I used to do a lot of collage when I thought I couldn’t draw. In college, seduced a guy by sending him secret- admirer funky letters which I mailed via the post office even though he lived a few streets away from my house.
Years later, I used to make small brochures with faces of crying people and comic bubbles with messages of unrequited love.
And then collage left my radar.
I never paid attention to it as a form of art, it fell mostly in the category of “craft” and I didn’t do it anymore.
Then with my recent experiments in gelli printing and the crazy piles of paper that come out, I wondered what I could do with all those fabulous textured prints. Some can stand on their own, others just have cool textures but since I’m constantly thinking about re-using stuff and hate wasting art supplies, I started to experiment with cutting them up and using them for instant collages. At first, I wanted to make them truly instant: arrange them, snap them, destroy them. But then I’m still stuck with the scraps and waste.
Sometimes if I pay attention, I really feel the world sends me tiny signals. I’ve been so preoccupied with improving, finding a style, improving some more, learning more, etc, that when clues come up I usually ignore them. But not this time. I went to the library and right at the entrance I found a book by Andrea d’Aquino, a very simple and fun book for starting in collage.
Then as I was cutting some shapes, I got a notification from Archibald and Alistair, the café that kindly took my holiday greeting cards to sell. They were having an all-day collage session. Everything was included, magazines, crayons, scissors, glue, etc. I sat at my desk battling inertia. Should I go? What if there are too many people there?
Hey! Resistance, dear friend, no time for you today.
I grabbed my coat and went. It wasn’t crowded and it was the perfect activity for me because even though it would have been nice to meet a fellow creative, I sat at my table and started cutting out things.
What surprised me about collage making.
Drawing and illustrating have been an uphill struggle for many reasons. I think I’m one of those “tortured” artists type who loves to suffer… because even if I love to draw and paint, comparison and other demons continue to plague me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had put too many expectations into my work. I expected it to pay the bills too soon, I expected to find my voice by magic, I expected to be able to draw and paint beautifully and in my rush I overloaded in learning and compulsive drawing. Plus I spent a lot of money on art supplies. I don’t think there is any book that talks about this, about the “dams that open” when you stumble onto creative paths later in life.
I remember the Should and Must essay by Elle Luna, but she didn’t talk about the unexpected mixture of humbling and wanting. You see, to call myself an artist felt pretentious and out of place even when I’ve been creating most of my life. The amount of writing I have, from notebooks, stories, poems, essays etc. is ridiculous. And now the amount of drawings, sketches and paintings I have is also ridiculous and yet since I don’t have a BA in Art or an MFA it still doesn’t feel like a legitimate claim: I am an artist.
However if I look at myself from the outside I see a woman hunched on her desk, or looking far away creating something every minute of every day. But drawing and painting feel like a challenge, one that until I give in to the art I want to make instead of dabbling and proclaiming my eclecticism to justify going from Urban Sketching to lettering to Abstract Art, I will never win.
So what surprised me about collage making was that as I sat down in that café I felt decisive which is very rare.
I grabbed a couple of national geographic magazines and I started cutting out shapes. I piled them instinctively by colour and in ten minutes I had a colour palette (something I have mastered while making clip art sets) then I found one word and cut it, then I found an Iggy Pop photograph and took him. Then I laid it out, like a puzzle, moved my shapes around, added colour accents, rotated and reversed things.
It took me an hour. I picked up my things, cleaned my table and went to say goodbye to Zoe, the owner and took off with my little art piece.
I felt so happy, not only because I didn’t feel obligated to be “good” at it, but because I liked the end result, I simply liked it. I had nothing to compare it to. I hadn’t taken a class with a feeling of urgency and FOMO, I don’t have a Pinterest board with collages, in fact I hadn’t thought of it in so many years.
I wish I could learn how to approach my other art practice the same way, I guess this time it was the combination of spontaneity, how my brain pulled from those classes which I did take in urgency, and the fact that I had already set myself up for success by letting go of resistance. Whatever collage I ended up making would have been good for me.
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