Postcard Q + A

{Claudine is giving away a copy of Art Together: Issue Four–you have one more day to enter!}

In support of The Summer Mail Art Swap, this week I’m answering some questions I’ve heard. Let’s go!

Is my two-year-old too young to participate?

Nope! Everybody’s art is welcome.

My 5yo daughter wanted to photograph this letter before sending it to her penpal.

My 5yo daughter wanted to photograph this letter before sending it to her penpal.

Suppose my child doesn’t want to mail his or her artwork away?

We deal with this as well. My daughter is very comfortable with giving away her drawings and creations, but my boys, not so much. Sometimes we’ve made one to keep and one to send. We’ve taken pictures before sending letters or artwork along. You could make color photocopies or scan in original artwork. But ultimately, some kids just aren’t ready or willing to give away something they created, and I’ve never insisted.

How will I know you received our postcards?

I’ll send you an email when I receive your envelope. If you mailed them out but haven’t heard from me by July 31, let me know they’re on their way. I’ll wait.

Isn’t it risky to just put the postcards in the mail without an envelope?

It can be. It depends upon what medium is used. Acrylics won’t bleed once they’re dry. Watercolors and water-based printmaking ink will. I usually just drop them in the mail and cross my fingers, figuring that the postal service tries not to let the mail get wet, and if it did, being in an envelope probably wouldn’t save a water-based art piece from running. But there are some things you can do.

First, make sure any glued-down pieces are thoroughly glued down, so no loose edges catch on anything and tear. You can seal the entire postcard with gel medium to help with loose bits and to protect it a bit. One participant wrote in to say they sealed their watercolor postcards with clear packing tape and their pastel postcards by brushing on a layer of lightly watered down school glue. These are great ideas using items you probably already have in the house.

Any other questions? Leave a comment! And there’s still plenty of time to participate. All the details are right here. Also check out Postcard Substrates: What to Use and Postcard Idea: Found Poetry.

Summering

We got back to the beach last week.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

Last summer I didn’t take my kids to the beach at all. If you know me you know how strange this is; I was working on some other things last summer, mainly, getting myself back on track from PTSD. (This post has more information if you’re new here and curious.) It’s now been about 13 months since I began a low daily dose of Zoloft and, to be succinct, I am grateful a medicine choice exists that I can take and that works for me without side-effects. Zoloft doesn’t change who I am; it allows me to be who I am. Part of that is the mom who packs up the kids and a lunch and towels and sunscreen and toys and books and heads to the beach for six hours. Last summer, even though I knew I’d done that for years, I couldn’t quite fathom how. It all sounded exhausting and too much, just too much.

It’s nice to be back.

Spider crab

Spider crab

The pond was full of spider crabs last week. We never know what we might see there, but it’s always interesting. The pond is shallow (no more than about 4.5 feet throughout) and calm and warmer than the ocean, especially at this time of year. The kids can paddle, and we can get close up with the critters that live there. It’s a different experience from the beach-beach, and we like to mix it up and do some of both each summer.

Last weekend we headed to Beavertail State Park for some tidepooling.

Tidepooling

Tidepooling

We mostly saw very tiny invasive crabs–Asian Shore Crabs–and periwinkles. Beavertail is a beautiful place, with lots of rocks for scampering over.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Being near and in salt water is a very happy thing for me. Spending much of last summer sitting on my deck with a book while my kids happily played in the yard (they didn’t have a bad summer, trust me) was the right thing to do. But I’m glad we’re back to spending more time in the sea and sun.

Making + Listening::13/2014

This week I finished 13 zip pockets, to add to the pile to take to a craft fair later this month.

stack of finished pockets

It’s so satisfying to finally get to the point of turning them right-side out and seeing them complete.

stamped + embroidered zip pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Some nautical-themed pouches and two more trees.

I like to have a mix of stamped and embroidered, and I like to change up the colors.

embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Chickens! Flowers!

And it’s nice to have some varied sizes.

stamped and embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Once the fair is over I’ll update the Etsy shop and pay it a bit more attention. Dust off the shelves and whatnot.

As for listening…birds, World Cup, Pandora, and my kids. How’s your week been going?

Postcard Idea: Found Poetry

Postcard Idea: Found Poetry at amyhoodarts.com

Suppose you want to participate in the summer postcard swap but you’re not sure what to do artistically? You could do something with words instead–such as found poetry.

