Tiny size sketches on a panel of paper scrolled a handheld screen on the social media platform of Instagram. A pause, then a scroll in reverse results in the reverse results in a heart and more hearts as I viewed the images of Rob Wilson. Rob Wilson animator, illustrator, logo designer lives across two states, his mainstay Texas, its Western part and New York, where he yearly visits for time with friends, work with clients, harnessing the city’s creative energy and oh, to sketch people on the J/M/Z trains.
With his miniature drawings veering left of his usual animated, editorial and log work, making his zine debut at a coffee shop and bookstore as part of the Dallas Zine Fest. This culture talks to him, discovers some of his hangout spots, dog and coffee cameos and his sketches from Williamsburg to West Texas, that chronicle his travels and many many cups of coffee.
r.w.: I didn’t get on Instagram for a while; I didn’t see the point of it. You’re kind of editing the world that you want to see. Facebook, it’s a little different, there are brands, politics, but you can’t delete. People you may or may not know, pop up.
Instagram, I check it in the morning – its what’s happening the here and right I can be following an illustrator in Spain or a coffee shop in L.A., its whatever I choose.
c.: How did you start working in coffee shops?
r.w. I quit my job two years ago to be full time and go out on my own. I used to be at a desk a lot and just wouldn’t get out; it felt weird to not be connected to people. I’m from a small town in West Texas, where there are small cafes; old men talk and women go in the afternoon.
I would take the train into the city and to Williamsburg. And, I’d just sketch people really quickly as I was riding. He laughs. There always people with coffee. One of the drawings is with a girl sitting next to someone; she had a big bag and was holding a Starbucks iced coffee.
c.: What’s your personal ritual?
r.w.: At home I have a French press, until this morning; I actually broke it. Tom and I spoke on Monday, September 21st, we’re hoping he’s replaced it by now. Or, I kind of like basing my day on what I want to do and where I want to stay. If, I can do the things at the coffee shop and get things done, I’ll have a coffee there, or a latte or two.
c.: Why the coffee shop? There’s an energy or buzz – an activity around when you’re in different coffee shops and they all have different vibes.
r.w.: There weren’t a lot of coffee places besides Starbucks. There were cafes, breakfast places and Starbucks, but not a coffee hangout. Now, there are more people drinking coffee, and the cultural aspects like what you about – new, indie, small, terrific and off the beaten path.
c.: What kind of coffee shops did you like while you were in Brooklyn?
r.w.: I liked AP Café, Little Skips too, but it was very crowded.
c.: Yes, Little Skips fills up.
I kind of started looking around and stumbled across [AP Café] and thought it was really pretty, the light inside the shop was really beautiful, I would make the 25 minute walk over there. Also, Black Brick Coffee in Williamsburg and Toby’s Estate, all are lovely to hang out.
c.: Do you see a difference in Brooklyn coffee shops from the ones in Texas?
r.w.: In Brooklyn all outlets are covered up. Here [in West Texas ] that’s not the case and you can hang out. I still do Starbucks if it’s around.
I do have my favorite places to get coffee, but sometimes they aren’t my favorite places to hang out.
c.: Right! Isn’t that an interesting conundrum, sometimes you just don’t get the two together. And, when the coffee is great, you really wish the place had the ambience to support it too. Can you share some insights into your drawing process? How does a space and or its coffee factor into your choosing it to create your art?
r.w.: About a year ago or two, I’d change coffee shops for a change of scenery to work at different ones. Then I saw which ones had the most comfortable seats, which ones didn’t. If you’re sitting in a space for a while, it’s about what makes you comfortable.
There’s a place, Mudsmith, the coffee is good. The wait staff is very friendly and there’s good food if you want it. It’s in a part of town that’s pretty eclectic and a lot of creatives go there. The biggest thing is the music.
c.: Ah, yes. Isn’t the music so very important?
r.w.: Sometimes you go, to a place and they play terrible music – heavy metal. Or, fifties music; I hate fifties music. I laugh. It feels like they are trying to drive me out. I laugh even more. Creatives are probably more sensitive to it, but the music needs to feel appropriate to the space. Mudsmith has the music right.
c.: Most of your artwork is created while caffeinated, Irving Farm, Mudsmith, Tobys Estate, storyboards for an animated sequence for film Dirty Weekend. Why?
r.w.: I didn’t think about it until I was writing you [ in an email ] as I was sitting in the coffee shop. I’m like I didn’t even think about it. I thought, wow, when I’m working, I am actually drinking coffee and not so much aware of it, because its part of what I do. A bit of it has to do with not working in an office anymore, since I work at home and in my studio, I drink more of it now to get out and be around people and so I go to the coffee shop; it does make you more caffeinated.
c.: Did it affect you?
r.w.: I wasn’t sleeping very well when I first broke out on my own, because of the coffee. In your point of view, on coffee and creativity, it’s possible that its such a part of my life that it does creep into my artwork because I’m thinking about it and am surrounding by it.
c.: The subliminal and subconscious works in amazing way. How did coffee play into the zine being created?
r.w.: It came from riding the train literally in New York from Myrtle to Essex.
c.: There’s a growing zine culture in Dallas. Is that how you got involved in creating one?
r.s.: There’s a fellow here, Randy Guthmiller , that’s really interested in zine culture and bringing it all together. He held a zine party – Dallas Zine Party – at a coffee shop and bookstore called, The Wild Detectives. This is my first time doing a zine. The idea of it was a new outlet of creativity, I normally do animation, editorial illustration, and logo design.
c.: Very cool. What are the physical aspects of it?
r.s.: It’s a foot and half tall, it’s made like a zine, all printed on one side, folded and sits together like a zine. The tabloid size of it made it big enough for the drawings to show up, since they were so little.
c.: I’d love to read your zine from a coffee shop. That seems like it would be full circle, art, from an artist, inspired How do you feel about art itself being in the coffee shop?
r.s.: I’m okay with art not being up. One place I used to go too, it was more stripped down, put up a lot of bad art and I stopped going; it turned me off. There are options, a coffee shop doesn’t have to be pristine for me to be able to be in that environment Method Coffee here is really nice and tiny, Oak Lawn Coffee, its not so cool looking, but the coffee is really good. But, when you think about it the atmosphere makes a big difference; the environment, the coffee tables, electrical environment, the walls, the wallpaper, the music, the bathrooms, all of it influences the atmosphere – what you feel. For now, I have to get a French press, today.
See more of Mr. Wilson’s work at Silas Tom and on Instagram.