A couple of weeks ago, we told you about Wendy MacNaughton's book Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words. The book features MacNaughton's whimsical drawings of different parts of the city alongside quotes from S.F. citizens describing each area.
The detailed illustrations are paired with a first-hand perspective on things most S.F. citizens probably don't think about, such as the culture of Chinatown, the daily life of a farmer's market vendor, and what it's like to live on Sixth Street at Mission. Flipping through the unique book, we couldn't help but wonder how MacNaughton came up with the idea in the first place, so we decided to ask.
"I'm a curious person naturally. I enjoy hanging out with strangers," MacNaughton said. "Everybody is an opportunity for a conversation."
MacNaughton grew up drawing, but stopped when she was an undergraduate at the Art Center College of Design and was "making really really bad conceptual art" instead of drawings and paintings. She got back into sketching roughly 10 years later, when she was working in San Francisco, but living elsewhere in the Bay Area, and would start sketching people on BART during her commute and writing stuff down about what she thought they were thinking. Eventually, the BART sketches turned into the idea for Meanwhile in San Francisco.
"I'm from the Bay Area, so I didn't really know the story behind a lot of stuff that I saw," said MacNaughton, who was born in San Francisco and raised in Marin County.
In addition to her art school degree, MacNaughton also received a degree in social work, which helped inspire the idea to describe what she sketched in the citizens' own words.
"Social work is about giving people their own voice, people who might not normally have the spotlight," said MacNaughton. "I didn't want to put words in anyone's mouths."
In addition to Meanwhile in San Francisco, MacNaughton also collaborated on Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology with partner Caroline Paul, inspired by their cat who ran away and their consequent idea to attach a GPS and a video camera to his collar.
She is also the co-founder of popular tumblr "Pen and Ink" with San Francisco based author and editor of BuzzFeed Books Isaac Fitzgerald. Comprised of illustrations of various tattoos and what inspired them (described in the inked person's own words), the pictures and stories submitted to the site will become a book in October 2014: Pen and Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them.
MacNaughton is also working with Berkeley based chef Samin Nosrat to create Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: The Four Elements of Good Cooking, an illustrated cookbook.
"Because I grew up in the Bay Area, when I was 19 I left and I was like, I am never coming back here again," said MacNaughton, "but here I am almost 20 years later--not only living here, but I wrote a book about the City." She laughs. "I'm not going anywhere."