The doodlist

Artistically, Jose Pacheco hasn’t reached the point where a cocktail-napkin doodle is payment enough for his lunch. But Pacheco’s cocktail-napkin doodles have been framed and hung on a lunch-joint wall, so he must be getting somewhere. A handful of these exuberant, fine-lined works, not at all limited by the potentially restrictive format of flimsy two-ply paper in 25 square inches, now decorate Midtown’s Barbary Coast Savannah BBQ. The display also includes a statement from the artist: “A few years ago while enjoying an ice cold beer at the Mercantile Saloon, I began doodling on my bar napkin while talking with friends. I brought home the napkin and colored in the shapes. I liked the results so much that each time I stopped in for a beer I made sure to sketch a new napkin.” In most of his designs, symmetrical, vivid sprawls blossom from the traced circles of beer-bottle bottoms. One is sequined, tastefully.

“I get a lot of people talking about those,” said Nick Jardine, who works at Barbary Coast and used to be Pacheco’s neighbor. “I had seen them at his house and said, ‘Hey, those would look great framed.’ He said, ‘I could do that.’”

“I guess that’s the thing. I’ve always drawn on napkins,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco recently retired from a management job at Federal Express and resumed the creative avocations in which he dabbled at Sacramento State 20 years ago. He has loaded up on museum memberships and returned to school for some artistic self-exploration. He has turned his garage into an art studio, and he also works in several other forms. The placemat, for example.

Pacheco is someone who cares how things look. He wears mutedly stylish clothes, modish eyeglasses and a carefully cropped salty beard. He has arranged the rooms of his modest Land Park home with spartan decorum, clean lines and pools of warm light. Here and there, fresh fruit reclines in bowls as if posing for a still life. The Hockney-esque backyard pool was his summer project; now he’s planning a mosaic on an outside wall and some stained glass on the driveway gate. “Right now, I see something, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to do that,’” he said. “I’m feeling like a sponge.” Accordingly, another medium of utilitarian absorbency has been good to him.

Who knows how many brilliant, beautiful advancements of human culture have begun on the cocktail napkin? How many ad-hoc schematics and scraps of poetry and proto-paintings have been born here, or died? Historically, the medium has been conducive to inspiration. Pacheco, for one, already has broadened his horizons. “They all started with my Budweiser,” he said. “Now I’ve moved on to rum and Coke, so it’s not so easy.”