Saturday, February 26, 2011

Collage As Autobiography

Little Jo Joins The Band

Little Jo's Future Told Through Collage
Sometimes an irresistible notion comes along and all one can do is run with it.  That's what happened with me this morning. I was minding my business, drinking a fine cup of coffee when I thought, "I can use Little Jo to tell my life story for family and friends". I'll use Little Jo images to look into the future through photographs and collage. And I'll write a short story about that time to go along with each collage.

Oh brother. I can tell right now that this is going to be work.... fun, but work. I'm not promising a story a day; maybe not even one a week. But when the story comes to mind I'll go with it.

Memoir Writing
Many years ago an elderly friend (she was probably the age I am now so she couldn't have been as ancient as I thought at the time) took a class at her community collage on memoir writing and she kept writing for many years and published her memoirs for family and a few friends. That was before the ease of self-publishing through online companies which may be what I'll eventually do.  I don't expect to turn this project into something as big as Jacqueline's but whatever I do will be treasured by my family.

I'm already doing something similar. When my oldest granddaughter was 7 I started a journal for her, telling about my own life at her age. I have all my old report cards which are included as are little stories and photographs. Sometimes I don't remember anything personal so I write about generalities of living in our small town and about what was going on in the outside world. I was about 7 when my mother and the friend we were visiting heard of the end of WWII on the radio. I remember the excitement of knowing that war had come to an end, and I remember troop trains carrying men and machines as they came through town, heading for war.

So that's the kind of thing that goes in Amy's book as I add more stories every year on her birthday. This year I'll write about me at age 13; that would be this story about Little Jo, the majorette.

Little Jo Leads the Parade
I've always loved music and through the years I took hundreds of lessons... piano, voice, dance, band, choir, though I was too undisciplined to ever do my best. When I was in 6th grade I joined the band and started with the trombone. That instrument lasted only a year until I switched to clarinet, but my main love was marching in the school band. The director asked me to try out for majorette in 7th grade which was fine with me because I could then be in the band without bothering with an instrument until late fall when marching season was over and concert band began. We performed at every game and marched in every parade. What fun!  Then when I was in 11th grade I became the drum majorette and led the parade for the next 2 years. I still like to lead the parade.

So what about you?  Are you writing your story, or painting it, or making collages about your life, or keeping scrapbooks and photo albums? The time is now!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Jo in Her New Blue Dress

She never did look good in prints and this is no exception. But BJ suggested that Little Jo needed a blue flowered dress and this is all we could find in the store.
And regarding the composition of the collage...the roof is tilted about 20 degrees too much, even considering artistic license but once I realized it was wrong the glue had dried. Oh well, it's just an exercise.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sketchbook Project Exhibition

I have questions about the exhibition of the Sketchbook Project, such as why is it on display for such a short time in most places? There's plenty of time in between some of the venues so why not send it to other cities around the country? Is it because no one has stepped up to the plate and volunteered to find a venue elsewhere? Are the expenses of mounting an exhibit too high for a gallery to assume for a show that’s set up for only a few days and won’t make them any money? Is it simply that the overwhelming numbers of participants put a heavier load on the Museum’s staff than they can bear?

Most art galleries plan their shows 1 to 3 years in advance with only a few days in between for take-down and hanging. And most art galleries are profit-generating businesses and would gain little from hosting a show of sketchbooks, no matter how interesting it might be to the public.

10,00 Returned
 Marge says 10,000 filled sketchbooks were returned. That's a good percentage for a project like this. There are good reasons why 18,000 were not returned. I suspect some of the participants never got started. Some filled a book and couldn’t bear to give it away. Maybe some thought their work wasn’t good enough to show.

Journals and Sketchbooks
Years ago I visited a local gallery show of artists sketchbooks and journals, probably the most interesting art show I’ve ever attended. There were hundreds of books in one small room, all available to handle and read. The books were of all kinds and sizes and with different focuses, some handmade, some purchased, and each one wonderful in it’s own way. I joined lots of other people sitting on the floor, wearing a pair of white gloves, and devouring one book after another. I learned a lot about what an artist’s book can be and that the sky’s the limit.

