21 December 2015

Clip Art Illustrated Letters

Perhaps you didn't know this, or perhaps you did, but The Tale of Peter Rabbit began as an illustrated letter to a young family friend.  Now I don't possess Beatrix Potter's talent for illustration, but I like her idea of illustrating letters, so I have begun to incorporate my own fondness for old fashioned clip art--that is, clip art in hard copy--into my letter-writing.  If it sounds at all like fun, then I highly recommend that you try it.  In an age when adults are being recommended to return to coloring and jigsaw-puzzling as therapeutic, I recommend corresponding, and that with illustration.

I do most of my art-mining from catalogs and magazines.  I subscribe to catalogs for free, and try to get my magazines either at discount bookstores or in discounted lots on Ebay.  And then go through them with the dual purpose of pleasing both my own aesthetic sense, but also with my audience in mind.  I have amassed quite a library of clip art at this point, and use clear, plastic cases, designed for the storage of photographs, for the storage of clippings--some thirty-two small cases, plus larger portfolios for larger pieces.  One of the best gifts I ever received was a pair of stainless steel hair-cutting sheers, with a floral-patterned handle, from my mother.  (She gives the best gifts.)  Amassing clip art is a relaxing activity for me, much in the way that I imagine knitting is for others.  The making of envelopes is another use for found art, which I introduced you to in another post, How To Make Magazine-Page Envelopes, and there are still others uses, which I will introduce in future posts, but today I want to introduce you to the illustration of letters with found art.

Here are some illustrations of capable women for a capable sister.  Anne Bonney was a pirate lass who loved one Calico Jack, a pirate.  We've both loved a few pirates in our day.  The other is a fashion photoshoot image I can't get enough of.  My brother and I both collect images on our computers, and images of empowered women are a category we both find worthwhile.  Personally, I find women with swords symbolic; for him, it is women with guns.  This is one of my favorite images in this category.

An image to accompany a travel-themed passage for a letter to a penpal.  The addition of the luggage-laden lady to a moonscape is a tongue-and-cheek observation on my own tendency to what might charitably be called over-preparedness in packing.  I can only imagine undertaking interplanetary travel, so-laden.

I don't attempt fiction very often, but sometimes, within the confines of a letter, or perhaps even more challenging, on a postcard, I'll invent a small, picture-inspired world.  I have a sister who adores all things cute.  This is part of a border of Christmas tree ornaments which frame something... an adventure, an intratree dialogue, perhaps, starring the inhabitants of the border.  I find that images often make good story prompts.  I've tried sending images to correspondents before, asking to be told the story behind the image, but have yet to have any takers.

A custom "Air Mail" assignation.  I think I shall try more of these.

I have started including quasi-self portraits in some of my work--mostly of blonde women, with lit bulbs, in hats, garlands, bouquets, etc.  The first picture in this post is an instance of this.  I think it has something to do, in general, with being bright, and perhaps with bringing light.  I sent this piece to a penpal.  It is called "Bouquet of Bright:"

Be a Bright Something!

I sent it to him with this song:

Sealed With An Mmmm...: Wax Seals

If you've never worked with wax seals, then you're missing a fun part of the material aspect of correspondence!  Wax and seals can easily be purchased at stationery stores like Papyrus, or online at various Etsy shops.  Wax are available in a variety of colors, and seals are available in monograms and symbols to add a little more of your unique style to your letter.

To use a wax seal, simply select the seal and color of wax best-suited to your particular piece of correspondence.  Then, gently heat the wick on the wax and allow enough drops of wax to fall onto the envelope to cover an area roughly the size of the seal.  I usually keep a lighter in my box of quill pens, wax, and seals, for this purpose.  Then, blow out the flame, and use the end of the wax to gently smear the wax to cover the area of the seal.

  A variety of wax colors.  My favorites have a hint of glitter in the wax.

The G-clef and "A" were gifts from my mother.  The "M" I purchased on Etsy.

Allow several drops of wax to fall onto the area of the seal, before extinguishing the flame and gently smearing the wax to the area of the seal with the end of the wax stick.