To do this, first we looked through magazines, newspapers, and old books (the ones we have set aside for collage purposes) for interesting phrases that we liked. This is obviously easier for kids who can read, but my 5yo really wanted to join in, so I read phrases aloud to her and she cut out ones that she liked. But otherwise, let kids choose phrases they like themselves, with no in-between.

found poetry postcard at amyhoodarts.com

Background: Liquid watercolors.

When we had phrases, we created the backgrounds. These can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Most of the ones here just use watercolors.

found poetry postcard at amyhoodarts.com

Background: Ink doodles colored in with colored pencils.

I like to collect the phrases first and then arrange something from what I have, but my 12yo looked for phrases for a specific idea. There are no hard and fast rules here. The fun is in combining words that you didn’t find together to begin with.

found poetry postcard at amyhoodarts.com

Background: Watercolor, with Sharpie pictures added after words were glued down.

My 5yo had me read all her cut-out phrases to her and then she arranged them according to some internal 5yo order. It came out sounding a bit like the Giant’s story in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales–which is also a pretty fun outcome.

We used a glue stick to adhere our words to our postcards. The ones with watercolor backgrounds are on watercolor paper, and the one with a colored pencil background is on Bristol board. You could do this on a solid color background, too…use whatever is on hand.

Have you started working on postcards yet? Share your thoughts/ideas in the comments, or add photos in progress to the Art Together Flickr group. And don’t forget to spread the word about the swap–the more the merrier!

Paint Lab #8: The Golden Ratio

I’m continuing with my out-of-order Paint Lab exercises (first post on this project is here). Lab #8 is inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. Fibonacci was a pretty cool guy. Earlier this year my kids and I read about him in Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, after encountering him in the first Story of Science book by Joy Hakim. I already knew of the Fibonacci sequence, but I learned more about the man and his other contributions.

Anyway. This exercise has you use examples of the sequence, graphically displayed. I did these in my sketchbook. I printed the images out, rubbed the back of the paper with a graphite stick, then traced the image on the front to transfer the lines. Yep, it took some time. (But, making my own carbon paper in that way always makes me feel a wee bit clever.)

Paint Lab #8 at amyhoodarts.com

For this first one, I used watercolor pencils, wetting the tips before touching them to the paper. This is not hard stuff here–but it was pretty calming. Like a grown-up coloring book.

Paint Lab #8 at amyhoodarts.com

For the second one I used watercolors, going for mostly an earthy palette. I mixed some brown into my blues and greens.

The Golden Ratio as it’s related to art is an interesting thing to Google–so much information, so many examples! Do it if you have some time.

Making + Listening::12/2014

I’m joining in with Jen this week to share a hat I sewed up Tuesday night, using this pattern.

Denim sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

My husband hunted around in his closet when he heard I was looking for denim for this and found a too-big pair of jeans with a rip in the knee. I wasted no time in cutting out the pattern pieces. The hat, by the way, is reversible. Presto-chango.

reversible sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

The cotton fabric is from stash. I bought it because I liked it and as soon as I saw the hat pattern I knew what I’d bought it for.

By the way, I think this is the first time I’ve posted a picture anywhere since my hair was cut in April. I wanted it about collar-bone length and neatened, and after almost three months’ of growing time, it’s still this short. (With layers! That I didn’t ask for!) But I’m okay with it now. It just had to grow for a couple of months first.

I’ll be making more of these hats, I’m pretty sure. I went to the local thrift store Wednesday morning and bought a large pair of jeans for $5. I had a twinge of guilt for planning to cut into perfectly good jeans, but I figure at least the money goes to the attached food pantry.

As for listening, I’ve been enjoying streaming Pandora through my cell phone and playing it via Bluetooth in the car. As I told my kids yesterday, when I was a kid, our family car didn’t even have a cassette player. It was radio or nothing.

“Did you have Internet?”

“Nope.”

“Wow. You’re that old?”

Postcard Substrates–What to Use?

As part of the Summer Mail Art Swap, I’ll be posting ideas, links, and tutorials, hopefully every Monday. This week, let’s talk about the postcard substrate–in other words, what you’ll be creating your original postcard art on.

possible postcard substrates at amyhoodarts.com

You can buy blank postcards, of course, such as the watercolor postcards pictured above, but you don’t have to. This is just a pad of 4″x6″ sheets of watercolor paper. It’s far cheaper to cut watercolor paper down to size yourself.

