Giving priority to art when life gets crazy may just be a way to stay sane. This year so far has been busy and stressful. But after playing around with rocks I was ready to get back to what I love the most, postcards (aka small format art–not all are mailed). Also unusual for me was working with more somber colors–maybe it’s just the late-winter grayness.
I’m using up stamps made by Nat Uhing. Each time I use one I remember her and how much I loved her art and how much I miss her (she passed away about a year ago). Now that I have some collage out of my system, I may switch to painting or another medium.
After the large (for me) output during the past month, and my decision to break away from collage for a little while, I went into a fallow period to decide what was next.
I did one little water color, sort of an homage to Dale Chihuly. We saw the boats a few years ago at the Dallas Arboretum.
Being stuck after that, I went to my fallback, doodles. They are far from great art, but they are fun and keep me working and thinking about color and composition.
And finally got back to mixed media, a watercolor overlaid with tissue.
I did a more accurate account: 266 cards since I began in May, 2014. That averages roughly one a week, which is not a huge output, but it keeps me in touch with art. I’m more than ready for the next swap!
After “Party in Seattle,” I seem to have started a public transit series. I still have a London Oyster card stashed away, so there may be more. This is the Paris Métro and Capital Metro in Austin.
One of my favorite exercises when I started back to school for an art degree was taking images of totally unrelated objects and combining them in a way that made some sort of compositional or artistic sense. In that first exercise I slapped a Portuguese man-of-war (i.e. sort-of, though not biologically, a purple jellyfish) on top of a croissant. Someone else in the class put a big pickle on an arm of a saguaro cactus. I called this one “Float Like a Butterfly,” but not really after Mohammed Ali. I just liked the title and really enjoyed putting the weird objects together. I’m posting it full size for the details to show.
This is literally the palette and part of the wrapper from a box of pastels.
Since this was another combination of weirdly unrelated objects, I just focused on the pelican and called it “Wonderful Bird,” attributing the title to what I mistakenly thought was a poem by Ogden Nash. So I learned something today: my favorite “Ogden Nash” poem is by Dixon Lanier Merritt.
A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican
After a great start to the school year, I’m keeping up a pace of a card a day in the second week.
Two things are different, and I’m embarrassed to say that as an artist it’s way late for me to come to this:
- Soon after I get home from school drop-off I head into the studio and get to work, instead of taking care of laundry or other household chores. In the past, unlike Anne Lamott, who wrote in “Bird by Bird” that she could write with a “corpse in the sink,” I have a low tolerance for dirty dishes. I’m learning to me more like Anne.
- Also for the first time, I can get so absorbed in the work that I lose track of time–the “time of the game,” as my philosophy professor called it, because he said that’s why casinos don’t have clocks. They want people to get lost in the game and forget the time. (I do manage to get to school for pickup, or to appointments, and I don’t go to casinos.)
I’ve kept count of the cards I’ve done since the first swap in 2014, and I’m up to 209. Not great for more than five years, but watch me now! Here’s the current output:
This is part of the “shuffle” series, using random colors from a Color Aid pack. I sent it to a neighbor who recently had knee surgery to cheer her up.
The title is for the photo of sun and moon art taken at Terra Arts, outside Fayetteville, Arkansas.
When I bought the watermelon I had to keep the label!
I made this while my cleaning lady was here and she seemed to really like it, so I mailed it to her for a surprise.
Still using the precious faux Australian stamps made by the late Nat Uhing. I think she’d like to see her work still circulating. The ticket is from my Jeopardy! audition trip.
I wonder how long it’ll take me to reach 300! At this pace I should be get there before the holidays.
Now that my granddaughter has gone back to school, the longer days (or earlier starts) have made me more productive. In fact, these are the first cards I’ve made since the spring swap. I hope I keep up this momentum into the school year.
When this collage was done, I decided it needed words. It reminded me of the song “Beyond the Blue Horizon,” so I added “Beyond the blue horizon…waits a beautiful day.” I love that song so much I now want to play it at the start of every day!
Part of the “shuffle” series, in which I pull out random colors from a pack of Color-Aid paper and figure out how to make weird color combinations work. The “stamp” was part of a pack made by Nat Uhing, one of my favorite bloggers, who died earlier this year. I will continue to use Nat’s stamps, always thinking of her. The link is to her final post.
We ate at this Tex-Mex restaurant in Greenwich in 2013, after straddling the Prime Meridian, and I saved the card. We were longing for margaritas, so we decided to give it a try, ordering nachos and margaritas. We told the server we were from Texas and we had high expectations. And IT WAS GOOD! We gave our compliments to the cook, who, we were told, was from Turkey!
Another in the shuffle series, also including one of Nat’s stamps. The little fish windsock is from the package of an actual windsock, and I’ve had a lot of use out of the package (the actual windsock hangs by our pool). The “Welcome to Scotland” card in my last post shows what it looks like.
I struggled over the title of this one. The main image is from the Crusader Bible, “Saul Destroying the Ammonites,” with a little bit of Monet’s water lily garden in the corner. But that was pretty clunky, so I settled on something shorter. I just liked the colors together, along with the “shuffled” Color Aid paper.