Apply your seal firmly, and for some 5-10 seconds, to the center of the area of wax, being careful to apply it right-side-up.  Then, gently rock the seal to one side to be sure that the wax has hardened underneath, and rock the seal back-and-forth, if necessary, to allow it to detach from the wax.  Don't be disappointed if the seal is not perfect.  It should have a rough-hewn look, as though you sealed many things in the course of your day, and in a hurry.

Voila!  My "A" in sparkly green wax!  (I advise you to reinforce your seal-work with tape, as I imagine  modern postal services are bit rougher than delivery by horse and rider.)

I have a friend who collects older seals.  I love surprising a new pen pal with this accoutrement.  As if letter-writing wasn't already fun enough, now you can seal your correspondence with your monogram, a "heart," a "monk seal," or whatever best suits you!

02 December 2015

How To Make Magazine-Page Envelopes

Do you get tired of tucking your letters into the same, tired envelopes?  Let me share with you something I learned from my best friend, and you'll soon be conveying your missives in a manner far more exotic.

First, subscribe to free catalogs whose design and products you're fond of.  Anthropologie and Free People are favorite catalogs of mine.  Amass magazines of interest whenever possible.  I've occasionally purchased lots of old magazines on Ebay, though this can get expensive with shipping.  My local bargain bookstore also carries a rotating stock of outdated fashion magazines for a dollar each.  When you do get your hands on a magazine, don't just recycle it when you've finished reading, re-purpose those glossy ads and photoshoots into envelopes like so:

First, select an intriguing page for transformation.  This page is from an issue of the magazine Darling:  the Art of Being a Woman, with which my sister gifted me a subscription.  

Flip the page over, and fold the long sides in about one inch on each side.

Play with the fold to determine which portion of the image will make the best front piece.

When you've chosen a front piece, tape the sides together.  I'll place an address label just under his pocket square.  The action of the card flipping towards the viewer will first greet the recipient.  And then his arresting stare will greet her as she goes to open the envelope.

Here are some other things you might try:
This page could be colored in, or left for the recipient to color in.

 This lovely Herm├Ęs ad depicts a lighted igloo of scarves, and is suited to the season.

The easel's shoes, or perhaps the fact that the easel has shoes, is the most enchanting part of this page to me, so I made a very small fold at the bottom of the page, so that that aspect would remain on the front.  The address might even fit into the lower right corner to avoid obscuring the artwork.  I like that the blue in the tape echoes the blue lines in the painting.

Let a letter be more than it's words.  Let it be an event!   And let the curtain go up with a flourish, not at the envelope's unsealing, but at the opening of the mailbox's door!  Happy finding, folding, and sending!

Postcard Writing: To Someone In Particular (And To Anyone Else Who May Be Reading)

1.  If you have something sexy to say, write it in a tantalizing code, slipping breathy secrets just under the nose of the postal service.  Or send a recipe.  Or write a lot about nothing... but write about it in code... because then it could be anything.  And the ladies who work at the front desk in your boyfriend's building will be dying to know what it means!

2.  I'm reminded of a ridiculous Soviet era- romantic comedy, The Glass Bottom Boat, in which Doris Day calls her answering machine and leaves cryptic messages for her dog, Vladimir.  Write your post cards as though you are "not writing state secrets," and provide a little entertainment for the powers that be!

3.  Make up a story, perhaps based on the image on the front of the post card, practicing economical poesy or prose by fitting it entirely onto that little square!

4.  Be bold with your words of good cheer!  Perhaps someone else will see them and be cheered by them too!  You know how watching the opening scenes of Love Actually makes you feel?  That's what it's like.  It's being cheered by other people's "hello's" and "I love you's" too!  https://youtu.be/bAD2_MVMUlE

There's the art of eavesdropping, and there's the art of being eavesdropped.  The enterprising postcard-writer aspires to be worthy of the eavesdropper, or the eavesreader, as it were.

This postcard is from Etsy shop meeraleepatel.