The yellow pad is Bristol board. I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite surfaces for collage and postcards. It cost about $6 for 20 sheets, each of which can produce 4 postcards. (It was $10, but I had a 40% off coupon at my local art store.)

However, you don’t need to buy a thing. Save your cardboard boxes from the recycling bin–they make great surfaces for postcards! The blank inside is perfect for writing on. You can paint or collage right onto the side with the image, or you can cover it with gesso first to start with a blank white surface. If you want to do that, here’s how.

First, I cut off the side, top, and bottom flaps so I have two even rectangles. Then I lightly sanded it with fine sandpaper. This roughs up the surface so the gesso goes on better.

prepping a cereal box for gesso at amyhoodarts.com

Then apply a layer of gesso, which you can find in art stores or big-box craft stores in the art supply aisle. I’m not using a fancy brush; I got this one at the hardware store for probably a dollar.

painting gesso on cereal box at amyhoodarts.com

Once it was dry, I decided I wanted a second coat, so I lightly sanded again and painted on another coat of gesso. All done–ready to be worked on!

gessoed cereal box at amyhoodarts.com

You can cut them to size first and work on them small, or collage and paint first and then cut them down, as I demonstrate here.

Karen has a helpful post with 10 “cheap or free” items you can use for postcard substrates, too.

Summer Mail Art Swap For Kids (And Their Adults!)

Summer Mail Art Swap at amyhoodarts.comMy kids and I thought it would be a lot of fun to host a handmade postcard swap for kids and families. They’ve seen me participate in some and get some really neat artwork back in the mail, and they’d like to do it, too. So we’d like to invite you to join in the Summer Mail Art Swap For Kids (And Their Adults).

The details are simple. Make some handmade postcards. I’ll post ideas, links, and tutorials over the next several weeks. Mail me your postcards (details below) by July 31, and we’ll sort them and send them out to someone else. Look for your one-of-a-kind artwork to arrive in the mail in August.

Why are we having them all mailed to us first? To avoid disappointment, mainly. It’s bad enough participating in a swap and getting nothing in return as an adult; it’s really, really disappointing for kids. I’m borrowing heavily from fabulous interviewee Karen’s instructions for her swaps (with her permission), with one added step. I don’t want my physical house address up on my blog in this post, so if you plan to participate, email me at amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com with the subject line “Summer postcard swap” and I’ll send you another copy of the details below, along with my mailing address.

I’m not posting a theme for this—go ahead and make any sort of postcard you want. Keep in mind it won’t be mailed to its final recipient in an envelope, though, because it’s a postcard (postcard dimensions are included in the details below). You could….paint, draw, collage, write a poem or a story or a cartoon, use a photograph, stitch, anything at all that you can think of, as long as it can be mailed. Like I said, we’ll share ideas here, too. And THIS IS OPEN TO ADULTS TOO. Because we make art together, you see, and the kids don’t get to have all the fun. Wouldn’t it be great to sit down for a family postcard-making session? However, I do want kids to get kid postcards, and adults to get adult postcards, so check the details on how to mark them.

Questions? Let me know. And share this post! This is open to anyone who wants to participate—you don’t need to have purchased a zine or be a regular reader. The more the merrier. Let’s have a summer of postcard creation and sharing!

The detailed directions:

Each person who makes and sends a postcard will get one back, addressed to him or her individually. Submit as many postcards as you want per person, all in the same envelope to me (you will get back the same number you send). Make sure you insert waxed paper or parchment in between the cards so they don’t get stuck together in the envelope, though.

Write “Summer Postcard Swap” on the back of your card, and please add an A if the card is by an adult and a C if it’s by a child.

It’s a good idea to write your return address on the back of the postcard (in case of postal delivery problems). You may also want to include an (adult’s) email address or website so the recipient can thank you. If your family is sending multiple postcards, you may receive postcards from various families. You might make some new friends!

A note for your partner is a nice touch. But remember I need half the postcard for the address. I use washi tape to divide my postcard backs, but drawing a line works too. Anything to help remind yourself to leave that right half blank.

Write what you want on the left side. Leave the right side open.

Include a mailing label with your name and address for each card you create. I’ll attach them to the cards I mail back to you. Return address labels work for this too. Please include the proper postage for each postcard you send (see below for postal guidelines).

International swappers are welcome–the postage cost is $1.15 per card and you can send that to me via Paypal (amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com).

