Smoke. Mirrors.

The cloudy dawn stopped to gaze at itself in the mirror-smooth surface of the creek this morning. I snapped it to see if I could capture those reflections.

Moments of grace can be so fleeting …I checked the photo quickly, but by the time I looked to the East again, the vision was gone. A dirty pewter creek and the sky bleaching into day.

One more day at work tomorrow, and then the short Sunday will bear the burden of all my creative frustration before I head back to work on Monday. I don’t know how some people work like this, six days a week, for years!

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Turquoise

Reading this week. Ellen Meloy's The Anthropology of Turquoise:  Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

Just a pretty photo today—a teaser—as I am trapped in the middle of a 6-day, full-time work week, while my manager takes some time off.

Mad with the longing to stay home and paint or write, but just can’t manage any good-sized chunk of time to do it in. It’s driving me nuts.

This book came in the post last Monday. I’ll try to lose myself for a few hours tonight in its pages. Let you know my impressions of the book when I’m through. Not that my impression’re worth a damn *laughs*

The Perfect Medium

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Another letter done. I’m behind on my monthly letters, trying to squeeze them in on the days that I don’t work at the art supplies shop. I have the nicest subscribers, though…nobody has written a snarky e-mail complaining about the late arrival of their letters, yet. Hopefully, when a letter finally does arrive, it proves so special that the recipient forgives me.
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I do try to make these letters worth the money, and the waiting time. I pour most of my time and thought and material into them, these days. I haven’t even checked my receipts to work out whether I’m actually earning anything (I think I’m scared to find out that I’ve spent more than earned!) but I enjoy the work so much that if the letters simply pay for themselves (the time spent writing and making them, the envelopes, the printing, the little things I include, the postage, the art materials, the books about letter writing that I have been hunting down on the internet and adding to my library) then I am quite content.

The way I’ve justified it to myself is: I would be doing something creative like this, anyway; I can’t not draw, paint, design, write.

More and more, though, the humble letter is starting to strike me as being The Perfect Medium...better than painting, or drawing, or writing, on their own. It’s a wonderful example of Synergy…meaning that the whole is a hundred times more than the mere sum of its parts. (Aristotle)

Every new letter, for me, is an opportunity to combine—loosely or inextricably—visual elements and the written word: an idea explored in at least two ways. It’s enclosed in an envelope (that can also be a work of art) that bears the recipient’s name and address. Add to this the official postage stamps and cancellation marks of the Post Office—marks of documentation—and the letter is historically positioned, an artifact in Place and in Time.

Finally, I love that letter writing also encompasses interaction with others. Each letter is, from the moment of its creation, intended for somebody…it’s delivered by people (I often wonder about the anonymous couriers who deliver my letters) to other people. It’s a message, as well as a work of art, and its audience is woven into its making, from the start.Untitled

I tend to produce art in a kind of vacuum or cave, filled with echoes of my own voice. I spend four days each week confined to a houseboat in the mangroves, gazing into my head instead of out of it, painting and writing things that I often don’t know what to do with, when they’re done. Naturally, I hope that each work will find its way out into the world, though a lot of them never do…they wind up wrapped in tissue at the bottom of a cardboard box.

Since I started making these letters, though, others figure much more in what I do. I write and paint with specific people in mind…knowing, even as I work alone, that the thing I am making is awaited, expected, and appreciated.

AND it never gets boring! Which is MAGIC! Possibly the best thing about the whole project! Every month is an opportunity to try something new, to experiment with all these elements, to take them apart and recombine them without worrying that I’m producing a dog’s breakfast of  crazy, disparate works, because the letter’s very distinct form pulls them all into a coherent whole.

It really is the perfect medium. I’ve found my “Next thing”! I can’t get over it. I can’t believe it took me so long to recognise this.

“And I said, with rapture,
here is something I can study all my life,
and never understand.”

—Samuel Beckett, Moloy


The Scarlet Letterbox is my mail subscription project. Receive beautiful letters of art and writing, in envelopes decorated with calligraphy, vintage postage stamps, wax seals and illustration, once a month, for up to 12 months. CLICK HERE for more information.

Illustrated Letters

Illustrated lettersAs my letter subscription project crosses the half-year line and hits 50 subscribers, I’ve been inspired to go deeper into what a letter can be by exploring the different kinds of art, of writing, and interactive possibilities that can be included in this versatile, remarkable form of self-expression.

Gradually, more books about letters are finding their way into my personal library. Inspired this week by Illustrated Letters: Artists and Writers Correspond,  a collection curated by Roselyne de Ayala and Jean-Pierre Guéno.

Taken entirely from French sources, there are letters by Gaston Chaissac
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Georges Hugnet…
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Edouard Manet…

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Paul Gauguin…

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Arthur Rimbaud (swoon!)…

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And this heart-stopping beauty by Victor Hugo…

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…as well as letters by Picasso, Corbusier, Van Gogh, Turgenev…so many brilliant artists and writers. They’re just scrumptious! If I ever received a letter like Hugo’s, I think I would eat it…