Please plan to come back for shuffles 12 and beyond! This is the process: during the day scraps and odds and ends appear on the art table; I pull images out of my “inventory” of various images I have saved in bins and drawers. I fiddle with them whenever I walk past. (I’m so glad the art table is in an open space I pass often, rather than in an isolated studio over the garage or in the back yard.) During the night the pieces sort of rearrange themselves like iron filings to a magnet. In the morning I move the nascent arrangement into a more coherent composition, then take a photo of it so that I can paste everything in more or less the same place. The finished product will always be slightly different–either by mistake or on purpose. Happy accidents make art even more fun!
I’ve been on a roll, and have more than the 10 cards needed for the Spring ihanna swap.
“Shuffle” series came about when I remembered an old pack of Color Aid paper (explained in a recent post). The exercise was so much fun I did nine cards, all based on randomly selecting six or so colors from the pack. I allowed a switch out if two nearly identical colors came up, and allowed myself to just drop out one color. I also added other visual elements to increase the fun. One thing I find interesting is that, for all the “randomness” (I swear I selected the colors from the backside, blindly), there is a lot of consistency in the color palette, with pinks, purples, golds and oranges predominating. My favorite piece is the rainbow koi windsock flying over Inverness.
Here are all the recent cards, 10 of which will go in the mail to Canada, Sweden, Thailand and all over the U.S. in the next day or two.
And, a fun little wrap-up (I need to take break and do some other things for a while!):
Like almost every retired person I know, I find my days fill up quickly. Appointments, meetings, exercise, household, yard and pool chores, pet care (yes, I have help in all these areas), usually take up most of about four days a week. (That’s not to mention the 12-year-old granddaughter and a husband with a chronic illness.) I also volunteer with two local arts centers, which at least counts as “art.”
So I manage to squeeze in a precious art day now and then. Recent output includes a painting and some postcards. When I finished the painting, I didn’t care for it much, but after it dried I decided it fit nicely in our foyer, with its touches of blue and gold.
Here are postcards since my last post:
Finally, I dug out a stashed box of papers I’d almost forgotten about,
and created this collage, limiting myself to only these scraps of (not necessarily harmonious) colors. It turned out better than I expected–sort of an homage to Matisse’s cutouts. (I have seen two exhibits, one at the Hirshhorn in Washington in about 1977*, and a fabulous exhibit at MOMA in New York in 2014.)
* Funny story: I saw the Matisse cutout exhibit with my mother and then-4-year-old daughter. While Mom scoffed that “a kindergartener could do this” and the guards warily eyed the child, I tried to enjoy this incredibly beautiful “kindergarten” art. (Matisse was quite old when he did the cutouts.) Finally my mother offered to take the child out so I could peruse in peace, which I did. When I saw the ’14 show at MOMA, there were school kids on a field trip, enjoying the art immensely. It was wonderful.
My goal was five postcards a week, but the month was crazy and challenging and I made only five in the whole month (plus one I’m working on, a manipulated photo from Paris that I’m experimenting with hand-coloring; look for that in a later post).
Here’s my 2019 output so far:
I sent out my 10 postcards for the ihanna swap, but I’ve received only eight. I’m hoping the last two are international and just taking a long time. In the meantime, here are the ones I sent:
I’ll post the cards from the swap once I’ve received all of them.
Happy holidays! See you in 2019!
One of the many things I love about art is that there are no mistakes and you can’t do it wrong. Sure there are failures, um, projects that don’t work, which can go right into the trash, but it’s all part of the process. Better still there are “happy accidents,” mistakes that enhance the finished product.
When I started doing postcards for swaps, about four years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do or how to do it. But knowing I have a good eye for color and composition, and a degree in art, I figured I’d learn technique as I went along. Much of my early cards were doodles in marker or quick watercolor sketches. Gradually I got into collage, where I had little experience. With a couple of jars of Mod Podge, an X-acto knife, scissors, a ruler and various card stocks and papers–and a whole lot of just playing and seeing what comes about–I’m probably making about half my cards in some sort of collage or mixed media. And it’s still a blast!
A recent card recipient asked me about my process, materials, and what happens in a swap, so rather than reply to her I thought I’d post it here, along with my most recent work. (Good swap info is on ihanna’s site.)
Since we moved into a house with space for a studio, I have a pretty good storage system–drawers, shelves, bins and–best of all, a large work table.
I get material everywhere: catalogs are printed on high-quality coated paper so they stand up well to adhesive; I cannibalize postcards and greeting cards; papers and card stock of all types; scrapbooking paper for backgrounds; magazines; calendars; stickers. Some material comes from the scrapbooking department of the craft store, but it’s mostly found objects. My favorite recent find is an empty Chinese cigarette packet–found in front of our house in Central Texas! I don’t know how I’ll use it, but I sure will.
Here is my recent output.
Remember, if you’d like a card mailed to you, email me your address, firstname.lastname@example.org. I will mail internationally.