DO NOT attach the stamps to your postcards, because I might be sending it to someone overseas! Just slip them into the envelope.

Postage and Card Size

You are welcome to make any size postcard you want, but please pay attention to the following postal guidelines:

In order to use the postcard rate ($.34) your card cannot be bigger than 4.25 x 6 inches, and it must be thin and flexible.  A 4×6 card that is thick, lumpy, or doesn’t bend needs more postage.

If your card is a rectangle bigger than a postcard, but still flat and flexible, a regular “forever” ($.49 ) stamp is what you need.

To keep things simple, stick to a basic rectangle so you can use one of those two stamp options.

You can find all the postal specifications (and a handy postage calculator) here: http://postcalc.usps.gov/

Again, questions? Email me at amyhood at amyhoodarts.com.

Working My Way Through Paint Lab

{Jen has a review and giveaway of Art Together Issue Four: Mixed Media. Leave her a comment by Saturday for a chance to win–and go check out what she has to say!}

I bought myself a present recently–my own copy (versus the library copy) of Paint Lab: 52 Exercises Inspired by Artists, Materials, Time, Place, and Method, by Deborah Forman. I have some other books in the Lab Series, but this one has so many exercises I want to try that I decided to make a list and work my way through them. I’m not going in order–I’ll go back to skipped ones when I get the materials I’m lacking. For instance, Lab 4 requires glazing medium, and I don’t have any.

I’ve completed two and started a third, though, and I’m enjoying the exercise-ness of them. They remind me of art class assignments. It’s very much just working things out. I think maybe framing something as an exercise lets me sink into it in a different way. Sometimes I am playing around with technique or method while I’m art-making. Sometimes I’m trying to achieve a specific design or image. And with exercises it’s a bit of problem-solving within a framework. These different ways of working engage different parts of my brain. I remember enjoying my design class exercises in college, and these remind me of those in some ways.

Paint Lab #1 at amyhoodarts.com

Paint Lab #1

This is layers of watercolor. All those dots? Pretty meditative. Not boring to do at all.

For Lab #5, Forman suggested doing the same design (created by collage first, then transferred) in two different color schemes. I also used two different types of paint and paper. The results are very different. In this first version, I used acrylic paint on canvas paper. I decided to use red, yellow, white, and green. Red and yellow are both warm colors, and green is red’s complement (it lies across it on the color wheel).

Paint Lab #5 at amyhoodarts.com

Paint Lab #5, version 1.

For the second version, I used watercolors on watercolor paper. I used the analagous colors of blue, blue-green, and green, with orange, which is blue’s complement.

Paint Lab #5 at amyhoodarts.com

Paint Lab #5 version 2.

I’ll keep posting these exercises as I do them. If anybody else has a copy of Paint Lab and wants to join in, please feel free to share links to posts or photos. It would be pretty cool to find others who have or who are working their way through the book, too.

Meet Karen

Karen Isaacson, interviewed in Art Together Issue Four

Karen Isaacson, interviewed in Art Together Issue Four

Karen describes herself as a “paint flinger, salamander catcher, and all-around goofball,” and I can attest that she is as fun and interesting and quirky in person as she seems on her blog, I Am Rushmore. Karen began art-making well into her grown-up years, and she approaches it with the sense of exploration, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the process (versus a focus solely on product) that I hope to nurture in others through Art Together. So I was happy she agreed to be interviewed for Issue Four, which focuses on mixed media–something Karen does so well.

As an early childhood educator, I preached the benefits of process-oriented art with young children. The toddlers I worked with never cared about what they were making, they simply delighted in the act of creating. I sat on the floor and played along with them, and it was the favorite part of my day. Perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but it never occurred to me that this same spirit of open-ended, joyful exploration could be applied to adult art experiences.

The rest of Karen’s interview can be found in the latest issue, along with lots of other inspiration and ideas. Along with her personal blog, Karen also maintains the website Mail Me Some Art, facilitating a mind-bloggling number of themed mail art swaps. She has several open swaps right now, including tape postcards, favorite city postcards, and handmade envelopes. She scans and posts all the artwork she receives (2500 pieces last year!) before sending them on their way through the postal system, so the site provides a constant stream of gorgeous art inspiration.

I hope to continue including interviews in future issues of Art Together, because I think it’s so encouraging to get to know people who are pursuing their artistic passions right now. There are so many ways to do that! I’m not sure that reminder can come often enough.