Sometimes the simplicity of a single color line or tone on a beautiful paper stock tells the story. These four cards were my very first set of notecards, which I published in 1992.
While in this era we are accustomed to a world of images saturated with color, these detailed ink drawings have just as much interest as a color image, and a note of friendship or invitation or sympathy arriving in the mail rather than inbox or text can be deeply meaningful.
About the artwork
I began these drawings in the late 80s in response to a request to design some notecards that could be used for professional correspondence by the veterinary hospital I went to then. In those days, before color printing technology became easily affordable, line art printed in one color was the way to go for an inexpensive, versatile notecard. I had always admired cards that were printed on natural paper with a mild texture that resembled watercolor paper, and I knew enough about quoting printed materials then so I talked to a few of the printers I knew and got some prices and sizes. I could “shoot photostats” (who else remembers that term?) of them and set a few lines of type at my day job, “paste it up” and provide them camera-ready to the printer.
I’d been noodling around with various pens and inks and papers and planned two cat and two dog cards, researched images, took some photos and collected photos from friends, and planned out the sketches, then got started. I used my Rapidograph pens I’d used in college along with a few fine point markers I’d found knowing those clear ink lines would reproduce well. I loved experimenting with the “dots” to create tones and shadows and shapes without shading—I’d been so accustomed to drawing in pencil. But I learned well with “I Like Your Spots” and “Pansy”, though my first sketches were on tracing paper because I was so insecure about my ability to stay with the sketch, I had to see it underneath as I worked.
That veterinary notecards project never finalized, but I had the line drawings just waiting for something. I’d started offering my commissioned portraits in 1992 and set up at cat and dog shows, but with only portraits on display I felt a little left out of all the sales. I decided, in addition to my brochure and business cards, I needed a product to sell, and I’d print a set of notecards. I decided to add a few sketches and print them for myself.
In the meantime I’d also been experimenting with drawing on textured papers and illustration board using pencil and colored pencil; I’m so grateful to the people I worked with at the time who had much more experience than I in these materials. The goal in creating “line art” is to have only two tones, black and white, no other colors, but the texture of the boards caught the drawing medium on its raised edges when used with a black or dark drawing medium and could be reproduced as line art.
The sketch above is done in black colored pencil on coquille board. The surface of this board is slightly raised tiny squiggles and dots. If you look closely at the sketch above you’ll see that what makes the gray areas is actually those tiny squiggles and dots of black.
Then I decided to break away from the dots and improve my general ink drawing techniques with all the detail in “Big Game Hunter”.
Designing and printing notecards back in the day…
Today I can print just about any notecards I want at a moment’s notice, but along with all the planning and preparation the printing was also quite expensive, especially the matching envelopes. I decided to choose just four designs out of all those I had at the time and see how they went. Above are those four; a few runners-up are in the post “Sally’s Profile”.
I had 500 of each design printed in 1992 and actually had them reprinted a decade and two decades later. They are printed in black ink on sturdy 80 lb. natural recyclable cotton cover stock with a light felt texture and are blank inside.
When I initially printed these, oval-themed art was really in style. “Pansy” was originally a vertical card and her sketch was surrounded by a thin oval line, as was “I Like Your Spots”. When I reprinted I dispensed with the ovals and made Pansy a horizontal card to fit better with the set. “I Like Your Spots”, however, still looked best in an oval shape because the two cats are hugging so sweetly, so I just removed the line and kept the sketch in an oval shape.
On the back I set up the fonts and style I still use on the backs of my notecards and greeting cards today including the name of the image and its medium and date, with “Portraits of Animals” and my copyright information at the bottom—no website and email address initially! Today I’ve added a brief note about the story of the image but not for these, though I did add in the center of the back text I’d written for my portraits brochure:
Animals are fascinating and beautiful, and I enjoy the challenge of creating their likeness on paper in whatever medium suits the event best. My cats are the reason I am an artist today—they inspired me to share them with others in the best way I could, and I have spent years developing my skills and talent with their likenesses.
As for the dog sketches, I’d always intended to go ahead with a set of dog note cards. I unfortunately sketched them from magazine covers and photos and calendar images, which I at the time wasn’t a copyright violation, but now it clearly is. I can display them, and one of these days I’ll get them all together and do that, but I can never sell products with those images.
Where to find these notecards
Cards are 4-1/2″ x 6-1/4″ with matching envelopes:
- in packs of 12 with the four images, three cards of each, or
- in packs of 12 cards in one design
In the image below you see the color coding system I also began in 1993 when I began selling these the burgundy ribbon indicates a mixed set and the green ribbon indicates a set of all one image. I have each box labeled on the side, but when I’m at a show or even when I’m packing things at home I know right away what’s in the box.
Packs or boxes of different combinations are available on request. They are available in my collection of Feline-themed Sets and Note Cards.Other items with the same art or design To find all items on this site with the same art or design, use the search box for the name of the artwork and you'll find all that's available.
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