of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2) Pop-Up Magazine (just, wow!)

3) Mabel, throwing herself body and soul into starting karate classes

4) Nancy Pelosi

5) The annual Watson / Watson Payne valentine-making party

6) Cherry Blossoms

7) Zelma Rose and its founder Lisa Anderson Shaffer

8) The good work being done by Oasis for Girls

9) Crystals

10) Always and forever, the divine Ms Kahlo

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Subsequent Six Things

The deadline for the journal I'm illustrating continues to loom, and I continue to churn out pictures. Today we have here: a tiny plane in the sky, french fries, a goldfish, a Wham! cassette tape, a stop light, and a collection of nonfiction books.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Richard Mayhew at the de Young

I've written before about how I became obsessed with the paintings of Richard Mayhew in a single instant late last summer at SFMOMA. That in turn sent me on a quest to find the Mayhew canvas I'd heard tell hangs somewhere in the de Young Museum. And let me tell you, it took some tracking down. You wander all through the permanent collection painting galleries on the second floor, which are filled with things about 99% of which were created prior to the Twentieth Century. You wander and wander thinking there's no way a Modern painting is going to be lurking up here somewhere. Until suddenly you come down a long hallway of traditional landscape paintings and - boom! - right at the end, there it is (above). A revelation in purple, peach, and olive green. It's called "Rhapsody," was painted in 2002, and acquired by the museum in 2010. It is perhaps one of the oddest hangings of a picture in a museum that I have ever seen, and in many ways one of the most effective. It's fun to compare it with how Mayhew's work is presented at SFMOMA (see photo just below this paragraph). Both amazing. But could hardly be more different. For your viewing pleasure I enclose below large images of the four Mayhew pictures I've now seen in the flesh. My semi-crummy phone photos don't begin to do them justice, but they do jog my memory to their wonders. Now I'm on a quest to find out where I can see more of these in person. It's relatively easy to find out what museums have pictures from a particular artist in their permanent collection, but can be a bit trickier to know where actually has what hanging on an actual wall on view to the public when. But I'm keeping my ear to the ground for leads. Because my eyeballs and my brain and my heart need more of this drug.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Color Poem #37

the tiny
pin’s tail

is not the
clear green
of the paint
they named
mermaid tail

but rather a
darker shade
more like teal

as if forest green
and ocean blue
had a baby

an underwater
kelp forest

image source is here

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Little Paper Planes Interview

I'm teaching a class at Little Paper Planes on Saturday, on Publishing for Creatives. And I therefore had the honor of being interviewed on their very fine blog. Here's that interview, for your reading pleasure!

Dreaming of seeing your work published in book form? Curious about publishing opportunities? Art and design book editor Bridget Watson Payne will help get you closer to that dream, explaining the range of different publishing opportunities out there and offering strategies on how to approach each one. Take a deep dive into publishing and learn how to develop your best idea, craft a compelling pitch, get in touch with a publisher, connect with your book’s audience, and so much more! A talk followed by interactive activities, this class will demystify the publishing process and help get you ready to take your project idea to the next level. This workshop will be on Saturday February 10th from 3:00- 5pm at the LPP Workshop (855 Valencia Street). Light snacks and drinks will be provided. Limited to 10 students. All workshops include 20% discount in the LPP shop the day of their workshop. 

LPP’s Dylan Johnson asked Bridget a few questions about her life in publishing and her creative practice!

Did you ever think you’d end up in the world of publishing?

When I was little I always wanted to be an artist. Then as a teenager I became a theater nerd and wanted to be an actress for a while. Only in my twenties did I start to realize that my career path needed to follow my deep love of books. I toyed briefly with the idea of academia, and about the same time that I realized becoming an English professor wasn’t for me I also realized I wanted to get into book publishing. In truth, I had no idea what that really meant, at the time. I just knew that where they made the books I loved was where I wanted to be.

What inspired your latest show Everyday Objects?

I feel really strongly that there is magic and beauty around us all the time if we just open up our eyes and look. People tend to say that sort of thing about the natural world, but I think it’s just as true of the manmade. The mundane day-to-day things we surround ourselves with—household objects, bits of the city—can shine for us if we let them. For me, drawing is one kind of close-looking that allows me to glimpse some fragments of that wonder.

How do you balance your work life and creative life?

Very carefully. I am meticulous about my time. Over the past several years I’ve methodically carved out very specific days of the week and hours of the day when I do my creative work. I have certain standing weekly and biweekly appointments with myself for writing and drawing that (barring big important exceptions like vacations and whatnot) I do not miss. I also hold myself to a strict schedule at the office and rarely bring home work from my job on weekends or evenings. The amount of scheduling and structure I use wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

What are some of your favorite art books you’ve collected throughout the years?

Oh god! There are so many! So hard to choose. Ok, a few faves:

Golden Gate Bridge by Richard Misrach

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 by Helen Anne Molesworth

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure

Inside the Live Reptile Tent by Jeff Brouws

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (In That Order) by Bridget Quinn

Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan by Franck Andre Jamme

Lorna Simpson Collages by Lorna Simpson (ok, so this one’s not out yet, but man oh man it’s going to be good!)

Do you find your creative process for writing and painting similar or different?

I find writing both easier and more daunting. That may not make sense at first, but if you drill down a bit, it actually does. Part of what I really enjoy about drawing and painting is the challenge – I’m often not confident that my technical skills are up to the task of achieving what I want to achieve, so the whole thing becomes like this thrilling high-wire act to see if I can do it. Whereas I’m much more secure in my writing abilities– I’ve been writing forever, I know how to make a sentence. But, as nearly every writer will tell you, there’s just something about writing that breeds a certain quality of dread and procrastination. Even if you enjoy writing and find it relatively painless, which I do, there is still some weird perverse part of you that dreads sitting down at the desk to do it—that would rather be doing just about anything else. It’s weird. Making art feels risky and weird and joyful for me, making sentences feels more like work. Enjoyable work, but still work.