Points of Inspiration: Creating in Greenpoint’s Coffee Houses

Local Illustrator Recently Publishes “The Book of Memory Gaps”

Memory Gaps 01
Cecilia Ruiz and her new book “The Book of Memory Gaps”

Some will see it as a children’s book. Some will see it as a book for more mature minds. Some will see it as a book for everyone.  This slight book of charming illustrations and brief internal glimpses of those pictured open the mind up to expand on what is there on the page, which is something all ages have the ability to do.

Cecilia Ruiz, the book’s author/illustrator, has been living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for the past 3 years.  She was introduced to the neighborhood by her then boyfriend (now husband), “He was living near McGolrick Park and I was living in Manhattan while still in grad school. After I graduated, I decided to move to Greenpoint, not only because I wanted to live closer to him but because I also fell in love with the neighborhood. My first apartment was on India Street. Then we moved to Noble, where we currently live.”

Memory Gaps 02
“… Nadya has never seen the ocean, she believes she remembers swimming in it. …”

“The Book of Memory Gaps” didn’t start out as a book idea. Eight of its 15 characters were created as her Master’s Thesis for the School of Visual Arts, which sprang from a class assignment to create illustrations for the short story “Ostracon” by Alex Rose (about a woman with Alzheimer’s who misplaces her glasses). She researched memory and found it fascinating.  These eight illustrations were revived when Cecilia began working with Blue Rider editor Sarah Hochman, and then she added seven more pieces to form the book as it stands.

Seeing how many of the characters have an Eastern European quality to their names and with Greenpoint having a history as a Polish/Slavic neighborhood, I asked if or how her area influenced her work.  Cecilia Ruiz answered, “Not directly but yes. I created half of this book in grad school and I completed it while living in this neighborhood.  My studio is at home, which means that every so often, in order to be productive, I need to get out of the house. I wrote and sketched out most of this book at coffee houses in the area. There, I would constantly be inspired by the people I saw and the things I heard. The coffee shops became my second studio — not only because they have great working space, but because they serve delicious coffee.” She cites: Grumpy, Propeller, Budin, and Charlotte Patisserie as spots she worked in.

The neighborhood WORD bookstore (at 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY) held a Q&A for the “The Book of Memory Gaps” on March 12th. When asked how this came about, Cecilia said, “Eliza Rosenberry, publicist at Blue Rider Press, thought it would be great to have the book launch at my local bookstore. She contacted WORD to see if they would want to host the event and they said they would love to. They suggested to have another author/artist in to be in conversation with me during the presentation. I immediately thought of Marshall Arisman. He is the head of the MFA Illustration Program at SVA where I studied. He was my teacher and he is one of the people I admire the most. He is also one of the most eloquent persons I have ever met and I thought that in case I did terrible at the book presentation, he would be there to save the night. In the end I didn’t do so bad — mostly because Marshall was there, asking me the right questions and Jaye Bartell, from WORD, made me and everyone else feel at home.”

When asked about what’s on the horizon, Cecilia said, “I am going to start working on a second book with Blue Rider Press. It is going to be a series of illustrated short stories based on real people who died in very unusual ways. The publication date is still unknown but I am sure I am going to be touring around all the coffee houses in Greenpoint to get it done.”

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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