Collage Takes Courage

I love collage art — seeing it, that is, not doing it. I’ve simply never been good at making collages. I’ve mentioned this before, writing about how I always thought of a “collage” as simply a collection of various things all put together, and I’ve mentioned, too, my daughter Elisabeth and her natural talent for creating collage art. Where she gets it from is beyond me, but it’s something she’s always been good at.

Collage art was a big part of the recent Sketchbook Revival 2022 program. I invited Elisabeth to join in, and she definitely had fun with the collage workshops. Me… well, not so much. I did complete all of the projects, but I just don’t have the knack for it, and that’s all right. Collage art isn’t something I really want to do. I’ll leave that to the talented collage artists like my daughter.

My favorite of the collage programs was one called “Matisse on my Mind”, led by Mou Saha. She talked about Henri Matisse and the fanciful shapes he cut out, and she quoted his oft-repeated remark that “Creativity takes courage.” You’ll note that I’ve taken his quote and re-phrased it a bit. Yes, creativity takes courage, but collage takes even more courage for me, along with a considerable amount of sheer determination.

In Mou Saha’s workshop we imitated Matisse in cutting out various shapes. I’ve done something similar in the past when I was playing with design principles. But my attempts then were merely a means for understanding design concepts. I wasn’t creating art. I wasn’t trying to make any pictures.

That’s essentially what Mou Saha’s class was about — taking cut-outs and putting them together to create an illustration. It was a fun idea… fun to watch, fun to see how creative collage can be, fun to cut out playful shapes. But still, for me, the whole process was challenging, and the best I could come up with was a simple garden with a few colorful rocks.

The instructor also suggested we add words — either hand-lettered or clipped from magazines. I chose “GATHER” with the idea of “gathering flowers” as we go through life, and then I also added a clipping that had the words “Inspire, Share, Connect”. That’s what art is really all about, isn’t it? I’d like to think so.

While my Matisse-inspired collage is nothing to brag about, I was pleased that I at least managed to complete the project. It was nerve-wracking, really. Indeed, for me, collage does take a lot of courage.

Another collage project during Sketchbook Revival 2022 was from Tiffany Sharpe, who encouraged us to save scraps of paper, old envelopes, letters, advertisements… anything! She refers to it all as “collage fodder”, and if I were a collage artist like my daughter, I would see the possibilities in every piece of paper. Goodness knows, I do have a lot of scraps saved in my studio. I’m just not too likely to really use them because it’s not too likely I’ll ever get brave enough to try collage again!

As part of her Collage Fodder presentation, we made mushrooms by drawing, painting, and embellishing. We then cut them out and used them as collage fodder too.

This was fun, but again, it was a bit of a challenge for me. I was pleased, though, with my idea to add in the little butterfly flitting over these mushrooms.

The biggest challenge of all, however, was from Karen Stamper‘s program “Collage the Street”. When I saw what we were expected to do, I nearly turned tail and ran. It was a collage nightmare for someone like me, but I doggedly stuck it out, creating a collage “street scene” that was nothing like the illustrations we were intended to follow, but which represented my determination to see it through.

For my street scene, I used a packing slip from my dear friend, Eva Mout. She lives in Zutphen, Gelderland in the Netherlands. This is the town where my grandmother’s family came from. As you know, I’ve been learning Dutch and exploring my Dutch heritage. Eva has been so helpful! When I mentioned the difficulties of finding Dutch-language books in the United States, she went thrift-store shopping, came up with two titles from Gerard Reve, and sent them to me as a gift. I’d previously read “De Avonden” by Reve, and believe me, my vocabulary is really growing!

By the way, take a moment now to visit Eva’s site, Ursus Art. Her art is beautiful, haunting, mysterious. You can also drop by her blog to see her current works.

But, back to collage. I wanted to use the project to highlight my Dutch heritage, so I knew I wanted to incorporate Eva’s packing slip into the scene. I then printed out a few photos of buildings from Zutphen, and I put them together in… well, a rather haphazard way. It was the best I could do. I also added in a few “Dutch touches” — bicycles or fietsen — as well as a coffee shop sign, a few tulips, and bits of orange here and there.

The result was a huge mess, but again, I did my best and I managed to complete the project. Yes, it’s a mess, but I hope in some ways it might be viewed as a creative mess.

Part of my problem with collage is that it involves cutting and pasting, both of which bring back many bad memories from childhood. It also involves a lot of patience. I just don’t have it, and that’s all right. Collage simple isn’t “my thing”.

It is, however, my daughter’sĀ thing, and after her experiences with Sketchbook Revival she’s jumped right in to collage creations, and her work is stupendous!

First, she created this colorful little fellow:

Then when her sister Lee saw it, she asked “Could you make an owl for me?” Sure. No problem.

 

 

When she asked what I might like, I chose an iguana. Again, no problem.

 

Here’s a look at the completed collage:

I’m glad she enjoys doing collage. She has the talent, she has the time, she has the imagination for it.

I’m content to let her be the collage artist in our family, and in exchange for “Iggy” — who is being mailed to me today — I went to her Amazon wish list and bought her a few collaging supplies. It looks like she’ll be keeping busy with her art for a long time to come.

As I just scrolled back up through this post and saw the difference between her carefully-crafted collage art and my hurriedly pasted together projects, I had to laugh a bit. Clearly she is a collage artist, and clearly I am not. And that’s fine with me.

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28 Comments

      1. It should be done at the bottom of the post. Sometimes I have to hunt everywhere to find a LIKE or COMMENT button on WordPress. It’s frustrating, isn’t it!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Judith, I love your daughter’s creations and your’s too. I’m so glad that you pushed yourself from your comfort zone. I’m sure it gave you more perspective.

    The most important lesson learnt? To laugh with and at oneself šŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL… yes. I’ve learned that collage is definitely not for me. When I thought about my daughter spending all day making those little collage critters, I knew I’d never have that much patience!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have discovered there are many different types of collage and whilel hers are absolutely beautiful, yours might have been frustrating because it was an assignment. I just posted a video on YouTube that I did a couple months ago where I cut out different parts of a body and merge them together. The one I ended up with was not so odd but it could have been and it could have been funny and therapeutic!

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      2. Yes, there are different kinds. My daughter and I were discussing that last night. She has found a definite “style” that she likes.

        For me, it’s largely a matter of impatience. I can’t imagine sitting here all day carefully cutting and pasting. Of course, I get nervous any time I have a pair of scissors in my hands, so collage is not relaxing for me.

        I love seeing what collage artists create, but I know I’m not a collage artist, and that’s fine. I’ll save my art time for the things I really enjoy — which right now is oil painting, oil pastels, graphite, and watercolor. šŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It arrived in the mail yesterday. She just started making these, and she’s already getting orders for them. She’s very talented!

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  2. Judith, I can so relate to your feelings! Collage seems a mystery to me. Thanks for sharing, it feels good to know that I’m not alone. I can do other things, but collage seems outside my skill set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely outside of my skill set! It’s amazing to watch my daughter do her collage art. She’s been doing it since she was a child and has always been very good at it.

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