The Story of Nick Paper
'THE STORY OF 'NICK PAPER'
In my husband, Bob’s previous books, ‘Dragonhenge’ and ‘Stardragons’, he has used hand-tinted drawing paper for some of the illustrations contained therein. As a drawing surface, it’s about average and takes charcoal or pencil work really well. However the incidental imperfections caused during the hand-tinting process makes for all kinds of wonderful serendipitous inspirations. We’ve since affectionately dubbed it ‘Nick Paper’, because it all began with our friend Nick Stathopoulos.
Go back to the late summer of 2001 and the World Science Fiction Convention held in Philadelphia. Our good friend Nick had come all the way from Sydney, Australia to attend the convention and display his beautiful artwork in the art show there. Some of the pieces were exquisite drawings on golden tinted paper. Like many convention goers, we gazed at them in open admiration – at the paper as much as at the drawings. Always restless for new drawing surfaces that inspire, Bob and I joked about how we could get our hands upon some to ‘play’ with.
As it was, Nick came to stay with us in Rhode Island for a few days following the convention. And like all good friends, we talked for hours on end about everything: books, music, art, artists, movies, life, the universe, and anything in between. Eventually we got around to art techniques, and it was then that he told us about his golden paper and his joy in it. What kind of paper and paint he used, and how he got such great results. It wasn’t long after this, and after having driven Nick all over New England in a whirlwind sightseeing tour, that we had to drive him to New Jersey. Nick was staying with mutual friends before flying back to the West Coast from there on the Sunday, prior to going home to Sydney.
Bob and I spent quality time with other good friends that same weekend, and felt an almost beatific contentment with the world at the beginning of the workweek. It was the calm before the storm.
Tuesday morning came, and we were getting ready to go out and have coffee and run some errands before settling into some serious painting. Then the phone rang. Our friend Jay was on the line. “Turn on the TV! Turn on the TV! The World Trade Center’s on fire. It’s world war three!” Bob and I tuned in just in time to see the second plane hit the other Trade Center tower. Then the attack on the Pentagon was announced. Bob told Jay that we’d call him back. I don’t know how long we watched after that. Finally, I took the phone from my husband’s hand and dialed Australia. We travel all over the world for business and for our art, and my parents didn’t often know where we were at any given time. I wanted to let them know we weren’t in New York.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. We got some errands done, spent a lot of time trying to contact friends, trying to talk it out. And we nervously waited for word from those we knew in New York City and the Pentagon, that they were safe. Meanwhile, our eyes were glued to the TV screen and the horror. My heart went cold when the first tower began to buckle and crumple from the heat. I had some rescue training in the Royal Australian Air Force many years ago, and my reaction was instinctive. “My God. The concussion. Run. Everybody run!” We were sickened. And the sight of the ghostly silent wrecks of rescue vehicles in the aftermath rocked me to the core. I turned away, unable to keep watching the endless repetitions of every scene that the networks replayed over and over again. I had to keep moving or be frozen there, caught in a morbid trap. It wasn’t so easy to move Bob. My husband is prone to anxiety from time to time, and this hit him deeply.
We ate, and to this day I don’t know what we had for lunch or dinner. I needed to turn Bob’s anxiety around, so I wracked my brains looking for a way to distract him. Then I had it! A frantic search of cupboards, a rummage around in the paints in the studio, and a massive clearing of counters in the kitchen, and I was ready. Stepping around Bob, I turned the TV off, put on some music and announced to my beloved: “We’re going to make ‘Nick Paper’!”
And we did. Bob did so reluctantly at first, but then he started to settle into it - to be doing something practical, mildly creative, soothing, and undemanding. It was a small respite during a time that was truly overwhelming, and gave us time to think. Others would not be so lucky.
Our first attempts at making Nick Paper were crude and overworked, but the batches we’ve made since then have achieved a sort of artistry. It ties Bob’s love of paper and his favourite colour, Quinacridone Gold, together quite satisfactorily. Even after experimenting with different colour tints like Burnt Sienna and Blue, we always come back to the gold. We love rifling through the sheets we have in storage and choosing a perfect piece to draw on. Every so often I’ll come across one of those first pieces we made and remember. That’s when I tell myself, and Bob that we should call Nick in Sydney and catch up.
Thanks for sharing Nick. It made a huge difference then, and still does.