In the late 1980s I was just out of grad school and working in product management for a company on Long Island. I had spent most of my twenties trying to be an artist (without much success) but I still carried a sketchbook around with me to write and draw whenever I had the time. One summer day I went to Robert Moses State Park, and walking east toward the Fire Island National Seashore I stumbled upon a nude beach. I was intrigued, and not being very shy or modest by nature, I took off my clothes and joined in. Over the next few years I was a frequent visitor to this beach.
Using the notes and the drawings I made at that time, I have created an 8-page illustrated essay about what the beach was like. Called Nude Beach Sketchbook, you can purchase a copy via Lulu.com.
Format Is Often the Hardest Decision
Most of the drawings for the Nude Beach Sketchbook were done about twenty years ago. At the time, I had the idea of making a series of cartoon panels, each on a different ‘Observations on the Beach’ topic. Some of the drawings were vertical, other horizontal, and so I made some panels in each format. I struggled with it and never really got it to work, even though I liked the drawings and text. I put the results in a couple of folders, put the folders in a box, and occasionally looked at them over the years, but never did anything with them. I couldn’t get past the decision about format.
I have a friend who takes artistic cell phone camera photos. I encouraged him to select a few and make a book of them. His first challenge was picking the right photos and the other was choosing the format. Combined, these decisions paralyzed the process. There was no book. Then, inspiration in another form arrived. My friend decided to make a photo book for his elderly parents. Reinvigorated, he soon resolved the issues. Need I tell you that the resulting book was a beloved and memorable book that his parents cherish? He just had to get over the hurdles of photo selection and format.
I came back to my beach drawings not long ago. I had some vacation time and wanted to see if I could make a large poster out of the images and text. The idea was to have a solid block of text interspersed with the drawings. I tried making a poster, but it didn’t really work. Yet in revisiting the text and images I became more confident that I could find a suitable format. I decided on a book format, laid out the text (toying with various sizes), and placed a few relevant images on each page. My first try was with large type and an 8.5” x 11” page. I later shifted to a 6” by 9” page and a type size that would comfortably fill an 8-page booklet. That booklet, with a sketchbook-like cover, is available as an on-demand print today through Lulu.com.
It took a long time, but now I think I have an appropriate setting for the text and images. I hope when you see it, you’ll agree.
In addition to format, the oddity of this topic has made this project a bit of a challenge to complete. I'd like to thank my wife, my brother, and my niece for their perspectives and helpful suggestions.