Keeping a Studio Record Book
 Some of my studio books on top of single pages 
For an artist, keeping a record book of some kind is almost a necessity. It can be a book of sketches from a life drawing class, a book that houses records of completed artwork, a studio workbook with a mixture of drawings, palette color swatches, written ideas, mind maps, lists, gallery cards of others’ works, workshop notes, lesson plans, diary entries of a personal nature, or the results of a daily drawing practice… whatever the artist needs it to be.
I’ve kept studio books for many years but rarely did I completely fill one. Hmmm. Perhaps this is a worthwhile subject for another day if you’re interested. Tell me what you want to know and I'll write about it if I have any help to offer you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sketchbook Project

Marge sent me this photo of herself at the Brooklyn Art Library holding the sketchbook which I submitted to the Sketchbook Project. Just look at all those sketchbooks on the shelves behind her. How amazing is that! 28,839 people participated in the project though I don't know how many completed books they actually received.

If you click on the link to the Sketchbook Project you can read more about it.

I enjoyed the challenge of making art on a particular subject in the sketchbook but I don't think I'll do it again. Spending hours and hours doing work that I'm proud of and then giving it away to strangers was a little bit of a struggle, knowing I'll never to see it again unless I get up to Seattle when the books will be on display there from June 10 - 12 at Space/Form Gallery at 2407 1st Avenue, Seattle. But thanks to thousands of participants just like me the exhibit will be a feast for the eyes, an art exhibit like no other.

Other venues:
San Francisco, CA: June 18
Austin, Texas: March 12
Winter Park, Florida:  July 29-31
Atlanta, GA: April 8-9
Chicago, Ill:  July 14-17
Washington DC:  April 11-30
New York City: Feb. 19-27
Portland, Maine:  March 30 - April 1 You can get more information at the Art House website.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Learning from the LadyBird

Little Jo

For years I've read Brian Andreas books and StoryPeople Stories of the Day online, and his quirky stories and comments about life, off the wall stuff that makes me giggle or pause to think, things like:

When people asked how old she was,
she would say 1009365, more or less,
because she was so glad to be alive
that she counted every day a birthday.
She had some disagreement from her knees
about the actual figures though. . .

StoryPeople is publishing a new book by Allison Strine, a collage painter who makes whimsical collages featuring The Bird Lady. Allison paints book pages which are then cut to shape her collage images and backgrounds. Here's a short video she made about her work.

When I see something like this I always stop to think about how I could use something from what I see or hear in my own work.

Although my work isn't so whimsical as Allison's there is a bit of it in the new Little Jo pieces and I'm thinking about how I might adapt the painted papers to dress Little Jo. I know she's tired of that same old gray dress you see her wearing every day. I know I am.

Let's see what happens.

I already paint book pages so I'm not stealing that idea from anyone else. and I've already thought about how I used to play with paper dolls, so Little Jo + painted book pages + paper dolls = a new wardrobe for Little Jo.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tiffany X Two

Tiffany x Two

Here's another quick and easy collage, created with painted papers, part of a discarded painting (bottom left and top), a bit of sheet music, and two canceled stamps. The sweeping curved line across the bottom was a happy accident.

A dozen years back I started tearing canceled stamps off all the mail that came to the house and now I have a good sized collection to use in my collages. Some are sorted by theme: Christmas, birds, patriotic, animals, etc. while others are crammed into a few small cellophane envelopes.

Now I'm thinking that I'll start a collection of bits and pieces of other papers.  I have a little box of triangles, aka roofs for my little houses, and another little box of squares.

