The Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art Show is now open at the Kelley House in Mendocino through May 29th. The Director and docents have done a great job compiling and displaying the original napkins. An interactive large screen computer monitor allows you to peruse all napkins in the collection. The napkins are displayed in various cases together with memorabilia and photographs from the Sea Gull Restaurant and Cellar Bar.




Prints of several James Maxwell paintings that hung in the bar are also on display. Blank napkins and acrylic markers are available for those who want to make their own napkins to add to the collection.


James Maxwell on Napkin Art:

We called it Napkin Art as the barkeep gave us napkins with our drinks. As artists, we knew what to do when drinking. At a table, we discovered what the napkins were good for. What we did with images on napkins caused outrage and inspiration to be passed around for one image to out-do the last. No taboos. Any puffed-up art critic would be rolling on the floor.

We met at the upstairs bar on Sunday afternoons. We’d bring color markers, pens, colored pencils, and little water- color kits. Most of all we brought what we expected from an open mind. Friendship is addictive. Permission, what was that? “Look at this one, and no you can’t have it . . . but I’ll trade you this one for that one of yours.”

 Six p.m. we’d get hungry and would pull ourselves away from the bar to meet up for dinner at someone’s house then getaway at 10 p.m. We would get flashes of inspiration for what to do during the next boring week. Jack Haye would be at work on a series of cartoons, a theme usually, so the table would be shaken with outbursts of off-the-meter of laughter. A group of napkins that went around the table about cow udders was most stunning. Bob Avery did clear de- fined realistic drawings. Mark Eanes worked in colored patterns, they were visual poems. Sula Combs was into elephants. Sandra Lindstrom was taken with the Celtic knot and designed patterns she used on her embroidery. Eight to ten artists would be at work throughout the afternoon. Both Roy Hoggard and I would play as if in a contest to outdo one another with political blasts. We both won. We let anyone sit down with us, and we’d encourage them to spill their beans. At times the “big guy” – Olaf Palm, a world-renowned painter showed up.

David Jones was happy to have his bar filled with fans of the napkin artists. We left that day’s work with the barkeep. We’d find them hanging behind the bar chosen with care to be the best of that week’s work. At one point one of the barkeeps had to have major surgery. We held an auction of the napkins we had accumulated and were surprised at the money we could contribute to her recovery. Newspaper articles and magazine reviews, also a show at a respected gal- lery in San Francisco sponsored by PBS-TV publicity tagged us. I remember hearing my voice taking the tone of a father speaking considerable concern about his daughter’s behavior. I was in my forties and Estelle mid-seventies; she showed up as my daughter. I knew right off our relationship was richer than playing with art.


Journal Of A Tourist In His Home Town
James Maxwell, 1988
 Deck of Cats Publishing Group



See the article below reprinted from the Mendocino Beacon for more information. On April 15th the Kelley House will sponsor an evening with some of the artists. We look forward to seeing you there.


Kelley House Calendar: Doin’ a Little Doodlin’: Napkin Art from the Sea Gull Cellar Bar

Reprinted from the Mendocino Beacon

Starting on Thursday, March 9th, we invite you to chuckle at the humor and admire the creativity of the napkin art on display at the Kelley House Museum’s new napkin art exhibit. During the 1970s-1980s, the Sea Gull Bar & Restaurant was a community hub and the birthplace of Sunday afternoon Napkin Art gatherings. These sessions brought together local illustrators and sketchers, creating a true artists’ colony and producing wonderfully unique pieces centered on different themes. 

Although the Napkin Art gatherings had a core of local artists, everyone was welcome and encouraged to participate. The exhibit reflects this with its wide array of pieces of all skill levels by a variety of artists and restaurantgoers of all ages. Thanks to the generous donation of David and Cathy Jones, you’ll find hundreds of different creations by dozens of artists who utilized pen, ink, paint, collage, quilting, and even rusty nails! Among the most interesting media was a photo negative inserted into the napkin and a plastic straw protruding from a nostril drawn on the napkin. 

My favorite napkin in the exhibit is a simple design with a quote in black ink, “We don’t want cake, we want the whole fucking bakery!” This civil rights protest slogan has continued political relevance today. (And of course, who doesn’t love a good pastry reference?) The wide variety of napkins in the exhibit ranges from trenchant social commentary to simple and fun doodles. The exhibit takes a brief look at the history of napkin art from its first wave during the Italian Renaissance to its role as a form of protest art in contemporary times.

These singular creations will be complemented by prints of James Maxwell’s storybook character paintings, originally created for the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. Blank napkins and markers will be supplied so visitors can create their own art to add to the exhibit. 

Doin’ a Little Doodlin’: Napkin Art from the Sea Gull Cellar Bar will be up from March 9th, 2023, until May 29th, 2023. The Kelley House Museum is open from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM Thursday through Monday. If you have a question for the curator, reach out to curator@kelleyhousemuseum.orgto make an appointment. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly; for a tour schedule, visit