For the love of collage–embracing the irregular

Semi-Wild Collage by Christine O’Brien 2018

What is it to me?  Laying down bits and pieces of scrap paper and then, being open to what emerges from chaos. In the initial stages of collaging, there is little direction.  I might have a theme in mind…or not.  I might choose a color scheme…or not.  I might lay down only words–upside down, right side up, sideways, any which way…or not.  Patterns?  Drama?  Comedy?  What wants to be conveyed?  Show me as I go.

I started with my painted purple elephant.  I printed her out in three different sizes realizing that I had a 6×6-inch birchwood panel to work with.  It was like the Goldilocks’ story…the first elephant was too big, the second one too small…the third elephant was “just right.”

I had a stack of mandalas that I’d drawn and painted a few years ago.  Sorting through, I gravitated towards patterns with stripes and dots, some words, shades of purple and magenta.  After placing and gluing the torn papers down, I collaged on the elephant.  I noticed the woman’s face in the far left corner.  Her face needed a neck and then she developed into the figure. I applied acrylic paint to bring some elements of the piece forward.  At some point, I knew I it needed silver leafing. In other words, I was in conversation with the piece as it evolved.

While collage can be an odd assemblage there is a point at which I desire to bring order to chaos.  And, I want to retain the wildness, the freedom I had in creating it.  Yet, I also like something recognizable.

One thing about collaging, you learn to be comfortable with stages…there is the drying time to consider between applications.  This allows you time to step back and see what wants to be seen.  Sometimes a new direction presents.  Do you follow it or stay  with your original intention for the piece?  Do you flow in another direction or exert  your own influence?  It’s always different and without a real formula other than trusting your instincts.

Finally, I appreciate finding the integrative component…whether it is color, design or pattern–whatever it is that brings cohesiveness and completion.

Consider This:
To make art, you don’t have to have the most expensive materials.  You really only have to make yourself available to it.  The muse is there, waiting for you to SHOW UP!  Have you been saving scraps of paper?  Is it time to do something with them?


“Um…do we need paddles?”

Where on earth did these three cuties come from?  I set out to practice painting a small grouping of women, meditative and emanating peace.  My painting took a turn which I was compelled to follow.

Was it because life had become too serious once again, dragging me along in the wake of  too many challenges at once?  On a bit of overwhelm, perhaps?  I needed something whimsical, fun and colorful.  There is definitely a story here. Fellow artists offered captions for this trio.

Writing Prompt:
What caption would you give this little painting?  What is your first response?  Or, what’s the story behind this scenario?  Write it.  For the fun of it.

Share your caption under comments if you like.

Note:  Don’t writers see the story in everything…the story behind what is on the surface?

The Poet Responds to Herself/Himself

When I write a poem, it often stands alone.  However, there are times that it becomes a poem that sparks another poem and another and another.  A trilogy or quadrilogy or pentalogy or even a hexalogy of poems.  Don’t you love those words?  Who dreamed them?

When I wrote the first poem, To the God of Sunlight, it became just that for me.  Actually, it grew into a hexalogy of poems, that is six interconnected poems.

These poems toppled out, one after the other.

Here is the second poem:

The Eleventh Hour
© by Christine O’Brien

Not to say we shouldn’t desire more
of that which feeds the hungering soul.
For such yearning, it seems, opens the door
as we stare out upon a distant knoll.

Comfortable complacency is fine.
We all need pauses in our quest for more.
Grateful for the banquet upon which we dine,
fingers laced, beside the fireplace, shut the door.

But when the bell tolls the eleventh hour,
mustn’t we from our sedentary rise
step into our uncomfortable power
–this before our comforts become a vise?

The hungering soul feasts on freedom.
Quick! They are capturing the kingdom.


Writing Prompt:
Have you had this experience–a poem that arrives in segments?  Give yourself a poetic few hours writing about something for which you have passion and see where you go.

The Enchantment of New Inspiration

In an earlier blog, “keep a door or window open,” I encouraged the artist to stay open so that more inspiration enters.  However, there is such a thing as Inspirational Overload.


This is dangerous territory for me.  I am a great creative idea generator.  There are people who get paid for being “Ideas Men/Women.”  Innovators!  That is their job title.  They do not have to bring the idea to fruition…they just have to keep coming up with new and viable ideas.  Then, a team of creatives runs with the idea, developing it into a product.

When I get a new idea, I want to run with it, abandoning all of the other great ideas that are in various stages of development.  This is troublesome for me because, then, I don’t bring an earlier idea in process to completion. I surround myself with puddles of incompletion. Recognizing that I’m only one person with a limited amount of time and energy, I tap into my own frustration and immobility.

