illustrations

Mail art - prehistoric post

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We cut our way through a tangle of vines, each one thicker than a man's arm. Heat prickled our skin. The air was humid, tropical, and thick with floral perfume: something like frangipani, with a less-pleasant undertone of... what was that? Sulphur?

When at last we pushed aside the final curtain of vines, we could barely believe the evidence of our eyes. A volcano, forcing its way up out of the ocean, and, around it, a flock of pterodactyls carrying mail bags.

We had discovered it at last: the lost island of the Prehistoric Post Offie.

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Mail art: words about herbs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Painting this botanical series (more here and here and here) has inspired me to re-explore the magic and folklore of herbal remedies. A new garden project could be in the wings.

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More mail-art from the old herbal

CCI03042016_2 "My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse." ~ Thomas Cavendish (1532)

(More botanical mail out here and here)

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Mid-century mail-art

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Maybe there was something in the pinot noir that week but I was really feeling a mid-century vibe when I painted up all these little packages. Polariods and UFOs. Weirdly-tinted poodles and monstera deliciosa. Vintage suitcases, 60s sitcom opening credits-style cartoons, and Liza Minnelli. I don't know. But I had a lot of fun, and I hope the recipients do, too!

I couldn't believe it when Eti (the plants and books) told me she had never received a personally-written piece of mail in her whole life. What even?!? I felt terrible for her, and so happy that I could rectify that situation. (Also embarrassed, because I felt like her first letter should be SO MUCH better than the one I had written).

The letter to Eduardo (the UFO) was for a snail-mail themed film project that is going right now. The filmmakers are collecting as many letters as they possibly can to be used in the film. If you want to add your mail to the mix, get in quick: it has to reach its UK destination by 21 March (that's one week!). All the details are here if this is up your alley.


ps. have you heard about my new letter-writing and mail-art e-course? 

Over four weeks, I will guide you through multiple methods of making beautiful mail-art and creative, handmade stationery; teach you the art of writing and storytelling; help you forge personal connections in your letters and find pen-pals if you want them; and share time-management tips so even the busiest people can enjoy sending and receiving letters. Register your place or find out more information right here

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Creative project: Grandad stories

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I have some exciting news to share. I have been invited to illustrate a children's book! I'm collaborating with the incredibly talented Wendy Milner, a professional writer who has just completed her first piece of children's fiction.

It is a beautiful (and true!) story called "Grandad and the Baby Dolphin." The Grandad of the story, Wendy's father, was a cray-fisherman off the Western Australian coast. While out at sea one day, he came across a baby dolphin in trouble. The dolphin was tangled in ropes and was slowly sinking beneath the salt waves. Grandad and his fellow fishermen were determined to rescue the baby dolphin, but what happened next amazed them all…

These are some sneak peeks and close-ups of my work-in-progress on the illustrations. If you'd like to know more about this lovely story (and others to come), Wendy has built a website for us, which you can find at Grandad Stories. You can also read her personal blog at Blink Blackburn.

Have you been working on anything new? I'd love to hear about it!

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Happy things

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This little project, a tiny zine. I’m writing a book about snail mail and, while I’m at it, I thought I’d make this as a kind of a sneak peek to help get people excited about the post and open their eyes to what’s out there for them.

The lemon tree is fruiting again. I like to run my hands along the branches when I walk past and then cup them to my nose, breathing deeply of the perfect combination of blossoms and zest. Last autumn, we were swimming in lemons. Get your orders in now, folks, if you’d like some.

Yesterday afternoon a storm rolled around and around for a couple of hours and the rain-drops were fat and full and fresh. Then the wind picked up and, finally, the seemingly-interminable heat washed away into the storm-water drains, and the world began to feel alive again.

