Over the past 650 days, I have had the pleasure of interacting with some amazing artists and parents. In hopes of inspiring others like I have been inspired, Lunch Note Sketch will highlight an individual every other week for some Monday morning motivation. If you know anyone who might have interest in being interviewed, please send me a note with his/her name and contact information and he/she might get feature right here on this blog and on social media.
So, without further ado, our very first interview is with a father, husband, and napkin artist, Jimmy Ettele. I have been following him since I began the Lunch Note Sketch journey and I'm amazed at his work. He can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and at his website.
Tell me a little bit about your background... Who you are; what made you interested in art?
I was born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania. Still live there today. I currently work for a roofing company as a roof inspector. I am a dad of two girls (14 and 11). I don't know that there has ever been a time when I haven't been interested in art. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of drawing is using an orange crayon on a wall in my parents house (to which they were not thrilled).
Who are your current art inspirations and how do they affect your artistic process?
One area I pull my inspiration from is world of comic books. For as long as I've been drawing I have also been looking/reading comic books. I was always attracted to that mythology and the artists who helped to create it. John Romita Sr. Jack Kirby. Erik Larsen. The list goes on and on. And what is so great now, the Internet allows me to look at and admire so many other artists from around the world and different walks of life so every time I see awesome artwork it makes me want to get better with my own.
What made you start sketching on napkins?
About 3 years ago now, my youngest daughter asked me if I would write her a note to put in her lunch bag. I think one of her classmates had brought a note in and she wanted one too. I didn't want to just write a note and thought maybe I could draw a picture. I immediately, I thought about drawing a comic book character as they were something I thought would look pretty rad in her lunch. And instead of a piece of paper, why not use the napkin in her lunch for the picture? And from there it just kept going. She wanted one everyday and my oldest wanted one once she saw the napkin. So I started every night sitting down and drawing comic book characters/comic covers/etc for them.
What are your thoughts on the art community in your area? Do you participate in any art communities?
I think we have a growing art community in my area. I belong to a local art group (it is comprised of a variety of artists) and have participated in comic cons at the local public library for the past two years, taught workshops for kids, and been on round tables talking about art for kids.
How have your daughters changed your life, both personally/professionally and as an artist?
It would be impossible to list all the ways my daughters have changed my life. Everything I do, am, work to be, revolves around them. It has been the greatest joy and most rewarding thing of my life being their dad. As an artist, they actually resuscitated my art. For a long time, before the napkins, I had not focused on my art. I would scribble, sketch, and doodle but nothing to what I do now. They opened that door again, unknowingly, and have made me a better artist. Any success, big or small, I might ever garner, I share with them. It would be as much their success as it would be mine. Without them, there are no napkins and quite possibly no other art work at all.
How are they involved in your art?
In the beginning, both kids put in their requests for napkins. Rattling off superhero characters for me to do. Sometimes their friends wanted a specific character so they brought home requests from them too. Now, their involvement is more about being a constant source of motivation and inspiration for me. I told them both, I would do napkins for as long as they like. My oldest, now in high school, still likes getting them. And I have moved from doing just superheroes to cultural and historical drawings as a way to hopefully motivate and inspire them (I recently did a Martin Luther King Jr. napkin to commemorate his birthday). So I suppose I could say, while they aren't necessarily giving me art direction, they are intimately involved with any art I do.
How has your background as an artist affected your daughters? Do you think having an artist dad helps inspire their creativity?
That's a good question. As I think about it, my dad was very creative and artistic. He was a photographer and dabbled in pastel work. Watching him and his creativity, I think was a big source of my push in to art and where, whatever modicum of talent I might possess, came from. So I definitely think my art has had some effect on my kids. My youngest sits with me sometimes and we draw together. My oldest has a skill for music and I think her creativity lies there. Having a dad who encourages, supports, and participates in the arts hopefully keeps them both, if they so choose, to continue on within that world.
I would like to thank Jimmy for taking the time to participate in this interview. And more importantly, thank him for his dedication to his craft and making a positive impact on his kids' lives. Again, please show Jimmy some love on Instagram, Facebook, and on his website.