Paul Madonna in his Potrero Hill studio. (Courtesy of the artist)

Loved for his iconic drawings of San Francisco, artist Paul Madonna opens up his mind—and his Potrero Hill studio

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Chances are good that most native San Franciscans and newcomers alike have come across the creative works of artist and author Paul Madonna—his drawings and prose have captured the whimsy and beauty of our city since they first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle illustrated series "All Over Coffee" (to call it a comic strip just wouldn't be right), back in 2004; the popular series ran through 2015.

In 2007, All Over Coffee became a gorgeous graphic tome, published by City Lights and with an introduction by local author Andrew Sean Greer. Since then, Madonna has released three more books with the venerated North Beach publisher, all with the same kind of lush imagery that teeters between reality and surreality, including 2017's Close Enough for the Angels, which 7x7 called "absolutely stunning."


In recent years, Madonna's work has woven its way into the daily lives of San Franciscans in the form of locally themed murals—at Starbucks in West Portal, Tacolicious, and Google HQ—as well as through commercial projects for local cult brands: His custom Golden Gate Bridge illustration appeared on Anchor Steam beer labels in Summer 2019; and Madonna also collaborated with Goorin Bros. to develop a line of cool-cat hats, all customized with his drawings of the city.

You can catch up with Madonna at his Potrero Hill studio, see his works in progress, and take home a piece at Weekend Three of ArtSpan's Open Studios. (Incidentally, his wife, Joen Madonna, is ArtSpan's executive director.) But first, read our Proustian questionnaire below, where we get to the heart of the bourbon-drinking, self-indulgent artist—hey, he said it, not us.

7x7: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

PM; A perfect shoulder bag, with compartments for everything.


7x7: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

PM: Temperance.


7x7: Martini, Margarita or Manhattan?

PM: Bourbon, on the rocks.


7x7: Who are your favorite Artists?

PM: Hockney, Sempé, Dylan


7x7: What is your most marked characteristic?

PM: Drive.


7x7: If you were a painting in a museum what would it be?

PM: Off-centered.


7x7: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

PM: I would be more compassionate.


7x7: What is your greatest fear?

PM: Being option-less.


7x7: What is your greatest achievement?

PM: Perseverance.


7x7: What is your indulgence?

PM: Myself.


7x7: What is your favorite book?

PM: At the moment: The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler.


7x7: What is your greatest weakness?

PM: Myself.


7x7: Bay Area haunt?

PM: A good friend's kitchen.


7x7: Who's your local hero?

PM: Ha! Oh, you're being serious...


7x7: What is one thing you'd change about SF?

PM: Only one?


7x7: How does the Bay Area inspire your work—or not?

PM: To change.


// ArtSpan Open Studios Weekend Three is 11am to 6pm, Oct. 26-27 in select neighborhoods throughout SF; for more info, go to artspan.org/sf-open-studios. For more on Paul Madonna, go to paulmadonna.com.

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