Yes, I am a fairly organized person. I had to get interested in organizing in order to control the chaos I'd make otherwise because it doesn't come naturally. I've read lots of books on the subject and put much of what I've read to good use.  Still... I'm not methodical about the way I handle things in my studio and clutter builds up until I can't stand it anymore. So every few days I set a timer for 30 minutes and use the time to quickly tidy up an area of my studio... or my kitchen, or the bathroom.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Little Jo and the Red Moon

Having lots of my painted papers on hand often leads to serendipitous compositions, and the picture simply falls into place, as here. I added only three elements to the stenciled/painted paper to compose this piece.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Painted Paper for Collage

Samples of new painted papers

As I was organizing a dark corner of my studio closet last week I found a couple of big sheets of white paper that was wrinkled and slightly dirty. 

Not being one to toss good paper I laid the largest sheet out on my big table and proceeded to apply color... watercolor and acrylic sprays and watered down fluid acrylics applied with a sponge were my main colors. Then I grabbed a small squirt bottle of black Bob Ross gesso and made a bunch of marks on the colorful paper. I like this gesso for drawing because of its runny consistancy, almost like yogurt after its been stirred.

The next sunny day I set up outside with the paper, some spray paint, and a handful of stencils and added another layer of paint and patterns.

Once dry I tore the paper into random sizes for use as collage.

The process of painting my own papers is very satisfying, much more so than using commercial papers, no matter how pretty. These personal papers give my work an added layer of authencity, sort of like the knitter who likes to spin her own wool from sheep she's raised, though perhaps that's carrying the analolgy a bit far. And best of all, I find that the process of transforming simple white paper into a thing of beauty acts as a trigger, creating an urge to work on days when motivation is a no-show in my studio.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Little Jo Goes Hunting

Little Jo has her new orange hunting vest.
She's rounded up a pack of hunting
dogs who'll follow her anywhere.
She completed Hunter Safety class,
and all she needs now is a gun
and a ride and she's good to go.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Little Jo - Birthday Girl

Little Jo - Birthday Girl

I happened upon part of a September calendar page that's printed in two of my favorite colors. Little Jo is a happy camper. It sure didn't take long to do this little collage.. just what the on-going project is all about, to do a collage a day in 15 minutes or less.  I don't get one made every day nor do I limit myself to 15 minutes some days but there've been days when I worked on five at once. I get caught up with the papers, compositional challenges, and the process of doing them and time simply flies.

I love that about art, how time flies by on the good days.

Stamp Carving

I'm not much of a football fan but I do enjoy the Super Bowl commercials. So when we were invited to a potluck Sunday afternoon I made up a little stamp carving kit: rubber carving blocks cut to size (the white ones like erasers), my carving tools, and a list of words. I transfered some of the words ahead of time using acetone on the toner copy and used a pencil to transfer others. I did watch much of the game, and found myself carving through some of the commercials.  Some of the stamps have a word on each side. I have a project in mind for the stamps which is why the words have a similar theme.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Last year my friend Bob emailed me that he had met a man whose wife, Marge Malwitz, is also a collage artist who does work with similar themes to mine and who has a blog . Bob suggested I email her and after looking at her blog I did so. As I was scrolling through her website I noticed a picture of a woman I had met 2 years before on tour in Costa Rica, a tour sponsored by a Christian organization we support. Kathie Beattie, who is a dear friend of Marge is a fabulous wildlife/bird photographer and later sent me some of her closeup shots of hummingbirds. Wow.

Kathie took this photo of me in Costa Rica 2006

Connections.Marge and I started corresponding and in one of her emails she mentioned that she and her husband would be in Portland at the end of January for a conference. I wrote back, asking if it was Missions Connexion NW. Yes! It was happening just 2 miles from my house. Marge came all the way from Connecticut to a church just 2 miles away.

I asked her to come over and play with me on Friday. Another yes.

Then I started thinking about dinner. They could come on Friday night. Bob and Annie (who introduced us) could come on Friday night. Luis and Pat, who sponsored the tour and who used to be Bob’s employer could join us.



Marge and I had a wonderful day in my studio with lunch at the local Oregon College of Art and Crafts, and then the eight of us gathered for dinner and some of the most lively and enjoyable conversation. Neither of us thought to take pictures.

Now go to Marge’s story about visiting my studio here.

It’s a small world we live in where connections like this happen more often than I ever expected.

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