One afternoon in the early 90’s while waiting at the veterinarian, my mother gave my brother and I a set of scented Mr. Sketch markers. We didn’t have anything to draw on so she handed us each a couple of her business cards. We colored all over them, and ended up playing with them like they were little action figures.
When we got home that day our mother provided us a with a sleeve of her old business cards from Kaiser Permanente, and our dad did the same with some of his cards from First Data Bank.
From that point on it didn’t matter if we were at the veterinarian, an antique shop, or in the car going somewhere with our parents. My brother and I would entertain ourselves by coloring on business cards.
Even when we weren’t running errands with our mother, we would draw on them in our spare time (clearly we had lots of friends).
We would spend hours intricately coloring business cards. Each one of them had a name, a personality, and in some way was inspired by someone or something we had encountered.
I would spend hours or days coloring entire armies of business cards. I would then have them battle, send them on missions around the house, tear them apart, toss them in the sink, flush them down the toilet, poke holes in them with pins and conduct epic battles.
Boy things / little sociopath things.
After the battles I would play medic and repair them with tape, thread, glue, and little bits and pieces from around the house. I must have, over the course of several years colored and destroyed thousands of cards. They were somewhat of a substitute for GI Joes.
To me, the cards were more than pieces of paper that I colored on, they were people, places, and things that I had an emotional investment in. I would spend hours coloring something only to possibly have it destroyed in a battle…
This went on for a couple of years.
Then, one day the box that my brother and I used to store our most prized business cards disappeared. To the best of our knowledge our mother had thrown it out while cleaning one afternoon. There were probably about 80 or 90 cards that my brother and I had painstakingly colored, and they were the cards we valued highest among all of the others.
I was pretty heartbroken about it. It was like seeing all of your work as an artist go up in flames, or at least that’s what it felt like at the time. Hours, days, if not weeks of my time is probably decomposing in a landfill on the Kansas / Missouri border.
I look at the cards I drew back then, or at least the ones that I still have, and they are pretty awful haha, but regardless it was enough to discourage me from coloring on business cards for more than a decade.
After all of this I stumbled upon a box of my old business cards while back cleaning my room back from college one afternoon.
Memories of all of the things I used to do with the cards came flooding back. It was a huge rush of my childhood flowing back into me. I just had to break out some markers and start coloring.
Many of the cards that I colored that week are the ones that you are seeing in this piece.
It took a little bit of effort for me to regain the divergent free flowing thinking that allowed me to literally look at something and just draw.
These cards are a million different people place and things to me. They are a children’s book my mother used to read to my brother and I, the flux capacitor from the movie Back to the Future, a Winston Churchill quote, a piece of clothe I thought looked cool, adipose cells under a microscope, the rings of Saturn, and a million different things.
When drawing on one recently one of my friends asked me why I didn’t get a canvas and do them on a larger scale. “They might look better, and someone would probably actually buy it!”
The only answer I really had is that I’ve always drawn them on the backs of business cards, and I didn’t really want to do them on a larger canvas. For me drawing on business cards is a form of “micro-expressionism”. Little tiny chunks of creativity that I don’t have to invest weeks or months to create; maybe only a couple of hours MAX.
I did think it would be cool to put them into a piece of collective art though, so I put them into the piece you see above!