Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I Made Something I Like

Thinking about my mail-art resolutions this year, I’m trying to think through my creations more. One of the ways I’m doing this is by writing about what I feel makes this image work and how I can improve on it.
When I started doing mail-art it was the first time I made anything resembling “art.” I’m always hesitant to call my creations art, because that term always feels reserved for things other people make. Most of my life has been spent studying the work of others, whether it’s Hugo Ball, Ray Johnson, or Ray Davies. I prefer to say I “make things” in order to keep from branding my bits of paper a certain way. Maybe it’s a way to feel safer?
Those early creations were not good at all, basically an image of something and then a word underneath. Maybe I’d have some paint thrown in, or maybe it was white out? It was honestly my first attempt and those attempts were terrible. I wasn’t a kid that drew past middle school. I’ve never had art classes and I’m not sure why triangles are so important. My colors don’t match like they’re supposed to and I don’t really care. No one’s looking anyway. If punk rock has taught us anything, it’s that passion and drive is more important than whatever the end product might be. To make something new should always be praised whether or not it’s complete garbage. I spent years making garbage.
The above image is one I love a whole lot. I honestly think it’s good. Ninety-nine percent of the time I look at what I create and feel fine, but little else. Indifferent maybe? Only once in a while, do I feel great satisfaction in what I’ve created. When I look at the image I feel proud. I feel like I’ve started to get somewhere even though I’m still making “trashy collages.” The placement is pretty good, the color is nice and balanced, and there’s a mix of different materials. Just in this one page found in a much longer collage book, I have used paint, magic marker, washi tape, clear tape put to an image and then ripped, handwriting, found paper, paper collected from books and magazines, foil, stickers, bits sent to me from Europe, duct tape, and stamps. It’s quite busy.
My biggest problem with this piece is the lack of movement. Too often my things are too centered, too static in the composition. At least the man’s face in the top left corner isn’t perfectly centered and the items flow, but not well enough. Items are parallel or perpendicular to the edges which don’t make for a dynamic display. This is something I have to work on. I need more movement, and less obvious positioning. I tried to distract from this by using my handwriting at the bottom and to the left to break up the monotony. Doing this in other parts may have made it a more interesting work.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Mail-Art Resolutions

Every year that I’ve done mail-art I’ve kept pretty good records. I record every piece of mail-art I send to people and every piece I receive, jotting down these numbers in alphabetical order. I do this to make sure that I keep a balance with who I send to and who sends to me. This system has worked pretty well. At this point I think I’m on my second or third record keeping books, which is a nice creation itself.
Looking at this year, I’ve sent out 378 pieces of mail-art. I’ve received 357 pieces. The received amount is pretty much spot on, but I know that I’ve mailed a lot more than the 378. I only count the items that I send to other mail-artists, because they’re kind of on the hook for sending back to me. Things I send to friends aren’t usually put in the “sent” tally simply because it isn’t an exchange. Mailing to a friend means nothing comes back my way, so it’s outside of the system in my mind, thus not a mark. If I were being completely honest the real number is closer or slightly over 400 pieces. If I only sent those items to mailboxes in the United States I would have paid $196.00 in postage. In that rather large 378 I have sent packages of goodies, collaborative books, and random and unaccountable ephemera. It’s an expensive hobby, one that I’ve given more attention to every year since I started.
At the start of every year people make resolutions. I don’t make basic life resolutions, but I’m making mail-art resolutions. Here are a few mail-art related resolutions that I’d like to keep in 2016.
1. Scan and post all of the images of the 1979 project. I’ve already gathered as much information as I could as well as posted what I’ve found online, now I just have to scan, scan, and scan. I will start scanning later this week.
2. Get back to playing around with tape. In the past few weeks I’ve been making a lot of rough images online, printing them, and then painting over them. I haven’t sat down and worked exclusively with tape in a couple of months.
3. Collaborative books. Although it’s frustrating to send a collaborative book or pamphlet or whatever out into the world and then never see it come back (this happens half the time) it’s a giant thrill when it does. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of pamphlets made out of paper I found in a classroom trashcan. Keeping them one to one generally means a higher rate of return. I’d like to do more of these as well as collaborative kids board books I find at thrift stores. I like the way they look on a shelf.
4. Learn more collage techniques. Everything I know about making these little things comes from my own discovery. I have no training. I have no technical knowledge about any of this. It takes me years to figure out basic things because I have to randomly discover them. Maybe this makes my stuff appear a little more unique but it also inhibits me as well. I don’t have that well of knowledge to help me think through a visual problem.
5. Make and mail at least 365 things.
6. Go bigger. In the past year I started making a lot of bigger collages, ones on reclaimed canvases and store bought art boards. Most of what I’ve created I’ve given away. More than a few of them were of my own face given as jokes when in reality I was trying to figure out the angles. Only in the past couple of months have I started to stockpile some of these creations in a large bin in my basement. For most of the year I gave away everything made. I have no idea what I’m going to do with these items but they’re there. I think it be fun to have a strange yard sale with them. Maybe someone would want to put them on a wall somewhere?

Made By Richard Canard, For Alex Cheek, Found By Jon Foster

The SPOT sign in question.  I got to about ten thrift stores every week. In a good week I might hit as many as twenty. I’ve done thi...