Collage

There is a technique to collage and yet, is there?

I collage on a 6″ by 6″ wood birch panel.  I choose from papers that I have on hand.  I had painted mini mandalas on these papers previously.  I cut or tear and paste, randomly arranging scraps of paper on the panel.  The plan is to collage a purple elephant that I painted a few years ago on this background.  The purple elephant is then to be the featured piece around which I build and complete this little work of art.

Against this backdrop of semi-circle suns and cresting mountains, I see a face.  A face that resembles a Maori woman or is she Swahili?  Or neither.  Anyway, that’s what occurs to me.  I bring her forth; the intuitive artist’s task is to follow where one is lead.  At first, she’s only a face floating at the top of the tiny piece, asserting herself.  Looking further, I see it is an entire person–there’s her neck and she’s wearing a dress of varied fabrics.  Earlier, I had done some silver leafing.  Using teal paint, I push the entire figure forward.

I stand back to see what else presents itself.  Is there anything more that wants to be seen and expressed?  I see that half of the elephant is another figure with a wildly striped tiger face wearing a purple garment.  This figure is standing and facing the first woman.  Now I have a decision to make.  Do I scrap my prized elephant and bring the second figure forward?  According to what I’ve experienced in the creative process, it appears that I do have to scrap the elephant to move this piece along.  Bye bye to the purple elephant–another time, another art piece perhaps.

Art can teach the artist about impermanence.  Non-attachment.  That my own desires and designs are secondary to an unfolding and evolving plan.

Ultimately, I forced my own desire and design and decided to keep the elephant.  It’s all been part of my process and this mixed media piece’s evolution.

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For the love of collage–embracing the irregular

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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?

 

Conjecturing

I call this exercise Conjecturing.  Imagination let’s you play with what you’ve accepted as the way it is or was.  Imagination opens doors to other possibilities–what if’s, if only’s and dream on’s.  Fairytales, we discover, can be altered.  Following is my poetic rendition using the fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood.

What if Little Red Riding Hood
wasn’t so little
and the color, red, was a camouflage
in a maroon forest
and the wolf was tamed
or on vacation?

What if Little Red’s mother
drove her to grandma’s house
on some well-traveled highway
and the woodcutter
was a truck driver
in some other state?

What if Little Red
was a lot older and wiser
and understood wolfish ways
and detours?

And, what if grandma
lived with Red and her mom
and no one had to go anywhere
afterall
with a basket of goodies?

What if the world weren’t so dangerous
and the unknown wasn’t dark and scary
only unknown
and talk over tea and cookies
were the universal fare
and war was obsolete.

****

I’ve used the “what if” technique to encourage the imagination to play with and rewrite a story that can be traced back to Europe preceding the 17th century (there are many different versions of Little Red Riding Hood).

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Writing Prompt:
Is there a fairytale that you’d like to recreate? In prose or poetry, employ the what if  technique and see where you can go with it.  Flights of fancy can take you to surprisingly new territory (and out of the woods).  Enjoy the process.

Writing Tip:
Conjecturing with “What if” is a good way to move through a writer’s block.

Note:  All of the art on these blog posts is my own. This piece was inspired by a class I took with Alissa Millsap called Barn Painting.  With general guidelines, I tend to go in my own direction and this painting is where I went.

Poetry + Paint + Collage

Have you ever considered creating a mixed media piece with art and poetry or words?  A local art exhibition was my incentive to give this a try.  I have wanted to integrate poetry with images for some time. I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish this. The poem is called My Mother’s Hands–stemming from a visit to my parents in a care home during their last years.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was such a personal poem, revealing more than I wanted to share with the community that would attend the art exhibit. I got the idea to write the poem on the canvas and then let words and phrases peek through, not the entire poem.  I had some of my mom’s old costume jewelry.  Somehow, I wanted to integrate a few pieces.

I laid down a background by dripping some inks on the canvas. Once the acrylic ink was dry,  I wrote the poem on the canvas with black India Ink.  I gessoed and painted over parts of it in a very random way.  I traced my own hand and placed two pieces of my mother’s costume jewelry on the fingers.  I added my mother’s photo at age 17.  I collaged a few more pieces of paper, dripped more ink, traced out the flowers.  None of this was planned.  It unfolded organically.

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Creative Prompt:
Do you have a poem or some other writing that you’d like to incorporate with collage and/or painting? Do you have a bit of memorabilia that you’d like to include in your art-making?  Are there colors that you are drawn to?  Is there something that you deeply want to express that includes words and then goes beyond words?

If this process interests you, purchase a few bottles of FW Daler-Rowney Acrylic Inks (choose warm or cool colors so you don’t create muddy colors on your substrate) and have a spray bottle filled with water handy.  Watch a few youtube videos on ways to use these inks.  Play with the inks on a 12″x12″ canvas.  Drip one or two drops (a little goes a long way), spray them.  Watch the ink disburse.  Lift and tilt the canvas slightly creating drips if you desire. Once the ink is dry, write your poem or prose using India Ink or some other permanent black ink–you don’t want water soluble. When dry, partially gesso over some of the written words, add bits of collage or memorabilia. Add acrylic paint if you feel called to.  I used Posca Fine Line Markers to add elements of design as a finishing touch. Have that sense of experimenting, following your whims…perfection is put outside the door.  Let this exploration be for your eyes only.