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.

6 from the Archives

Worked the original design using blackwork embroidery on paper. Letter paper was made by scanning the embroidery, putting elements together in Photoshop, and then  laser printing to make “stationery”.The Self-sufficient Love Letter

The Self-Sufficient Love Letter.


Mixed-media on a heavy, used sailing chart. This one went missing from the art room at Charles Darwin University ( I was doing a semester of Visual Arts).

Love Letters to a Sailor (detail)

Love Letter to A Sailor


Embroidery onto hand-marbled fabric.

pondwaterPond Water.


A frying pan full of marbled Flying Fish (before I attached their wings). Marbling on cotton canvas. Tails were hand-painted canvas.

catch of the day(Frying) Flying Fish.


Paint on canvas, stitched into with Wonky Cross Stitch and bullion knots.

RelaxRelax.


Made this for a group exhibition of altered cigar tins. Inside, I stretched a piece of tulle across the top of the tin, and embroidered a key into it, so that it seems to float in the space, and casts a shadow onto the bottom of the tin, as well.

the key to the door in the mountain

The piece was accompanied by this poem, Door in The Mountain, by Jean Valentine:

Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied on to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in

the key to the door in the mountainThe Key to The Door in The Mountain

new print : : crowdspotting

Crowdspotting is now available as an art print on paper or canvas in my Society6 shop. Yay! And if you order something using my Artist Promo link, Society6 will ship the items anywhere in the world* for FREE.

You can also click on the framed print, above, or the promo poster, below, to avail of the free shipping offer.

UntitledAnd here’s a large image of the design, so you can scrutinize each little character (35 of them) that I managed to coax from blobs of watercolour paint, using this simple exercise in imagination:

crowdspotting print

Society6 promo, and my little “crowdspotting” characters

UntitledI am working like crazy to get a print of my little “crowdspotting” characters posted to Society6 as soon as possible.

If you remember the post An exercise in imagination : : cloudspotting, posted not too long ago, these little characters were “found” and coaxed out of random blobs of watercolour…something I did to exercise my imagination, but a few of the results were so surprising that I think they’re worth putting together, grid-style, and printing on tote bags, or as posters.

The new design isn’t up yet, but this promo runs for a few days, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got it posted for sale.

Cheers!

*Free Shipping offer excludes Framed Art Prints, Stretched Canvases, Wall Clocks and Rugs

An exercise in imagination : : cloudspotting

cloudspotting
In this quick exercise of imagination, I put blobs of masking fluid in a grid on the paper with my fingertip…cloudspotting…then a quick dash of watercolour in random swipes or strokes over each one (when the masking fluid had dried!)

cloudspottingSometimes I bled a different colour into damp spots…no rules, no real plans for what each blob would become (sometimes, yes, pointy ears or a ball at the top for a head, but nothing careful or overly thought about). cloudspotting
After rubbing off the masking fluid, I drew a little face into each white dot…
cloudspottingThis is where my imagination came in to play: staring at each one, I tried to see the rest of “the character” hiding in the washes and subtle edges of dry paint. It was a lot like looking for images in clouds—”cloudspotting”—except that I pinned the images down with more watercolour, an ink pen, and touches of coloured pencil.

cloudspotting

No one is more surprised than I am at some of the figures I managed to coax from these random blobs of colour…
cloudspotting
cloudspotting
cloudspottingLooking at them now, it’s hard to believe they weren’t planned from the start, some of them fit their blobs and their ink faces so well.

Zero the One: Muse and Tools for Wildish Creatives

So proud of my friend Kat’s evolving blog, Zero the One…it’s got a new look, stunning photographs combined with fun fonts and design, light-flooded videos featuring creatives and thinkers that she has met on her travels (and at home, which happens to be Rome…a historically rich seam for creative mining), and a brave, beautiful, distilled raison d’être:

We are shameless artists, seekers and movers who care about epic shit.
And a good story (that we live out).

Muse and Tools for Wildish Creatives

The blog’s official re-launch is this October. Get inspired!