The Postcard Project

For nearly three years my young friend, who lives in Alaska and is now 12 years old, and I have painted or drawn postcards to exchange. The project began as a Christmas present challenge – me to her – “let’s send a postcard to each other each month,” and I sent her 12 blank postcards. The next Christmas she delighted me by sending another pack of blank postcards and writing on the cover: “This was so much fun – you know what to do!” Last Christmas we re-upped with an added challenge – we would focus on cats.

It’s always a treat to find my young friend’s cards in the mailbox, and they cover a corner of a wall in my workroom. Each of us sometimes gets behind, and once she made up three months by stretching a drawing of a cat across three postcards. This year she drew a card representing a cell phone screen with a text message as written by her cat Syncro – “do u c paws?” –a drawing of paws edges the card. This summer, a detailed black-and-white pen drawing of Syncro revealed her real facility.

It’s my turn to be behind now. This summer she pointed out that I was stalled at May! So I decided to apply the rules that get art done (rules that get a lot of things done) to the postcard project.

Time, intention, attention, focus, concentration, all the elements in place, a deadline: one hour, a constraint: do four cards, a subject: the same photo of Frances. The inspiration, the impetus, and materials to hand, I only needed the will to begin.

I began, but could hear all the Sirens of avoidance – oh I’d like a cup of tea, these won’t be good, I could do this later – but I pushed past these voices and pulled out four blank post cards. First a line drawing of Frances in her favorite corner, then without too much thinking I sketched lines to guide a watercolor on another card, wet the paints, and painted black fur.

I squeezed dabs of acrylic on the lid of a yogurt container, and while considering the differences between watercolor and acrylic, leaving white paper or using white paint to make her tuxedo outfit, I drew Frances again, bigger this time. Time was up.

Still short a post card, and thinking a paper Frances would be fun, I came back in the evening (an after-dinner energy bonus from a project well-begun), eager to see how bits of paper could become Frances. The next morning I added her freckle to her feet on all four pictures.

Now I’m caught up!