Am I Having Fun Today!

Have you ever gone somewhere or done something that you really didn’t think you’d enjoy… only to find yourself having the time of your life?

That happened to me this morning when I logged in to a Sketchbook Revival workshop. Immediately I cringed! The topic was “altered books”, and I saw at once where this was headed. Taking a book, an actual, real book, and destroying it — all in the name of art.

No! Absolutely not. Books are precious; books are sacred; books are never meant to be destroyed. I held my ears as the instructor talked about everyone having old books lying around, books we’ve already read, books we don’t want.

Are you kidding?

I’ll be honest here. Yes, there are bad books, but even so that doesn’t mean we should destroy them. I often deliver used books to the thrift store in town, and goodness knows how many books I’ve purchased from such stores over the years.

Nope. No way could I ever “alter” a book to turn it into my own personal art journal. Sorry, but I simply could not rip pages out, paste things over them, or in any other way “alter” an actual book.

Of course, doing so isn’t an absolute necessity for the project. It would be fine to begin with a new hard-bound journal, although that would take away some of the personal feeling about it. That’s really what the workshop was about — taking things that are personal and creating a memorable visual experience from them. It’s what Robyn McClendon, the workshop instructor, describes as art archaeology or art mythology.

Now these words and ideas resonated with me. Deeply. Especially now as I’m doing my own home-made version of art therapy, the idea of truly connecting with my art and its narrative touched me. I wanted to participate in the project, but how? I even went so far as to rummage through a few books just on the off-chance there might be one among them that maybe, just maybe, I could sacrifice on the altar of art. There wasn’t.

But there was something I could do, one part of the workshop presentation that I could follow along with. Something so simple, something so easy… something so beautiful that I can only sit here wondering why I never thought of doing it before.

Collage paper.

Making my own collage paper. Taking my own memories, my own artwork, and putting it together to create colorful and meaningful sheets of collage paper which I can then use for art journaling and other projects.

Sheer genius! Thank you, Robyn McClendon.

As with so many things in art, my initial understanding of collage was very limited. I always thought of a collage as merely a “collection”.

In the past, I did a lot of photography, and I used to enjoy making “collages” from photos, gathering together those that fit a particular theme and displaying them in that way.

Another way I used to “collage” was to cut colorful pictures out of magazines and display them together. Simple, but enjoyable. I liked the idea of finding and using images that related to my life or my interests in some way. For me, a simple collage like this was a visual representation of who I was at that particular time.

As I gradually moved toward becoming an artist, however, my understanding of the collage technique changed. It’s not simply a “collection”, not just the art of “cutting and pasting” pictures together, but using various images to create new ones.

I’m not good at that sort of “image-making” collage. I once tried doing a flower collage, cutting each petal from a colorful illustration in a gardening catalog. Nice idea, but the image was awful.

Yet I do love collage paper. Especially now that I’m making my own art journals, sketch books, and personal journals, I’m finding more uses for collage papers. These are colorful sheets, sometimes with images, sometimes with designs, sometimes with words or phrases, intended to be cut up and pasted together in different ways.

When Ms. McClendon spoke of “preserving our own art” as collage paper, something clicked in my brain. Yes, of course! Why not? I cast a quick glance around the studio, seeing all those bits and pieces of “abstract expressions” and alcohol ink playtimes, and my head started spinning.

I jumped up, grabbed a canvas page with an acrylic abstract. As a painting, it just hadn’t worked for me, but as collage paper, it’s beautiful! I quickly copied it, and voila! Indeed, I  had a very lovely piece of collage paper ready to be cut and pasted into an art journal. Just imagine all the fun things I can do with this!

I made a mad dash through the studio, gathering up so many pieces of my art. Suddenly I could see potential in everything I’ve created, even in drawings and paintings that I considered failures.

Just look at this colorful collage sheet I made by putting together lots of little pieces of alcohol ink art:

Oh, what fun I will have with this!

And so this is how I spent my morning, finding my own art treasures and copying them to make a set of my own very personal collage paper. I’ve only just begun! I can include favorite quotes, old photos, ideas and inspirations from everywhere around me, and I can then use them as part of the art I create.

