Q&A With July Cover Artist, Wendy MacNaughton


Wendy MacNaughton, July's cover artist (who is also featured on Jen Bekman's 20x200 this month), has been chronicling the city for years through her drawings of commuters and "mental maps" of San Francisco neighborhoods (check out  her blog). For the July issue, we commissioned Wendy to draw a "mental map" of San Francisco as a whole for the cover and capture moments on Muni for our public transportation story. You can buy Wendy's 7x7's July cover art as a poster here or purchase other work by her at 20x200.

When Wendy was in our offices signing posters we chatted with her a bit about her art and inspirations:


Why have you chosen commuters as your primary subject?
The commute is an interesting place - people are moving between two very different selves: homeself and workself. In transit it seems most people feel alone and anonymous and so we drop our guards, our presentations - our minds wander and we reflect. This shows on people's faces. I love watching, and public transpiration is one of the only places where I've found where I can watch people's internal, private lives in public. To be blunt - drawing portraits on public transportation is my attempt to connect with all different types of people but still keep my distance.

How do people react when they see you drawing them?

Most don't see.  If they do, they usually smile or pretend not to notice.  A few have asked me to stop and I stop.  I've only had one real altercation - I got into a wrestling match with one guy over a pencil, but just as the Bart door was closing I jumped out, pencil still in my hand.  The drama of drawing, don't underestimate it.

Muni and BART woes are pretty prolific. How does that play into your art?
I think it puts people in a certain mental space for sure, and this often comes out in their expressions, whereby their portraits.

What are your personal opinions of Muni and BART?
No comment.

What inspires the words on your drawings?
The subject of the drawing. As well as projection, empathy and probably too little sleep.

Where in SF do you live? What adjectives would you use to describe your neighborhood?
In Potero Hill and yes, I have drawn a map of it.  Blanket of fog, toy city, giant tree, cats.

Can you talk a little bit about the July cover and how it all came together? What were your inspirations? Is there a certain mood you're evoking?

7x7 had a few things they wanted to call out, the rest of it was up to me to create (a dream assignment). That map is how I see my San Francisco. Hopefully other people see some of theirs in it, too.

You swore off SF at the age of 19 and moved away. What made you come back? And are you happy you did?
I think it's generally true that you have to go without something for some time to fully appreciate it. I think that applies here.

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