We all doodle - on the pages of our notebooks, in the margins of the books we read, on the post-its that cover our desk. It's how we remind ourselves of things, express our creative side, or simply just kill time. For the first time ever, a group of people has collected the sketches, drawings, and scribbles from the private letters and notebooks of some of the greatest names in history--notable figures in art and literature, fashion and film--revealing that even the most influential minds have doodled their time away. We sat down with the authors of Scrawl to learn more about to expect from this compilation.
Yale Breslin: Together, you are the caretakers of the David Schulson collection of autographs and artifacts. How big is this collection?
Claudia: I prefer not to publicize the size of the collection, but it’s quite impressive. Scrawl is comprised of our favorite pieces of the “Illustrated Letter Collection” which includes letters with drawings typically as well as artworks with text. There are many other pieces, which we have which can be found at schulsonautographs.com and in our catalogs.
YB: I’d love to know a little bit about the editing process of SCRAWL. How did you decide which doodles made it into the final printed matter?
Caren: We all did it together over the course of a few weeks. The process was fun, we sat on the floor in the basement all together leafing through Dad’s binders and reminiscing and really seeing as if it was the first time, the breadth and depth of this collection. The whole book is a celebration and a memorial. So it was fun to work as a family and tend to his treasures.
Todd: To narrow down the list to the 100 items that are in the book we focused on visual appeal, recognizable names, and honestly, the ones we loved the most…. It was important to us that the book appeals to all ages, targeting our peers, a younger demographic and not just collector’s.
YB: Your father had quite the collection of drawings. How did he get his hands on these over time?
Mom: Private individuals, antiquarian book and autograph dealers, auctions. David had an eye for who was under collected and pieces that were visually engaging.
Todd: I remember being 13 and Dad taking me on one of his buying trips to Europe and feeling like I was chasing Indiana Jones around the world. We’d end up in old bookshops and dusty libraries, dad would haggle and charm and I’ll never forget how excited he was when he found a real treasure. He’d talk about it all night and wake up the next morning ready to continue the hunt.
Caren: He had correspondences with some of the people in the book (some letters are addressed to him) to understand the process behind the work. He would use these letters as a teaching tool in the classroom and literally anyone he would meet. He loved to talk about his collection; he was able to turn everyone into a collector.
YB: Do you think you’re able to get some insight into someone’s personality from the way they ‘doodle’? If so, how and why?
There is something unconscious about a doodle. Your hand does it when your mind is busy doing other things. You doodle when you’re talking on the phone or bored in class or in a work meeting. They are almost like physicalized daydreams. What was so fun about growing up around this stuff was that I would sit in junior high and fill the margins of my textbooks with doodles. And then come home and dad had just bought some Eisenhower doodles on Pentagon stationery. It obliterated any hierarchy. These great thinkers, artists, scientists, leaders… they all doodle. And their doodles are whimsical, and childlike in a way. Like mine. You can see the playful pure part of a person in a doodle and you get the sense that as a species, this drive to draw and create is fundamental. We all do it; it unifies and reveals our true nature in some ways.
Mom: I think a quick sketch, doodle, squiggle gives an insight into a moment and a glimpse into a personality particularly when text accompanies the drawing.
YB: Looking back at the process of putting together this book, what were some of the biggest challenges?
Mom: Selecting the pieces was the biggest challenge because some of the most appealing drawings were crafted by little known individuals. We wanted to achieve a balance between eye-catching images and culturally significant people.
YB: When you picked up the book for the first time, how did you collectively feel?
Mom: The book took ten years to realize, from conception just after David died to the brightly colored dynamic work that is SCRAWL. In that time I added pieces to the collection and continue to do so. In so many ways the book reflects our family journey through mourning to healing. We have grown into a reconfigured family and reshaped the uniquely wonderful collection he began over 40 years ago.
Caren: it is hard to express in words. WE manifested our dream, our family, and together. It feels really rare and really special.
Todd: I cried, we all did. You could feel dad in the room. It’s amazing that we could transform our grief, not just into something productive and creative, but into a physical thing we could hold in our hands and see on the shelf of a store. The book is so beautiful and as we leaf through it it’s full of memories. Treasure’s we hunted for in Europe are in the book; things that were up on the walls of our apt through childhood are in the book. It’s really amazing. And we hope that it will open up the family business to a new group of people who maybe don’t even know pieces of art and history exist.