Perfumer Andy Tauer makes incredible perfumes. Over the past year, traveling back and forth from Zurich to Italy (and Paris, and Russia, and LA) he’s sketched the various things he sees along the way into his virtual sketchbook, an i-Pad he bought a few years ago. Each month, starting now, Evelyn Avenue asks him to pick one of these sketches and to describe the circumstances behind drawing it:
It was a Friday in Rome, a hot and humid day. I was told that the weather in Rome this summer was odd: Lots of thunderstorms in the afternoon due to the humidity, very unusual for this time of the year. I had a hotel near the Stazione Termini, the main rail station, affordable but not super close to the historic center of town where I wanted to visit a perfumery. I walked from my hotel towards the historic center of Rome, had a cappuccino on my way, in a little side street, enjoying the good coffee and watching tourists trying to find their way through the labyrinth of medieval Rome. As often, I woke up early and I ended up being too early on my way, with the shops still being closed.
I ended up at the perfumery, but it was still closed. I know the area a bit, and being 10 minutes from the park of the Villa Borghese, I decided to walk up there. It was eleven in the morning, but already pretty hot, and thus I was looking for a place in the shadow. And I wanted to take a moment to sketch, and to think about Thursday. Thursday, I visited my future distribution partner for Italy. A family owned business. Nice and decent people. A very Italian enterprise, with nephews and mothers and nieces working in this family venture. We discussed my brand, my vision, my wishes and smelled my creations. For a lot of reasons I had to search a new partner who can help me bring my products to this great perfume market. It is one of the most advanced, most mature markets for “niche” perfumery, and Italians love artisanal products. Thus, it is important for me.
The discussions with the distribution partner were nice – on one hand, personal; on the other hand we had to find a deal: How to operate together. Who gets what share. Tough business stuff. I need a partner in Italy as I cannot simply ship perfumes there. Back then, on Friday noon in Rome, I had not decided with whom I want to collaborate and I did not have a full picture of whether the conditions discussed were viable for me and my products.
In a sense, I had a very important decision to make. For me, for my Italian perfume loving fans, for the potential partner, and – although not worried – I was in a state of insecurity. And I felt very sorry for my former distributor from whom I had to part. In a sense, it was a feeling of being cast adrift, the thrownness of a creative mind who has to deal with business, a prerequisite for continuing work as creator. It is this business framework that enables it all, my perfume creation fun time, my talking to perfume lovers worldwide, my salary at the end of the month, my freedom as creator. Yet, this perfume business comes with its obligations and rules that are not always easy to meet.
I had a lot to digest, and was imaging a future that was and still is very uncertain.
I was also very tired.
When entering the park I was looking for a moment of peace, and tranquility before talking to the perfumery owner hoping to learn more about the perfume market in these difficult days in southern Europe. I know this park with its uncounted pine trees pretty well as I go jogging there whenever possible when in Rome, and I wanted to hide somewhere in the middle. But then I got a bottle of water from one of the Gelati carts that offer all sorts of things, for a reasonable price. I sat next to it on a bench, on the left side of the cart, overlooking a good part of the park. To the left was the entry area with the busy street and the cars passing by, in bright sunlight, in front of me another bench on the other side of the alley, with an exhausted couple, tourists, like me enjoying the shadow and the ice cold water, with bits of ice dancing on the surface. Behind them was a little hill, still very green for the season, topped by a statue of a guy on a horse, like you see everywhere in Rome. On the right the Gelati outlet, and further down an area of pine trees, like dark arthritic old fingers pointing to the blue sky, hiding the villa Borghese.
Looking to my right, I observed the markings on the tree’s bark, cut there years ago by lovers or friends. The tree was hiding most of the Gelati cart, and I wondered whether those who left these marks still remember them. Probably the A’s and D’s will still be visible in the bark, attesting eternal love, when the lovers have left this world. Quite likely that the love will end before that. I was witnessing an argument between a French couple, jumping into a big fight, with loud French arguments, a back and forth, physically as well as vocally; both were tired by the heat, and the cause of their argument seemed much smaller than the dark universe that they were jumping into.
There were a lot of tourists strolling by, many watching me closely when I started sketching on my ipad what I saw to my right. Especially children, with their curiosity of minds that haven’t seen it all yet, were approaching me, shy but determined to get a glimpse of what I did there. I started with some contours, main lines of the cart, the line of cobblestones leading to it, bringing in the perspective, together with the shape of the tree. I loved the contrast between the straight, dark metal lantern bar, and the inclined, twisted trash bin behind it. When doing an illustration, I always look for elements that bring in an element of queerness. An asymmetry. I wanted to bring the attention in the illustration there, by rendering it dark (as it was in reality). Then I started with some details on the cart: Potatoes chip packed tightly, flower decorations on the cart’s front, bottles neatly arranged on a board, the reflection in the cart’s side mirror. I added more details and a bit more perspective by another trash can in the background and two of the many pine trees. Leaving things off is important when drawing, and often, there is a moment when you have to end it, because adding more will not help but takes out the tension of an illustration. I guess this is true for many other crafts. For sure it is true for perfumery: Adding more lines might just lead to confusion. It is important to know when to stop.
I cannot really pinpoint why I chose to illustrate this particular view to my right, but I know what it did to me: I left the worries and my thinking about the business and started to flow on a different wave. Seeing, observing, trying to find the contrasts in dark areas, looking for parallel lines, searching for patterns that repeat themselves. Sketching is also cutting reality into little pieces. Often, when looking at a scene somewhere, like in this park, there is so much that you think: I can never come up with an illustration. There is too much going on. I learned (or I am learning) to look behind the things I see. Sketching is surgical work: Cutting off, cutting into what you see. And it is a lesson in seeing: Things are not how we seem them, often. Our mind interprets and brings in things, shapes, contrasts, colors that aren’t there. Thus, in a sense, sketching is looking behind the surreality that is produced by our brain when interpreting the light collected in our eyes, transformed into electronic signal sent towards the brain. It is a meditation. A state of the mind that – although intensely focused – has a relaxing effect.
When I got up it was past 2, and I strolled down into the flow of people and cars again. And I realized that I had made up my mind.