Paul Madonna's stunning pen-and-ink cityscapes appear in the comic section of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. His drawings contain short stories, snatches of conversations, philosophical observations, forming strange juxtapositions with his intricate architectural renderings.
The weekly strip is called "All Over Coffee" (I suspect the multiple meanings are not accidental), which gave the title to Madonna's first compilation. Now he's out with a new collection of panels, "Everything Is Its Own Reward" ($27.95 in hardcover from City Lights Books), and it's a mesmerizing journey, as the author puts it, "from an introduction, into autobiography and fiction, to a climax of creative questioning, then to resolution."
Madonna will be signing copies of his books Wednesday, May 18, at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.
An Afterword provides context for each of the drawings and a rationale for Madonna's project. "What was it that was its own reward? Everything was, the more I thought about it. And that was the answer to life as much as it was to making art. Anything I did had to be for the sake of doing--from getting out of bed in the morning to pursuing my grandest aspirations."
One picture shows a little trailer against a large hill. The words in the upper left: "There is, for all of us, no matter what we've mastered, something incomprehensible." Madonna points out that the pictures are not meant to illustrate the words, or vice versa. There is something more subtle going on. Humans are never depicted. Yet they are there, on every page. You just have to read them into the houses, imagine the goings-on behind the walls.
There are hints of color in the sepia renderings. One shows a dizzying view of the blue sky looking up from several apartments. And the text: "The guys who sit on my stoop, doing deals out of bass-thumping cars, they don't care if I make something today, how I phrased these lines, or if this drawing turned out the way I wanted. Every doorway in every city, every cafe, church or town hall, every profession, passion or pursuit, is its own microcosm." And so it is with each page, a delight to the eye and provocation for the mind.