Can’t believe I’m doing this again, so soon…

Letter No. 8
Letter No. 8  http://www.Patreon.com/scarletletterbox

A letter about the sudden compulsion to buy a bus ticket to New York—”What a lark! What a plunge!”— when I (probably) should have been visiting all my relatives in Virginia, listening to the clan gossip, and diplomatically dodging any pointed questions about my family…

This letter’s print run was the same as last month’s. That’s okay, since I can’t add anyone on at this point, I had just enough printed to send to current patrons. As I warm to the idea of doing this full time, and to using Patreon as my homebase, my ideas for future letters are getting bolder, more heavily illustrated, and more experimental in format. http://www.Patreon.com/scarletletterbox

I can’t do back issues, because of Patreon’s system. Print quantities are for current patrons, you must be signed up before the 30th of the month, and the mail goes out on the 5th of the following month. It waits for nobody, comes back for nobody, repeats for nobody…this is not a drill, it’s a rocket to Mars, baby!

If you missed this one and don’t want to miss the next issue, please consider subscribing!

For the price of a coffee break, you get a beautiful letter in the mail, illustrated and (I hope! I try!) well-written, with calligraphy and postage stamps and wax seals and little gifts included, each month. And you don’t have to write back. Sign up for as long as you like, unsubscribe at any time.

You can even ask me to send the letters to someone that you should probably be writing to, but just can’t seem to get around to doing it. It’s not the same as a personal letter that you wrote, but it can still be very exciting to receive a beautifully addressed envelope, knowing that each month’s letter is a present from you.

All right, that’s enough, I know you know the routine. This little piggy has hustled enough for tonight!


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and what’s this button?…oops…

 

Hey! Heeey Everybodyyyyy!

I’ve launched my Patreon Page!*✍

1fuw

Kinda by accident…I was hovering over the LAUNCH button, thinking, “I should read it through just one more time…” but oops, touched it, and ZING! A screen of confetti announced that the page was live. Darn. Oh well…no time like the present!

And guess what? There was already one patron there! Nine hours before I launched, somebody had signed up. HOW COOL IS THAT?! My very own personal Medici. I feel all warm and tingly! What a compliment! In Philippine culture, she’s the one we call the buena mano, literally ‘the good hand’, my Lady Luck. It’s awesome to not have to start from zero!

I couldn’t be prouder if I’d just got myself a snazzy apartment. Please drop in some time…even if you don’t want to join up, just have a look around and tell me what you think of the set up. Were you familiar with Patreon before this? Do you support some creators on there, already? Who are they, and what do they do?

Yeesh! I’m excited!

*  Launched much later than I had planned, because of a little accident today… I fell into the sea…with my phone in my pocket. It’s dead. Like, ‘dead’ dead… Pretty upset because I promised videos and stuff on Patreon. I am working on a replacement…luckily I have savings, but there goes the travel fund! *sniff*

The Scarlet Letterbox is moving…

Untitled

I’m just a few weeks away from moving The Scarlet Letterbox to Patreon.

I like that artists created Patreon for other artists (Jack Conte is, together with wife Nataly Dawn, one-half of the band Pomplamoose…music that I was somewhat obsessed with, 10 years ago).

As “beautiful monthly letters combining my art and creative writing with postal paraphernalia”, The Scarlet Letterbox is well suited to Patreon’s ‘pay per project’ plan: You can sign up for as little or as long as you want, and pay for each letter, one at a time (rather than several months up front.) It’ll be easier for me to organize each mail-out, because Patreon keeps track of the activity surrounding each letter issue.
letters collagePatreon can help create a better rapport between artists and their supporters.

At the moment, aside from the actual letters, I don’t share much with my subscribers because Etsy is a conventional online marketplace…it wasn’t designed to process recurring payment, or to nurture community. Patreon, on the other hand, is all about community.
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I don’t mean there’s some ready-made crowd of pledge-happy “Patreon community”people waiting for me! Patreon is not a promoter or social media “influencer”; it’s not a team of marketing experts who will selflessly volunteer their time to spread the word about me; it’s not their job to care about what I do, whether I sink or swim. They won’t be getting my work “out there”, or attracting potential patrons to my Patreon page. Patreon is a subscription-based payment processing site. That’s it.

It’s my job to find my own supporters, to spread the word, to advertise, to care and hustle and be passionate about it, and make it grow. In order to make this work properly, I have to dedicate much more time to The Scarlet Letterbox.

an old fashioned letter

As luck would have it, my employers are cutting my work down to 9 hours (about $160) a week. While the pay’s not great, it’s the waste of precious time that really disturbs me. I row, and then cycle, to work: I’ll spend nearly an hour getting there and, before I know it, it’ll be time to cycle and row home again…a two-hour commute in order to work for three. Sometimes the huge tides trap me ashore for half a day, and I have to wait till there’s enough water to float my dinghy. I can’t afford that kind of dead time, sitting on land, waiting for the sea to turn around and come back! It’s not as though I knit!

This is the push I needed to quit my day job and do my own thing, I guess. I can’t fall much lower than the proffered $160 per week, after all…there’s not that much of a distance left to fall! At least, by writing stories, illustrating, painting, embroidering, bookbinding, and creating beautiful letters, I’ll be doing something that I love, full time.

