The Commuter Challenge

1 January 2011

The January 2011 Challenge

by CC @ 00:01

Create an original piece of 2-dimensional art and use it as a postcard. It can be no larger than 6 inches long by 4¼ inches high by .016 inch thick. At least one side must have an original handmade artwork (painting, illustration, collage, etc), and the other side must have a legible address, a message to the recipient, and a 28-cent US stamp (or combination of stamps adding up to 28 cents). Scan your creation for submission to the Commuter Challenge, and then you must actually mail the postcard. If appropriate, in the interest of privacy concerns, you may address the postcard after scanning it, or obscure the address on the scan prior to submission (probably a good idea if it’s the address of a friend or family member, but not necessary if the address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). As a further constraint, since February 3, 2011 is the start of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac calendar, the submission must somehow include, incorporate, or make reference to a rabbit.

Please note: avoid any three-dimensional elements (origami folds, loose collage edges, wax seal with signet ring impression), as they would most likely get stripped off when the postcard goes through the post office mail processing machinery.

The Results

Eric Waldow

Ryan Finholm

Brian Raiter


  1. Good to get a submission from Eric again. I think Brian’s drawing is lovely, and I hope he’ll type up some comments about his submission – I’m curious about the materials (is that pen and pencil? or graphite crayon?) and the poem format. Starting out ABAAB and ending with GHGHH works well, but I wonder if he did that on his own or used another poem/form as a model.

    As usual, mine is a joke, and I sent it to Sheri because I think she’ll get it and appreciate it. And also because she is the most garden-minded person among my friends. It’s watercolor on the front and fountain pen on the back. And since the watercolors I use can remain sticky forever, I sprayed it down with some spray matte finish (resin, toluene and acetone) before dropping it in the mail. So to Sheri: Don’t huff the rabbit.

    by RyanF — 31 January 2011 @ 22:12

  2. My postcard was done entirely with pen. Three different types of ball-point pens, to be exact. In fact, I think they were basically the same pens used to make my Edward-Gorey-style illustration.

    The post office was only a few doors down from the print shop, so as soon as I had scanned my postcard, I addressed it, walked down and dropped it in the mailbox. Then I got home and noticed that my scan of the back side had cut off the top. Oh well.

    I found this to be a hard challenge. All of the ideas I had during the month were vague and didn’t really go anywhere. At one point I had decided to draw the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, running for the rabbit hole. But I seriously doubted my ability to draw a decent rabbit in a waistcoat, much less a pursuing Alice. So I finally wound up going with something textured and austere. (A lot like all my other illustrations for the Commuter Challenge, come to think of it.)

    I don’t have a lot to say about the poem, which was composed in record time. In answer to Ryan’s question: The form is wholly mine. The rhyme-scheme shift at the end was actually a mistake at first. Once I realized my error I saw how it drew attention to the last two lines, and decided to keep it.

    One nice thing about this challenge is that it allowed me to use up the last of my 39¢ stamps. I can’t even remember how long ago I bought those.

    As for Ryan’s postcard, I notice that he once again refrained from signing it, or otherwise identifying himself as the sender. A few years ago Ryan sent handmade postcards to a couple of my friends without a signature. Though we deduced that they were probably from him, we were misled by their enigmatic anonymity into thinking that the postcards contained a secret message, or some sort of hidden clue that would explicitly identify him. At one point I decided that a third postcard would be delivered to me which would supply the key information we would need to properly understand them all — but no such card ever came. It was only months later that we discovered that the postcards were just that, and nothing obscure was ever intended by them.

    by Brian — 1 February 2011 @ 06:10

  3. The inspiration for this Commuter Challenge (and for that earlier time that I’d done something similar), was an anecdote that I had heard about Edward Gorey mailing out handmade, one-of-a-kind postcards with original illustrations to friends. I can’t remember where I’d heard that, and I can’t find anything about it on the web, so now I suspect that the anecdote was fictional, but I thought it was a neat idea: to take a piece of original art and mail it off as such a distinctively low-rent medium. And of course people tend to keep their original artwork for posterity and/or as a part of their portfolio, so to just drop it into a mailbox seems unnatural.

    For most of the month I assumed that I was going to submit something very Goreyesque as an homage to that anecdote, but then I had the idea for the poo joke and couldn’t pass it up.

    by RyanF — 1 February 2011 @ 15:08

  4. I was telling Brian the other night that I thought mine would be something that only I would come up with. I should have put a border around the front image; didn’t realize the white would just blend in with the page. And it seemed a bit of a copout to just use a photograph. I seem to remember the rebuses of my youth being black-on-white drawings, almost cartoonish, for people and objects. I’m working with primitive tools here. Wouldn’t have been able to scan it, and who knows if I can even draw a rabbi.

    Interesting that you both wrote poems. Perhaps my muse is too focused on parody, but the only thing I could think to write would have been to take a typical, generic, vacation postcard and find some new spin on it. Like a picture of the earth on the front and “our room marked with an ‘X'” in the text.

    I’ll try to come up with a nonsense poem and set a new personal record for consecutive months of contributing to the challenge.

    by Eric Waldow — 1 February 2011 @ 16:16

  5. I thought about trying to add a parody of “having great time, wish you were here” to the bottom of the card, but the poem I wound up composing ran too long, so there was no room.

    by Brian — 1 February 2011 @ 16:36

  6. Just for the record (and because the people that I asked about it didn’t notice until I pointed it out), in my submission I hid something in the last line of the poem: though it is meant to look like stray marks, or dust, or sloppiness, or maybe a flaw in the scanning of the image, there is a small mark after the word “rabbits”, and a small white dot inside the period at the end of that line. So you can read it as you probably did with your first impression, “Follow your heart, and shape your dreams in little spheres, like rabbits do.”, or it can also be read as, “Follow your heart, and shape your dreams in little spheres, like rabbits’ doo”. Yep, there’s the high point in my literary career.

    by RyanF — 2 May 2011 @ 13:16