I have so many pieces of art I want to copy now. Such a simple idea. Why did I never think of this before?

There are good lessons to be learned here.

  • Even though you think you might not enjoy something, do it anyway. You might find yourself having a very good time.

And in a similar way:

  • Even though you don’t always like the art you’ve created, keep it anyway. It’s an important part of who you are, and someday you might find a creative way to use it.

I can’t wait to make more of my own personal collection of collage papers!




    1. I love seeing some of the incredible collage art others are able to do. I haven’t really figured out any “how-to” beyond the very basics. I will enjoy using my collage papers as part of my personal art journals now, and hopefully I’ll learning more ways to make creative collages.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really helping me with my art journaling. The journal process has always been difficult for me because I didn’t really feel “connected” to what I was doing. Making and using my own collage paper really does make it very personal.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Collage sends my mind in a different direction than yours…probably because I work mostly with fabric. Why are you making copies of your art? I use the actual pieces and parts and collections to create collages that have texture and depth and meaning to me. I come from a background of texture, so flat collage is not my “thing”. Are you ready to add those type of layers to your collage? Another ‘try it, you might like it’ suggestion!

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    1. I do want to work with fabrics in the future. I tried it once as part of an abstract project — and while I loved the fabrics I chose, overall the results were just a big mess. LOL. I’m making copies so that I can display the original drawings and paintings but still use them in my art journals as well. I’m doing a little sewing again these days — something I haven’t done for a while — so I have lots of scraps just waiting to be used, either in other sewing projects or craft projects with the grandkids, as book covers, or as part of a more “textured” approach to art. Sometime I also want to try a bit of textile design.

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  2. Oh my gosh, I was on the edge of my seat in this suspense thriller: will she or will she not sacrifice a book! I want soooo badly to use just one for blackout poetry but haven’t been able to. Yet… Ahhhh! It’s too emotionally complicated! I love your compromise and how you made it work for you so personally: how exciting, thrilling again! What a ride! Again for me this morning, reading amazing women’s snippets. 🙂 Happy creating!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did blackout poetry in my art journal last fall. You can photocopy a page from a book! The one I did was in October, and the book page (already copied and included as collage paper in my Let’s Make Art subscription box) was from Frankenstein. It was quite fitting for the season. If you browse a bit, you’ll find… wait. No need to browse. I can add the link right here. This was my first (and so far, only) attempt at black-out poetry.

      Happy “arting” to you!


    1. I can appreciate the idea of making something very, very personal… but I just can’t see damaging a book as part of my process. The instructor sees it differently, of course, as a means of “altering” not “damaging” or “destroying”. Her examples are creative and brilliant — but not for me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s beautiful!! And using your own work was an elegant solution!! Brava!! 👏👏👏👏👏 I agree as far as books go. the thought of pulling or cutting them apart makes me feel horrible. Gah! And that’s why I use advertising circulars, ads, etc. in collages and painted things. It’s extra special, tho, to use our own work (good, bad, old, new) as components in new things. I do it a lot, esp with digital compilations. The “pieces of pieces” get scanned and made into digital layers, eventually to become parts of a unified whole. As to your final piece of advice – YES!!! Keep everything! Each piece matters. LOVE this post! 🥰👏♥️👏

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  4. You are so clever. Now i know how to proceed when i cannot part with an older piece. I once got so emotional about stacks of old letters i had accumulated from exes, lovers, friends , relatives, etc. because i knew i couldn’t keep them all- was becoming a fire hazard. So i just dug in and started cutting out snippets and made a collage on canvass, adding layers and layers..varnishing in between. At times now i am angry i cut all of them up. It was certainly a difficult choice, but i do love my collage as well. a lot of meaning behind it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really liked McClendon’s idea of “art archaeology” — digging up pieces of who we are through our art. That has made my journaling experience much easier for me because now I’m able to “connect” with what I am doing. I’m keeping a file on my computer now for “Collage Papers”. I scan old artwork, old letters, old clippings — whatever — into the computer, and then I can print the sheets out for my art journaling supply box. It is so much fun!

      Liked by 2 people

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