December 21, 2001

Art is in the cards

Filed under: Art and About Art — admin @ 3:26 pm

I have started making my own thank you cards. I don’t mean the writing on the inside. In fact, I have learned that I’m one of a rare breed who actually enjoys writing thank you notes. It’s part of the division of labor at my house. My husband will drag the trash cans to the bottom of the driveway if I promise to write all the thank you notes.

I’m now making the actual card itself. I’ve been inspired by the two local art galleries operated by the Lamorinda Arts Alliance. A staple in these galleries, as you make your way to the cash register to support one of the artists in our community, is a display of note cards designed and produced by the artists. Some are original works of art in and of themselves, while others are reproductions of their big brothers and sisters on the wall. I’ve received numerous thank you notes from members of the Lamorinda Arts Alliance during the three years I’ve covered arts for the Sun and every single one of them has been a miniature version of the artist’s work.

So I thought to myself, if they can make art on a card, why can’t I? I get tired very quickly of pretty note paper from stationery stores, and I hate sending a duplicate pattern to the same person more than once. Since every note pertains to a different thank you, I feel the card should be unique as well.

My first attempt was rather modest, taking postcards of works of art in the Vatican and gluing them to cardstock. The personal touch came in selecting an appropriate image for the occasion of the thank you.

I haven’t played with watercolors since I was a child, so I bought a basic set and made my next cards by simply swishing the color around on paper. Very therapeutic with quite a pretty result.

My idea for my latest creations came from the fact that I wanted to use up some gray speckled paper that has been lying around and some old acrylic paints left over from a Christmas craft project a few years back. I smeared the paint on a rag with terrycloth striations and pressed the card into the colors. My husband called it offset ragging, and the process has resulted in my favorite cards to date.

I’m not comparing my cardmaking techniques to the time and talents of the Arts Alliance artists, but each of my cards is a one-of-a-kind creation I’m excited to share with the receivers of my thank you notes.

All this creative activity has caused me to think about the mysterious dichotomy in our society where homemade cards are concerned. We expect finger-painted, water-colored or cut-and-past construction paper masterpieces from children, but just about the time puberty hits, we start forking over our cash to Hallmark. Only those bold enough to declare themselves artists continue to assert their creativity with the unabashed abandon of a child. It’s rather sad that as we perceive ourselves to be more adult, we choose to suppress our individuality while making a connection as personal as a written note. One Valentine’s Day when my dad was battling cancer, a compromised immune system prohibited him from venturing out to get a store-bought card. Instead, he used colored pens and made a card for my mom. It was one of the sweetest, most romantic exchanges I have ever witnessed.

I haven’t had the guts to tackle birthday and holiday cards yet, but since a majority of the recent cards I’ve sent in those varieties has been accompanied by an apology for the lameness of the sentiment due to a dearth of clever card-writers, I will probably be making that my next art project.

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