My Patreon page is set to open sometime around the first week of October (which is also my last week at the day job.)

More information on this blog, closer to the date.

Haitian Armada...outgoing mailI hope that if you’ve ever been interested in The Scarlet Letterbox, you’ll consider taking a second look at what I’m doing, now that

fabulous letter = the price of a coffee and croissant, per month

blue glass

blue beer bottleA blue beer bottle from the fisherman’s restaurant on the beach along Paseo Colon. Picked some flowering shrubs along the way, but decided not to paint them in all their lilac-coloured glory, so that the blue of the bottle could dominate this sketch. beer bottles
If beer weren’t so scarce around here, I would start a series about beer bottles. Love painting glass.

Song of The Open Road

DSC_0209I immensely enjoyed the audiobook version of Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, though I must be honest and say that I probably didn’t NEED the book, as I find myself living with a natural-born vagabonder who has been living this way since he was 15 years old.

But if you’re new to the experience, feel an attraction to the idea of incorporating travel into your life as something intrinsically part of that life, and not just spending a load of money to go for a short, predictable, industry-designed tour, then this book will show you where, and, more importantly, how to start.

Most people think that traveling for extended periods of time is only for the extremely rich, or the extremely irresponsible and feral. But travel as a way of life is an ancient and honourable way of discovering how to become fully human, and discovering oneself as well. And it’s really not as difficult as you’d think. The same measures that a vagabonder takes in order to SAVE money are the very things that also provide that traveler with the most amazing experiences and a more in-depth, satisfying, life-changing encounter with that country. A willingness to eat where the locals do, travel side by side with them in buses or on ferries, stay in locals’ homes, accept invitations to local events, and learn the language of your host country, will give you something that a 10-day holiday by the pool of a hotel catering to foreigners and hanging out with tourists from your own country, can never provide.

Kris and I saved money for just two years…he, working as a boat carpenter for the local fishing industry, I as a salesgirl in an art shop. Okay, we have the boat, which is probably the ultimate way to vagabond because the biggest expenses you will encounter on your travels will always be 1) transportation and 2) accommodation. With our home-built, no-engine, no-electronics, super-basic sailboat, we have cut both those expenses to a fraction of what it would cost to fly around countries, stay in hostels (which, even though cheaper than hotels, can vary greatly from country to country in price, and will eventually take up a lot of your budget), or buy gallons of fuel for a more conventional sailboat.

We don’t have a lot of money, but that’s okay because when we are running low we can look for work, or just decide to head home. There are no iron-clad schedules to follow…we like a country, we stay as long as we can. We don’t like the country, we leave the next week. That said, you’d be amazed at how cheaply you can live in other countries, if you live almost like the locals. In Brazil, we were spending an average of US$2,000 a month. For two people. In Guyana, that’s gone down to an amazing US$600 per month. Either way, both places cost much less than it costs us to live back in Australia, AND we are getting the experiences of a different culture, learning new languages, making friends, and tucking away inspiration for a whole new body of art and creativity for when we return home.

So if traveling and experiencing a new culture at the grassroots level—their food, home life, environs, people, language—gives you a little buzz and thrill of excitement, know that it’s MUCH easier than you think. There’s no need to commit to a period of time, and two months is as legitimate a vagabonding stint as two years. I RECOMMEND this book! It’s inspiring, it’s practical, it’s a better book to have than any Lonely Planet guide, which only leads you down the well-trodden paths, to boringly safe and touristy places, to have uniform experiences like everyone else.

The Wreck of the Mazaruni

Wreck of the Mazaruni sketchKris was going crazy with the rainy weather, too, and didn’t even have me to talk to, once I got into my painting. At last we decided to go exploring the Essequibo River a bit…rain or no, at least the sailing part would give him something physical to do, and we’d have a different foggy grey jungle view to look at…

We headed back down the river, the way we came when we first arrived. We’d seen a wrecked ship along the banks, halfway down, that had fascinated us…the jungle was taking it over, growing over its bridge and filling the cracks in its hull with vines and ferns. So we headed for the same spot, and anchored for two days near the wreck of the ship “Mazaruni”.

Of course, the first thing I did was sketch the ship…once, in pen on brown bag paper, and then a (less successful) watercolour, in a brand new sketchbook that I had bought at the Darwin airport to use up my Aussie dollars, and decided to finally use.

DSC_0200(My first experience with Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks, I have to say I was very disappointed, the paper is crappy, only 20% cotton and with a tendency to bleed a bit. What gets me is that, for the exorbitant price I paid for the thing, I could have bought nearly 2 pads of Arches 100% cotton watercolour paper. Shoot.)

Kris, on the other hand, went exploring in the dinghy…around the ship, and discovered a creek that ran behind it. Up the creek he saw Morpho butterflies (common in Guyana, but magical nonetheless…Vladimir Nabokov collected these iridescent blue butterflies. These days they are being farmed for jewelry and collectors, so the wild population has managed to recover from the past centuries’ mania for naturalist collections) and a large boa constrictor.

We started calling the creek Gabriel’s Creek, after a scene from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, where Jose Arcadio Buendia and his band of men come upon a galleon smothered in jungle, miles away from any sea.