Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My first proper postcard sketch

This is a post about my first endeavours to create a proper postcard sketch.  By which I mean a sketch on a support which goes into the mail without an envelope and arrives on the other wide of the world without having suffered any undue wear and tear.

I've also been looking around for references on the web to the phenomenon of postcard sketching - or mail art as it's sometimes known.  You can see what I found at the end of this post.

My first proper postcard sketch

Sketch of "Terrasse a Vernon" by Pierre Bonnard
150mm x 120mm, coloured pencil and pen and ink on Mountboard - posted to Australia
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I often sketch in galleries but February was the first time I'd ever sketched in Christies Auction Rooms in London.  I've always had an aptitude for spotting the most expensive painting in the room! :) 
Terrasse à Vernon, an oil painting by Pierre Bonnard, sold the day after I sketched it for a new world record sum for a Bonnard - £6.4 million.  Which actually cost the purchaser £7,209,250 ($11,578,056)!  That made it the top lot for the Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale on February 9, 2011.

This is a link to a video of the auction of the Bonnard painting at Christies and this is the link to my post on Making A Mark about the experience of sketching at Christies After Bonnard

That particular day, the 8th February, I'd seen four exhibitions and walked a long way and stood for a lot longer looking at paintings.  Standing is absolutely guaranteed to foul up my awful foot with the torn ligments etc and it was perhaps unsurprising that I then had major problems with the foot for the next six weeks - which caused very great difficulties in walking.

As I was unable to get out and walk very far to do my postcard for the February round of A Postcard from my Walk I decided to try and reproduce the sketch I'd done of the painting in my sketchbook.

In the January round of the postcards, some people sent proper postcards (ie without envelopes) and I was keen to have a go.  So this time I tried using pen and ink and coloured pencils on Daler Rowney Mountboard - so that I could construct a proper postcard. 

Formats for postcards

First I had to work out what was the format for a postcard.  The reason for this is that it costs less to send a postcard compared to a letter.  So I can work bigger but I'd have to pay more for the postage - especially one which is going overseas!

As I'm used to working big and I was quite intrigued as to what would happen if I had to start working small.

After much research on the web, I found out what are the minimum and maximum dimensions for sending a postcard overseas.  These are:
  • minimum:  90mm x 120mm  (ie a 3:4 format)
  • maximum: 140mm x 235mm (ie a 1:1.67 format)
I used pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils - as per normal.  However when I finished I sealed both sides with fixative.
    My first postcard didn't quite conform to the postcard format as I had to reduce one dimension to keep to the dimensions of the painting.  However it went all the way to New South Wales in Australia - to the home of Liz Steel (Liz and Borromini).

    I've now sent  two more postcards off using the maximum format which gives a more panoramic landscape format - which I've decided I rather like.  You can see my second one here - Trees at Tate Modern - which went to Martin Stankewitz in Germany and the third has yet to reach its (to be revealed) destination so I can't post it yet.

    Trees at Tate Modern
    pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils on ivory coloured mountboard - posted to Germany
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell
    However I have now started cutting up mountboard so I've got lots of postcards to take with me to Provence!


    It seems to me that the weight and type of surface needs to be one that will stand up to movement thtough the post.  That's why I inclined towards trying to mountboard

    The mountboard also works very well with pen and ink and coloured pencil.  Not as nice as Moleskine sketchbook paper but then nothing is.......  It could however make a good support for any other surface I fixed to it (oh how I wish for sheets of Moleskine paper!)  I think the next thing to try is a textured surface - maybe using the Daniel Smith watercolour ground or gesso.

    If anybody else has used different supports successfully for sending postcards through the post without them getting damaged I'd be interested to hear as mail art is a very much a new endeavour for me

    Resources about postcard sketching

    It's evident that there are a few "Postcard from...." blogs around which tried to emulate Julian's "Postcard from Provence" project - however it looks like quite a few have departed from the postcard format and size.

    There's also the question of postcard sized and postcard format.  For me the latter means it can actually be a postcard and it can actually be sent in the mail as a postcard.  I guess the niceties as to where boundaries on this begin and end is something other people can tell me more about!

    There is of course the project I'm involved in A Postcard from My Walk where I think after some initial trepidation people are moving towards postcard formats for their sketches


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    So the conclusion I'm coming to at the moment is that maybe there isn't a huge amount of mail art / postcard sketching going on at the moment.  There are lots of small works but rather less finds its way into the mailbox.

    If you know of any links to other projects, blogs, websites or any other resources please let me know.


      1. I do a good part of my art postcard size, but I have never mailed one without an envelope. I have received 2 thru the mail tho. Neither was damaged. I like the smaller size as it is easier to toss it if it doesn't turn out. The size I use is 4x6 and usually Bristol smooth or watercolor paper. If you run out of people to send yours to, I'm always here. lol

      2. Love this post, very informative. Can I ask, what fixative do you use for your postcards? look forward to your future posts. regards, ann.

      3. Hi Jeanne - we can always do a one-off special!

        Thanks Geraldo

        Ann - I use Daler Rowney Perfix Colourless Fixative. However any good quality fixative which is designed for use with pencil and other dry media should be fine

      4. Thanks a lot Katherine...great to know as I thought I may have to resort to acrylics, which I like, but I do love the freedom of watercolours. regards, ann.

      5. What a lovely idea - I did a sketchbook swap last year and it was such fun. How wonderful to receive original works of art like this.

      6. I am really impress from your posted information. Thanks for sharing.


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