After I wrote about mess and looked at the art supplies taking over the dining room table, I cleaned up. I sorted out, put away, neatened up. Started over. It looked much better, more organized.
It occurred to me that I had no real structure for my collage projects, no goal beyond just sitting with the materials and doing stuff. So I took out a book that I’d picked up somewhere ages ago, The Collage Workbook by Randel Plowman. He even has a class you can take to make a collage a day.
The pictures in the book are cool, and there are great tips about useful materials and supplies for collaging. Some of them I actually purchased when I first bought the book, and I am glad that I have them.
Then I decided that I was going to try some of the suggested projects/ideas. I read a few. No inspiration whatsoever.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great book. I love the ideas (or at least the idea of the ideas), and the collages look interesting. But it just didn’t do anything for me. For example, the idea of “going monochromatic” – maybe taking one color to focus on for a collage – sounded good, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.
My approach, my process, is random and chaotic. I randomly choose a few different items – papers, cut-out photos, books I’m planning to cut up cause they’re old, or photocopy if I’m not ready to cut them up. I look at them. I randomly choose a format – bigger or smaller, square or rectangle, this book or that piece of cardboard. Then I just start coloring the background with paint or crayon, or maybe I start gluing first. Sometimes I change the format if I can tell that I’ll need more space, or if I want a surface that’s more horizontal than vertical. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. I couldn’t explain why I made my choices if you asked me.
I’ll show you my process through a few of the things I made this week:
First I just scribbled with a pastel crayon and then glued on pieces of brownish craft paper that reminded me of rocks. Then I glued on a cut-out piece of photograph of a lady from ca. 1915. My web designer friend Margaret Bossen gave me a bunch of old photos that I’ve used in some collages. It’s mounted on cardboard so it sticks out from the paper quite a bit.
I wanted something to grow out of the rocks, so I cut the curvy strips from the brown craft paper. I liked when it overlapped and grew up over the photo, so I did that a couple more times. Then I cut larger wavy strips from the purple patterned paper to have that grow also, from the “ground,” and added the flowery looking blobs that I cut out from different paper.
I cut the sky out of a desert photo from an old world atlas and used that for the top of the frame.
At this point my boyfriend Jacques came over and said that it looked like the lady was in a bubble under the water. It did! That inspired me further. I thought of calling it “Titanic,” though perhaps “Lusitania” would be less cliche. The time period of the clothing looked about right. Then I added blue and greenish paint to tie it all together.
Another day I made a piece that used mostly pictures from a women’s art calendar book that my poet friend Suzette Bishop gave me back in 2009, but I couldn’t bear to throw away because it had so many great pictures in it. I felt ready to cut it up. I also used photocopied Hiroshige prints and a piece of origami paper, along with paint.
Here’s an early stage. I’m not sure what made me cut out the parts of the paintings/prints that I did, except that I liked the way they looked.
For some reason I started on the left side, then the right side, leaving the middle blank. Probably not the way you’re supposed to do collage (or lay floor tiles).
This is one where I kept cutting so many pictures that I knew I needed a slightly bigger surface to work with.
I’m not making order out of chaos, or even chaos out of order. I’m making chaos out of chaos. Different chaos, anyway. Maybe that’s all art is?
But a cool thing came out of my collages this week. My friend Laurie Etchen, who is a great designer as well as singer/keyboard player in many of my bands, decided to use one of my collages as background for an event poster! This was the original art:
She manipulated it digitally to create great art for our upcoming Santana tribute gig (I’m playing extra percussion for it). She did two versions, one using mostly the original orange, and another using blue hues:
It made me feel great, knowing someone liked my work enough to incorporate it into a design of her own! It does feel good when others also find something interesting, intriguing or even beautiful in what I’m doing.
However, ultimately, I’m not creating any of this art for a purpose beyond my own satisfaction. When I make something I really like, I find myself staring at it a lot. Is that weird?
And by the way, the dining room table is a mess again.