Generally, Halloween is the only holiday I do anything for or look forward to. But last week I got a note home from Ezra’s daycare about making sure to give valentines to everyone in the class. My first thought was “do we have to give ANY?” But then I felt like it was an opportunity to turn Valentine’s Day into an art project. The thought of making art for everyone in the class (and please keep in mind Ezra is in the infant class, his oldest classmate is 18 months old) was super appealing.
So I hand-made 17 valentines.
In making these valentines I realized the art projects that feel the best for me are ones in which I make a lot of small art and then give it to others. I have spent a lot of time realizing and embracing that I love to be busy and when I task myself with making lots of small pieces of art its the best of both “doing” and “being.” I’m actively creating and there’s always a lot to do because I’m trying to go for quantity (while still honoring my idea of quality). One of the products of this style of production is that It’s extremely calming since I’m focusing on the art, being still, not easily distracted, contemplating, and meditating on my art. It’s easy for me to disappear into the art and I always feel revived when I emerge again.
About two years ago I spent an entire spring and summer making small pieces of art and mailing them out to randomly selected addresses around my city (operation stranger). I also spent a lot of time walking around neighborhoods to leave art in mailboxes of people who lived in my neighborhood (operation neighbor). The umbrella term for these projects was Birth of the Audience. It was a way to bypass the gallery system and create community access to the arts. I created and then released it.
For this valentine’s day project, I cut hearts out of construction paper and hand-wrote every single one with giant block letters:
To: (teacher or child’s name)
Then I created heart-inspired art on the other side
I used color pencils and then printed hearts on top of the drawing. Usually when I make art in bulk I color in the drawings with markers but since I used the front and back of construction paper, markers would have bled through the paper. My hands and forearms were exhausted by the end of 17 valentines. I had to do a large number each day since I had such little time until Valentine’s Day, and by the end of each batch my hands were sore and tired. This made me feel like I was really doing some work!
The final piece was putting paint on Ezra’s foot to give each valentine a stamp. Some turned out better than others. Meanwhile I was explaining to him that we’re collaborating and painting together to make art for other people as a gift.
Next time I do something like this, I will paint batches of paper and then cut them out after they dry.
And I will make them smaller!
I didn’t realize until the completion of this project just how much I like creating in bulk and then giving to others. I had been regarding my Birth of the Audience project as a stand-alone activity. However, I seem to keep gravitating towards this type of thing. In the fall I wrote notes of affirmation to keep in my purse and leave wherever I went and now I have taken a similar approach to Valentine making.
I have discovered a really exciting piece of my artistic puzzle. I hadn’t realized this about myself until now. This new information gives me a direction and it gives me a way to re-interpret old projects and a way to deepen and personalize future ideas.