In such times,  I have learned to choose ONE THING that won’t take more than a few days to complete.  I follow it from start to finish while quieting the niggling voices that tug at me from every side.  I play my favorite music and get busy doing that one thing.  Whenever I am tempted to leave it in a state of partiality, I don’t walk away.  I stay with it.  I see it through to the end…completing the tiny details of it whether it is a piece of writing, a painting or a fabric creation.  I get it to that state where I can say with absolute finality.  THIS IS DONE!

Hooray!  I’ve completed something.  I’ve moved the paralyzing energy of inspirational overload.  I’ve created a piece!  It’s important to take time to bask in that feeling for a little while.  (Isn’t bask a great word?)

I’ve proven to myself that I have the focus and follow-through to bring something to completion.  In bringing a project to completion, there is fulfillment of the promise that was sparked with the original idea.  Now, I feel ready to go forward with whatever is next having renewed faith in my capability to complete something.

Creative Prompt:
Have you had this experience of the enchantment of new inspiration?  What is your method of dealing with this?  Do you have too many unfinished projects?  Try working on and completing one small thing.  What is your feeling afterwards?

Please feel free to share your own thoughts under the comments.

Note:  Why not gather a few friends and give yourself a party to show off your creation…toast yourself with apple cider, champagne or your beverage of choice!


…keep a door or window open

I believe we are all flooded with creative ideas, many of which we  ignore.  If you want the ideas to continue coming, “keep a door or window open.”  Show appreciation by writing them down and following through on at least a few of them.  Sometimes, it’s an idea whose time has come…if you don’t express it, someone else is going to.  Other times, it’s part of your own growth and the ideas flow in to support your personal process.

Don’t ignore them.

As you make the commitment to pursue your creative interests and gifts,  you are initiating a flow of energy in support of this pledge.

For example, if you practice drawing and painting birds, new ideas on how to draw and paint birds are going to come to mind.  The mind is relational…it is always looking to connect the dots of our thoughts.  And to instigate something unique to you.

Realizing this, why not then employ the mind?  Why not send it in the direction of your inspiration?  If painting birds isn’t your thing, then what is?

In case you haven’t noticed, for me it’s drawing and painting faces.  I often have an idea in mind that I can’t wait to try out.  Whether the idea succeeds or doesn’t is irrelevant.  There are no failures. I am acquiring knowledge based in practice and exploration.

The universe is going to regale you with more than enough creative ideas.  Showing your dedication to the process puts you in that inspirational flow.  There is going to be more and more.  This is the key to abundant creativity–to be open, curious, then write, paint or make it–this leads to endless discovery and renewed inspiration.

Creative Prompt:
Don’t take my word for it.  Try it yourself. What are you committed to conquering in your art, poetry or other creative pursuit?





Valentine’s Day


© by Christine O’Brien

The heart wants to love,
that capacious muscle
to open outwards
in trusting embrace
to loosen its tight grip on pain
to soften.

The heart wants to love
free of constraints
of fear, past hurts, rules–
to break apart
releasing butterflies
like an open air arboretum
fragrances floating lightly
on sweet spring’s breath
turning one around
towards love.


Do you have a love poem?  If not, find one or write one.
Share a love poem with someone this week.


“Creativity is not Comfortable”

Awhile ago, I jotted down this quote from Billy Wilder,  “an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist….”  He is long gone from this earth plane…however, as you know, quotes live on.

Creative beings who’ve been practicing their art, know this quote–“Creativity is not comfortable”–in a deeply experiential way.  They understand the edges, precipices, walls; the angst, internal subterfuge and the pushing through.  They understand the daring and the doing despite doubts, fears and/or internal or external pressure to halt!

Why is creating so uncomfortable?  I think it is partly because when you are fully in the creative process, you, yourself go through changes as you create.

TRANSFORMATION could be a synonym for creativity.

Webster’s Dictionary, in defining transformation says “…to change a thing into a different thing.  Transform implies a major change in form, nature, or function…”


On the canvas, I resist because things are going to be disrupted and perhaps even “ugly” for awhile.  If I am attached to what is on the canvas, it’s going to be hard to let it go.  When I’m backed into a creative corner, I have to make a move that can feel forced upon me in some way.  There is a risk as I leave my comfort zone and engage the unknown. This whole process brings to my awareness the stuck places inside of me, the resistance and lack of daring.  It’s complex, right?

Ultimately, I love my creations, whether poetry, prose, painting or crafting.  And I often surprise myself with what comes.

Writing Prompt:
Do you prefer your “comfort zone” when it comes to writing or making art?  Or do you enjoy the adventure beyond comfort?  When you venture past the borders of the familiar, do you experience doubt as to whether or not you can create something that is “successful”?  Is that a fair requirement of yourself as you are in this process?  And, do you care about what others are going to think?  Do you make that more important than staying true to your artist’s journey?

Write your answers to these questions in your writer’s journal.  Be truthful with yourself.