When I said I was old school, I meant it. Back in the day, there was no Tinder. There was no Facebook. There was no social media at all, in fact.
If you wanted to meet people and get to know them better, you could do it in person — by going to places or events that like-minded people would be interested in. Favorites for many at the time were bars (bars always made me uncomfortable, so that was out), meet markets (ditto), churches (I was never successful at this), organized social events (I was never good with big crowds). For me, I liked bicycling, reading, hiking, doing art, listening to music, etc. Pretty much everything solitary, I was into. So I pretty much struck out there.
You could also do an abbreviated version of the same thing over the phone; however, keep in mind that there were no cell phones at the time — let alone smartphones — so you and the intended recipient had to both actually be at home to make a successful call. Also phones were wired… as in landlines. And only businesses had speakerphones, so at home you had big, bulky Bell telephones that were overbuilt to last a lifetime of falls, bumps, and crashes. And using one of those heavy phones would really make your ear begin to ache after 45-minutes to an hour. And you couldn’t just call someone a few miles away without it being a long distance connection with exorbitant fees. Not having any money at the time, my phone service was just the bare-necessities-basic-level… no long distance service at all, and just enough to suffice for emergencies. Strike two.
But there was the US Postal Service, which — for the price of a $0.25 cent stamp — you could load up a 1-ounce envelope with all the dreams, hopes, joys, and interests that anyone could ask for. And that’s what I did. I wrote to people. Family. Friends. Strangers I just met. Businesses, too, but they didn’t get the fancy stuff.
No, the fancy stuff went only to the people I was really interested in. And by fancy stuff, I mean the top-shelf letter writing materials of the time — fountain pen and ink (I was actually using drafting pens and ink, but don’t tell anyone); deckle-edged cards with a high-end writing insert that I added myself; and lastly… a watercolor painting on heavy stock (usually 140 lb hot press watercolor paper), that I trimmed to size and glued to the front of the card. When one of these letters was completed, it had actual weight… a presence in your hand. Impact.
And I made many hundreds — possibly thousands — of these over the years. They started out as paintings for about 8-years, then later switched over to my own photographs as I ran out of available spare time in which to paint. Friends and family still show me the art cards they received from me, years — even decades — later.
So yeah, creating small watercolor paintings and sending them to people in an art letter was my thing.
It even helped me win over my spouse.
The image at the top of this post was the first watercolor painting that I ever sent to Cindy, at the beginning of our courtship in 1989.
To share it with you, I had to go to our safe deposit box and take a photo of it… that’s how much she treasures it.