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Geometry + colour

geometry-1 I've been painting triangles. Scenes, events, glimpsed through thick-paned, antique windows. I'm not exactly sure what I'll make of them, yet. Perhaps I'll create prints: a set of postcards, maybe? Or some note cards? geometry-2

ΔΔ Wet autumn watercolour, gouache and pen-and-ink on paper

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ΔΔ Passing parade watercolour, gouache and pen-and-ink on paper

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ΔΔ School fete watercolour, gouache and pen-and-ink on paper

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ΔΔ Toy store watercolour, gouache and pen-and-ink on paper

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ΔΔ Brush-fire watercolour, gouache and pen-and-ink on paper

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Beautiful art - A Hot Summer

monicaramos-eggs-webmonicaramos-lillies-web I thought Melbourne's rising mercury today would form an appropriate backdrop to showcase these seriously gorgeous works from Brooklyn (NY)-based illustrator Monica Ramos. They're part of a series that she calls "A Hot Summer," based on summer in the Philippines.

I've been wanting to show you Monica's work for ages. Take a look through her portfolio, it's fantastic! I'm especially in love with the "Comfort Foods" series. Cute, huh? And if you dream of making a living from your creative work, Monica will share some friendly advice, too.

 

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All images are from Monica's website, and used with her kind permission.

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Handmade Halloween tea-treats

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On the spectrum from trick to treat, I'm hoping these friendly little handmade Halloween tea-spooks definitely fall on the treat side. Next year, maybe I'll get my act together and pair them with some skeleton gingerbread men. Or gingerbread cats. Or something. This year, I packaged them up with yellow craft paper and posted them off to these lovely blog readers.

If you need a last minute, slightly-more-grown-up treat to give to friends, a set of these little guys will take you about five minutes to make.

1. Download the template 2. Print or photocopy it onto thick paper or cardstock 3. Cut out each friend, then attach them to teabags with staples or tape

If you have a bit more time, get fancy with some lovely herbal blends, or even create a teabag of your own with a little ball of loose-leaf tea in a square of muslin, secured with string.

The friendly spooks will reach their arms around the edges of your tea cup while the tea steeps.

Happy Halloween friends!

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ps. Christmas tea-friends

 

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Write with the whole of your hands

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Has the digital age killed the post? Recently the absolutely lovely Rachel Faith Cox sent me (in the mail) Simon Garfield's latest book, To the Letter, and I have just started reading it. In this book, Garfield likens the post to the paddle steamer.

"The digitisation of communication has effected dramatic changes in our lives, but the impact on letter-writing - so gradual and so fundamental - has slipped by like an English summer. Something that has been crucial to our economic and emotional well-being since ancient Greece has been slowly evaporating for two decades, and in two more the licking of a stamp will seem as antiquated to a future generation as the paddle steamer. You can still travel by paddle steamer, and you can still send a letter, but why would you want to when the alternatives are so much faster and more convenient?"

But To the Letter, he says, is an attempt to provide a positive answer to that question.

"It is a celebration of what has gone before, and the value we place on literacy, good thinking and thinking ahead," he says. And, in a sentiment I find quite lovely, "I wonder if it is not also a book about kindness." Garfield wants to celebrate "the post, the envelope, a pen, a slower cerebral whirring, the use of the whole of our hands and not just the tips of our fingers."

I love that concept, and it rings true for me. Each letter I write to blog readers takes me a lot of time, and I definitely use my whole hand. But I'm not used to writing long-hand any more. My hand cramps up, my cursive is appalling. I am always amazed to learn that people can actually decipher what I've written. My hand can't keep up with my mind, and my thoughts and ideas race ahead of my pen until things become jumbled and lost. Sometimes, this manifests in blotches and crossings-out and other evidences of a little bit of emergency editing. Other times, I catch myself in time. I slow down, breathe, and write more consciously.

And it's not just the writing of the letter. I use my whole hands to put together the collection of little things I put inside my mail: old stamps, tea leaves, a book, whatever I'm sending at the time. With my whole hands I wrap the parcels in brown paper, draw and paint the address and pictures, wrap the whole thing in string. In one hand I hold a stick of red wax and in the other I hold a lit match, dripping the wax in an ever-growing circle at the point where the string is tied off. As I press the seal with my initial into the hot wax, I press with two whole hands.

Every letter I send is a slow, tactile and personal activity. It takes me a long time, and I find it quite meditative. Therapeutic, even. I love it.

What about you. Do you like to write letters?

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