Anyone can make art, and art can be made anywhere. A "canvas" can conceivably be made out of anything (which is why when you were a toddler your mother started screaming when you decided to start drawing on the wall with your crayons).
Have you ever thought about using an envelope as a canvas? Sometimes we think about our art as being so precious that we have to hoard it, and frame it, and immortalize it somehow. But how about creating some art and then just setting it free on the wind?… or in the mail?
This is what mail art is. Thousands of artists use this medium not only as a way of expending some creative doodling energy, but as a way of sharing your creative energy with other people around the world. You have to bless it and release it, as they say, because as much as we love and depend on the postal system, it is not without its foibles and frustrations… the masterpiece envelope that you created and sent might get lost in transit; it might get mangled in the postal service machinery; the post cancellation mark might completely obscure the finely detailed sketch work that you intended to be the focal point of the envelope.
And yet… all those postal marks and rain smudges, and fingerprints will only add to the mystique of your masterpiece when it arrives in someone else's mailbox. Those marks and smudges and distress creases and battered paper envelopes tell a story about the exotic travels that your correspondence has made as it has traversed its way across countries and continents. And, no matter what the envelop looks like by the time it arrives at its destination, WHO IN THE WORLD DOESN"T LIKE TO GET MAIL??!!?? It's like a little treasure, a piece of someone's best intentions, sent right to your awaiting fingertips.
I belong to a wonderful online group called the International Union of Mail Artists. It's a great place to view other artists' mail art, and it's easy to become a member. Becoming a mail artist is like committing to being a good pen pal—it's considered gracious to return the favor of mail art when you receive a piece of mail art in the mail. Mail art has a history.
Below are some galleries of samples of my own mail art that I have sent to other people around the world. You can find out more about mail art, and see more of my work and work I've received from other people at the International Union of Mail Artists' website...
The gallery below includes mail art with original hand-sketched, hand-painted, or hand-drawn artwork by me that was sent through the postal mail. (In each gallery that follows, click on any image for a larger view. When the lightbox opens, you can also click on the "i" -icon at the bottom of the picture for more descriptive information about the art piece.)
I lived for many years in Seattle, Washington, and was inspired by the native tribal motifs that are so pervasive in the Pacific Northwest. This next gallery includes original mail art influenced by Pacific Northwest tribal art:
An artist should never feel restricted by medium (although restricting one's medium can force an artist to find reserves of even greater creativity). Sometimes art can be made with what's at hand—collage work is a wonderful example. It can often seem like paper—magazines, cards, advertisements, commercial packaging, etc., etc.—is an endless resource medium to be able to utilize. You can think of collage as a kind of recycling! Mixing other mediums with collage can create even more exciting possibilities. The gallery below show some examples of what is possible with mixing art mediums:
Have I stretched your mind as to the possibilities of what kind of art can be send through the mail? Well… how about KNIT MAIL ART?? I knit my first fiber-art postcard in 2011. It started a short odyssey of knit mail art through which I explored the genre of FLUXUS (an avant-garde, dadaist-inspired mail art form). There are many other artists who incorporate fabric and fiber arts into their mail art, but a whole knit postal piece seemed to be something unique. Here, in this gallery, are some samples of the knit postal pieces that I sent through the postal system domestically and internationally: