Yes… it is just an index card. But I am often surprised at how the creative mind takes “just an index” card and still wants to make the best choices in the space and in the specific context of a card. Sometimes a drawn card will sit for a day or so, a bit unfinished, the ink breathing in space and time while I figure out what the card is supposed to say. How it is supposed to be finished.
One card from the first 15 of ICAD 2016 really caught me off-guard. The drawing has problems. The drawing has a bit of a story. The drawing is based on a found photograph which I really love. And despite its flaws, or maybe because of the transformation, mood, and tone those flaws pass on to my black and white drawing, every time I look at it, I am caught.
It speaks — even if only to me.
For me, this is exactly the kind of card that makes ICAD so powerful… a completely unexpected card created because of the interplay between the prompts and my own theme that speaks to me.
I left the drawing very stark, all of the surrounding space white (technically my cards are cream) for several days because I wasn’t sure what to “do” with hit. I didn’t want to interrupt the mood of the card. At the same time, I knew I wanted to finish the card, frame out the space in ways that I like to do for ICAD—maybe a word, quote, or lyric, usually the number, maybe fabric swatches or other bits of color, maybe collage.
I would flip through the cards and see this card, and know it may be the drawing so far with the most problems and, at the same time, the most raw truth.
A Series of Micro Changes
In a series of stages, I fleshed out the card, trying to retain the emotion of the card and yet bring the card to a feeling of completion.
I treated the righthand edge of the card, holding on still to the black and white… accentuating the stark tone of the card. What did this girl/woman have to say to me? What did she echo or reflect of who I am now? Why did this card keep jumping out at me? Why could I not just leave it alone?
That the connection between the prompt (“Typewriter”) and the card was “Writer” was always clear. I had discovered the photo by searching on terms that would link my personal theme (stuffed things) and the prompt. The portrait photo is of a writer as a young girl. Adding “Writer” down the edge was a logical steps in the development.
But the left side… the left side was a mystery and a challenge and the point at which the card could most easily be lost.
Ultimately, I used strips of fabric scraps to fill in the space. Pondering the space, I laid a few bits of fabric on the card. As I saw the strips take shape, I saw the tone of the card, the bold and raw loneliness, hold steady despite the introduction of color.
I then used found words from a little stack of magazine clippings I brought on my trip. Finding these words, these specific words, was a serendipitous moment for the card. This was the bridge in meaning that brought the whole card into shape in ways that work for me personally as well as provide context for a viewer.
Adding these words, however, was a final step that made me really think about the process and recognize how the brain wants to make the best choice… I don’t want to simply finish a card, I want to have finished a card that I think “works.”
I evaluated my choices.
Two little magazine “word” clippings. They could be used in an almost infinite number of ways on the card, positioned here or there, overlapped, offset, lined up, on top of this or that, edged, outlined, one on that side and one on the other. Two little magazine clippings.
I debated about their placement. These words were going to add a new layer to interpreting the card… and the placement mattered because used differently, they seemed to “say” something different or change the tone, or change how the eye moved around the card.
Changes in placement were micro changes. They were tiny. They might seem inconsequential from the outside. Maybe you view the couple of phone pics of the process below and think, “It didn’t really matter.”
But it did. The balance of the card hung in the placement of these words.
I tried them justified and stacked. I tried them staggered one way and then the opposite. I tried one in each section. I tried them with varying space in between. I tried them overlapped.
We make choices when we make our cards, even though they are just index cards.
We make choices because the process matters to us and because our work has meaning.
Making choices is an integral part of making art. Every color. Every line. Every piece of ephemera selected. Which size stencil. Which pen. What to leave, or remove, or highlight, or outline. We make choices.
And in making choices, we continue to refine our own line and voice.
It is a process I love.
I have found myself snapping photos of various stages in these simple cards this week, series… steps… levels of completion on the road to a finished card.
I am keeping things simple and fast most of the time on these cards and trying to let each one go without getting too involved, but I still take each card seriously and look at it as a standalone piece.
Not everyone approaches cards this way, but even the cards that don’t work (and there have been many!)… are cards I spent time really considering.
And I am glad.
It is in this process that I challenge myself, that I grow, that I find the ways to make my own perspective and voice inhabit the ICAD challenge.
If you saw the finished card, you wouldn’t realize I spent extra time pondering the placement of the words “The art of identity.” But I did…
We make choices.
(“Don’t overthink it”)