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Why Don't You Make Notecards With Your Paintings on Them?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I have been asked this question an estimated 1,072 times over a 38-year career as an illustrator. I guess the proximate answer is that it costs money to do that, and career illustrators don't tend to have a lot of money. Now that I've segued into writing and illustrating my own work, not much has changed. Still no capital to do anything with, though I dream. For years I've watched the marvelous Dutch artist Marjolein Bastin flourish, selling cards featuring European songbirds to the American market. Good for her. She does lovely work. But part of me always wondered why that couldn't be me. Wouldn't Americans prefer cards featuring birds they know? Why have a European blue tit when you could have an eastern bluebird?

So when the well-respected New York stationery company, Galison, approached me last year to ask if they could make notecards with my paintings on them, it didn't take long for me to say Hell Yeah!!

Paint four of my favorite birds (I got to pick!) in seasonal settings for high-quality notecards that you can send through the U.S. Postal Service to surprise someone with a piece of Real Mail?

With the backs decorated with my sketches and botanical studies? 

And four designs, four of each, for a total of 16 cards with 17 pretty envelopes, and all of that in a sturdy keepsake box with magnetic closure?

 Oh yes yes yes! I was on it like Bluebonnet. 

Sketches and mockups flew back and forth (electronically) between Whipple and New York City. Without meaning to, I totally grossed out my contact at Galison with this photo of my desk full of reference material. She said she couldn't look at this picture. Well, I don't make this stuff up. Gotta get it somewhere. Detached wings from roadkills, study skins, real sumac in a vase. Real reference material means accurate paintings. That's how it's done at Indigo Hill Arts, where we take bird painting seriously.

The finished flicker in staghorn sumac. A painting I've always wanted to do, since I've seen this scene in nature several times. Maybe not quite this colorfully, but a flicker in sumac is a fine, fine sight. Perhaps North America's most ornate bird, and one I love very much. 

Though cardinals were suggested, I decided the winter image had to be cedar waxwings in mountain ash. Cardinals have been done, and done, and done. I've raised three waxwing babies and I love their rollicking sense of fun. The best part, after painting those tiny red tips on the flight feathers? Taking a toothbrush, dipping it in Chinese white, and flicking it all over the finished painting. Snow!

 Spring would feature one of my favorite warblers, the Canada. See, I got to pick!  I'd put him, fanning his tail, about to launch after an insect, in blooming mountain laurel, because that's where I love them best. What a gas to paint the spectacles and necklace on this magnificent little bird, then top it all off with the candy cake decorations of mountain laurel buds and blossoms.

And Galison wanted the cover painting from The Bluebird Effect for the summer piece. Fine with me! Male eastern bluebird with chicory, a little yellow vetch and wild rose--doesn't get a lot summerier than that. Right about now, in fact.

The bluebird would go on the cover of the keepsake box. It's a really nice heavy box, and the magnetic lid closes with a satisfying car-door thunk.

Throughout, my handwriting and sketches. I even wrote the copy on the back of the cards. It all feels very personal, like pages torn from one of my sketchbooks. I loved the whole experience of being involved in creating these cards. Thank you, Juanita! Thank you, Galison! Thank you, Russell Galen, for your help in negotiations!

So. You want 'em yet? I got 'em! Thanks to my fabulous Web Witch, KK, I've got a little purple card-ordering button on the right sidebar of this blog, and on

 or you can just

click here

to find out more and order

 I'll wrap 'em up and get them to you via the U.S. Postal Service! 

If these do well, I'd love to do more. More birds, then flowers, insects, mammals, reptiles...the sky's the limit.


Oh happy day!! I will be ordering some soon.

Posted by Grace Newton July 13, 2014 at 4:14 AM

These are so lovely! You know what should be next? Art of Mr Chet Baker. Really. Do you ever draw him?

Posted by Emily S July 13, 2014 at 4:28 AM

Julie, These are lovely.

Now we just have to wait until you get your calendar offer! :) Love the notecards...they are beautiful.

Beautiful! I want them, would love to use them but I will also have to keep a set for myself. I think Rachel's idea for a calendar is terrific!!! MB's painting are nice, but JZ definitely gets my vote! Our birds, yes!

Lovely!!!! I love the photo of your work space with the reference material!!!! So that's how it's done - makes sense. But what really cracked me up was the brochure from the Spam Museum on the right side of the photo!!

Posted by Barb Reuter July 13, 2014 at 5:17 AM

Count me in!! I love having pretty note cards to send the occasional greeting and Thank You for friends and family. My order has already been sent. Hopefully this will be very successful, and you will be doing more in the future.

This is wonderful, I just ordered a set. Like Emily S., my second thought (after "I MUST have these") was, "how about some Chet Baker cards?"

Another occasion to quote Chuck Berry:

"yes, yes, oh what a thrill."

Perfect, for real!! Mazel tov and click to order,baby. xxoom.

Posted by Anonymous July 13, 2014 at 6:50 AM

Beatuiful you inspire me to pickup my paint brush! (and walk my dog more,lol)

Must. Have. (Just ordered!!)

I'm so excited for you! And for ME. Will be ordering some soon. :-)

Next....a calendar!!!! TWELVE glorious painted lovelies!!! And maybe a paintingbomb (?!?) of dear Chet Baker!
THANK YOU for sharing yourself with us!!

FANTASTIC!! I second what Joy said about CALENDAR!

Tickled pink at the prospect of putting a stamp on one of your envelopes and sharing your beautiful artwork with family and friends when I write to them.

Hopefully there will be a calendar and Christmas cards in the future. I can only dream about one of your lovely paintings on a Christmas card-real life birds in a winter scene.

You've been keeping this project "up your sleeve" to spring upon us on a summer day, right? So happy for it's success.

BTW-I'm in love with your Flicker.

Ordered a set, can't wait to get them! Wonderful idea!

hope to see secular holiday/New Year's cards-and glad to see species other than cardinals!

Posted by Anonymous July 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Ordered mine yesterday!
My Mom will love these.

just beautiful! I particularly like the flicker, one of my favorite birds. Where do you get your reference skins? Road kill like the wing? That's pretty amazing. I'm not grossed ou, I just find it fascinating that you're able to find all those things. How about the other references? I rely on photos I take.

YES! I am putting these on my wish list!

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