The Story of Postcard Art

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George Painting in Spain

Postcard Art

My postcard paintings grew from two of my most beloved pastimes … drawing and traveling. I have always drawn: caricatures of my junior high teachers (which got me in trouble); a cartoon of the red-faced, overfed minister at our church (which got me into even more trouble). And as an even younger boy, I got to spend summers with my grandmother Lottie in New Orleans. Grandma Lottie trusted me enough to let me take the ferry by myself across the river to the French Quarter. On those days, I would¬† draw until twilight and run to make the last ferry back.

An Interactive Art “Happening”

I mostly paint on vacation – when no projects loom and sunny mornings stretch out into lazy afternoons and no one wants anything and I’ve found a good spot to observe. I pull out pen, paper and paint to “write about” what I see in the Postcard paintings. As an architect I love to be in and observe buildings and cities. Sitting in a space and often in front of a famous architectural masterpiece brings me to a level of appreciation I hope shines through the paintings.

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George in Delhi

 

 

 

When I Paint Postcards & Why

I mostly paint on vacation – when no projects loom and sunny mornings stretch out into lazy afternoons.¬† When I’ve found a good spot to observe, I pull out pen, paper and paint to “write about” what I see in the Postcard paintings.

 

 

 

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Post office in south India

Choosing the Stamp & Mailing

Part of the fun of postcard art is choosing the stamp, placing it on the image, and mailing the postcard right there in the post office! Buying stamps, special stamps, in a foreign language and currency is always a challenge. In Europe, one can still wait in long lines and have a personal experience with a postal official while purchasing.

 

Waiting in Line

I’ve noticed how different countries respond when I approach the window, and the reactions (usually not impatient) of people waiting in line behind me!

 

 

…In France

In France a lady would not cancel the stamp “on the art”, because she didn’t want to damage the art.

…In Italy

In Florence, when the post office personnel and I were totally confused over the word, “commemorative”, an elegant Italian lady interjected herself, translated for me, and told me her story of meeting an American during the war. In Lucca, when I tried on my last day to interact with the official behind the glass, who was trying to leave early, another elegant lady, this time a Californian who lives part-time in Lucca, stepped up, told the official off in fluent Italian, and handed me the very stamps I was lusting for (she later told me this “window” was known as the rudest in Tuscana). And finally the wonderful staff of the tiny Barga post office who would congregate when I arrived to see what I had produced “this time”, conversed among themselves about the local identity of each image, and exclaimed, “bella, bella, architectura.”

Making the Postcards

Geo Painting in Buneos Ares

Painting a postcard in Buenos Aires

What to take ?

When I start out on a postcard expedition, I try to travel light. My folding stool, metal paint box, clip board, paper cut to size, brushes, pens, ink, and of course water, almost all fits into my back pack.

What is a good place to paint ?

Finding the building or site involves the usual adventure of travel – getting lost, maneuvering subways, managing schedules and weather. Sometimes (often?) the picture becomes the extemporaneous spot that resulted in taking shelter from a rain shower or a desire for one more coffee. Once I get to the view or the building, getting started is as easy as opening a few items and beginning. To begin, I need to soak in the place visually, feel the colors and decide on the “gesture” of the drawing. Sometimes water, sometimes no water, sometimes pen and ink or pencil drawings form the base for the paint and washes.

View of Urbino

View of Urbino

 

 

Thinking of the stamp ?

I never think of the stamp, preferring to let it be spontaneous, usually in the post office. After the stamps are placed in the work and the postal clerks are convinced its OK to mail them with the address on the opposite side, I either hand them over or take them to a box and “drop them in”! This moment, after all the work, always gives me a sinking feeling of, “Oh well, it’s up to the Gods and the postal system as to whether I’ll ever see them again.”

Getting the postcard at home ?

I have never lost a postcard in the mail! But several have returned with markings of the postal process on them: a smudge of machine grabbing, once a tear, stick-on bar codes in the USA (I remove them) and small creases from handling. All of these create a participatory mark that adds to the event of travel and the uniqueness of the Postcard Art process.