An affordable piece of art

by Janice Nigro

I had a boyfriend in college who wasn’t much of a romantic. But he did leave me a surprise Valentine’s Day card once in a place where I wouldn’t have expected it.

I remember the card still today. Without saying much, I felt it said, “I am thinking of you.”

The history of giving cards goes way back into the past. I might have guessed that cards would have appeared as early as the Egyptians and their invention of papyrus. I can only imagine what a declaration of love might have looked like in hieroglyphics, and the effort it might have taken to write it. In ancient China, it was common to send greeting cards wishing loved ones a happy new year.

Handmade cards were commonly sold and/or exchanged in Europe as early as the 15th century for St. Valentine’s Day and Christmas. With advances in technology for making multiple copies, ranging from woodblock to inkjet printing, and the invention of stamps, cards grew to the multibillion dollar business that they are worldwide today. Despite the internet and email.

I have always loved cards. I love to send them, and I love to receive them. While I am happy to receive them (I once asked a friend to send one from her honeymoon), sending them allows me to relive a special moment with someone (like for a recent party in Germany) or some travel somewhere (like for a recent party in Germany). I run off to the post office with a hand full of handwritten goodies to the unsuspecting recipients. That moment when they fall out of the mailbox unexpectedly is the best.

The source of the card depends on the purpose of the card. Postcards – sometimes the cheaper the better. And I have been known to send my own handmade cards. There was no such thing as a pre-wedding card with all the veil options available for a bride. It was pages long.

But my preference is cards from artists.

Quite simply, a card is an affordable piece of art.

Most artwork or photography is currently out of my budget. Or my space allotment. But I can always buy a card. I have a collection of them, currently from my favorite local artists, on call for that moment when I need a card for some special occasion (or just for fun). What better way is there than a small piece of art to send someone the message that you are thinking of them.

I prefer artist cards because they tell stories. One story is in the image on the card. It’s a painting, a photograph, a sketch, or a graphic.

But often, the more interesting part of the card is the story behind it. The artist is autistic. Or from Brazil. Or died of an autoimmune disease (Paul Klee). Or starting a new career fulfilling a lifelong dream. Or worried about our natural environment and its vulnerable inhabitants.

I have always been a collector of artist cards, but now it’s me who is the artist. My art is on prints, it’s framed, it’s even on textiles.

But I am partial to my cards. My cards go out on an adventure into the world to places I have probably never been (and for not much more than a dollar). And once they reach their destination, they can be framed.

The images on my cards are photographs from my travels. Everywhere. I have sold cards from my trips to Indonesia, Italy, and my daily walks to the beach. But the cards closest to my heart are the ones from underwater.

I suppose not everyone is probably interested in having a photograph of a fish on the wall. Or something stranger than that. Although a recent customer bought a card of one the most unusual fish I have seen – a Rhinopias, which if a cartoon came to life, it would be that fish – just to hang on her wall. But you can see that something as simple as a card with an image from underwater presents a view of a world most people will never see.

Most of my photographs are taken while scuba diving in Indonesia or the Philippines. A few are from Tasmania and Hawaii.

Underwater photographs are becoming more common, but they are not routine (really it’s not a good idea to try it with your cell phone even with an underwater housing). You need to get into the water. You have to train to scuba dive (or free dive). While you can dive anywhere there is water, you are going to have to travel if you want tropical coral reefs in your images. You need special equipment, a camera in an underwater housing and strobes (the external flash).

There is some post-photo processing, but digital photos in the end are easy to print at home or through an online service – that is of course, once you have them.

And that’s the lesson about artist cards. Yes, a card is just four sides of paper (or maybe even just two). But the image sometimes costs thousands and countless hours to get.

So the next time you are at an art show, pick up a card from an artist who has taken time to talk to you. Or if you are looking for a special card, check out AnemoneWatch online (Instagram: @anemonewatch) or at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market on Fridays (11th and Valley Drive, Hermosa Beach, CA)!

And thank you to those of you who already have purchased my cards!

©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

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