FOE News
November 19, 2011

COFFEE, DESIGN and THE STORY STYLIN’of TOM PAPPALARDO

I’m not trained to write about art and design.  Luckily, I’m pretty skilled at knowing what I like and doing what I want.  I really like this print , and so do lots of other people.  I’m also regularly impressed by the wit and humor of Tom Pappalardo.  He was kind enough to answer my weird coffee questions.

FOE:  Hi Tom.  Is it ok if I imagine you at home drinking your whole bean ground and poured Ethiopian Yirgacheffee black coffee with a blind fat cat and dog at your feet?
TP:  That’s strangely specific.

FOE:  What made you start drinking coffee?
TP:  In my hometown, there wasn’t much to do at night except hang out at Dunkin Donuts.  The cup of coffee was micro-rent on a booth.

FOE:  Same here, but it was a Friendly’s.  Are you still friends with any of your high school DD crew?
TP:  I’m still friends with most of my high school friends. Your readers might appreciate Mark Reusch and Matt Smith. They’re both amazing illustrators.

FOE:  Wow, talented friends!  Smart, creative teens hopped up on too much caffeine, you must have some good stories?
TP:  Me and Reusch were at a Dunkin Donuts in Haverhill during a holdup.  I ended up writing a little radio essay about it.

FOE:  That’s some nice story telling.  You have a self-deprecating sense of humor.  I find that quality to be more prevalent in my Massachusetts friends.  Do you think it’s a regional trait?  And if so, any theories as to why?
TP:  I think any place with harsh seasonal weather changes produces jerks and wiseasses.

FOE:  Interesting. And your graphic novel BROKEN LINES opens in a diner, with coffee.  Would you say those early experiences at your local DD had a formative relationship on your story telling style?
TP:  I dunno. I think we just sat around being jerks and wiseasses to each other.

FOE:  Exactly, I’m gonna call that Massachusetts story stylin’.  Let’s get back to coffee.  Are you a fussy coffee drinker?  One of those people who insists on their half-caf soy latte from an upscale national chain?
TP:  I think western Massachusetts spoils a coffee drinker.  There are too many places to get a good strong cup of coffee:  Woodstar, The Roost , Haymarket, Esselon, Rao’s, Northampton/Greenfield/Amherst Coffee.  But whenever I go back to my hometown in eastern Mass., I revert to Dunkin Donuts and gas station coffee.  There’s probably good coffee out there, but I don’t bother seeking it out.  There’s a comforting familiarity of shittiness in drinking that stuff – it’s part of my aesthetic of the place.

FOE:  Have you done design work for any beverage other than coffee?
TP:  I designed a beer can for a microbrewery, but the job came to me via an ad agency and a nondisclosure agreement.

FOE:  That’s work.  Your coffee print seems to come from a deep love of coffee, design and music.  Did you know the print would be so popular?
TP:  I never have any idea what work people will respond to.  Especially on the Internet.  The larger and more diverse the audience gets, the weirder and more mixed the responses get.  I’ve seen certain (comics, posters, blog posts, whatever) that I’ve made get huge amounts of attention and feedback and can’t quite fathom what makes them any different from the stuff that’s completely ignored.  I think some things just get traction, some don’t.

FOE:  Well, I think fans of coffee and design should buy your print.  It looks clean and hip custom-framed like we have in the shop.  But it would also be fun to just tack it up and custom age it, a sort of Petri dish of your current living condition.  You could even frame it later if there’s a particularly funny story involving a stain.
TP:  Someday, when I have a kitchen that doesn’t suck, I hope to hang my own poster there.

FOE:  Thanks for the awesome design and entertaining answers to my weird questions.  One more.  Have you ever been burned by coffee?
TP:  Once a cup of fair trade Guatemalan burned me with a scalding “yo mama” joke.

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