Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Collage: a daily practice, and more?

I have undertaken two daily art practices this year:  a tapestry diary and a daily collage.  They are both much more rewarding than I expected!  I will update you about the diary next week; today I want to share some of the collages and my thoughts on where they might lead.

I have always been more of a collage-ist than a sketcher.  I like the unexpected juxtapositions of content, scale and texture that can occur, and I prefer "drawing with scissors" to drawing with any other implement.  For my daily collages, I set the bar low:  work small and fast, with my existing stash of handmade and decorated papers and other materials. Usually I spend no more than 15 minutes on each collage, and they are the second thing I do in the studio each morning, after the tapestry diary.

At first I used half-sheets of typing paper as my substrate, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", and glued them into my sketchbook.

I soon felt hemmed in by that small format, so I expanded to the full size of my 9" x 12" sketchbook.

Annunciation 2  1-23-16

After a few weeks, I began to notice a few things:  that I enjoy irregular edges, having elements that hang off the sides or intrude into some kind of implied margin.

Wild Thing?  2-1-2016

I often reflect my morning walk with the dog, responding to the weather or the season.  This is my visual rendition of the spring peepers I heard one foggy morning.

Spring Peepers/Predawn Fog  2-2-2016
For years I have wondered what would be the visual equivalent of the dawn chorus of birds singing their hearts out (aubade in French).  Here is my collage, using a painted polka-dot background:

Aubade 2-29-16
Sometimes the day's news works its way in.  One morning the front page of the New York Times presented a grid of color photos that astronaut Scott Kelly had taken during his year in space.  I was struck how much these little compositions resembled the patterned scraps of paper I had in my stash, so I cut the photos apart and re-arranged them, interspersed with squares of my paper.  I enjoyed trying to find papers that echoed the patterns and colors in the space photos.  It's hard to tell apart them apart, isn't it?

I'm noticing that many of my compositions reflect my current interest in illuminated manuscripts.  And that's one of the coolest surprises for me--to be able to look back at these daily pieces and notice some aspects of personal style that emerge.  The way to make better work is simply to make lots of it; a daily practice allows you to do that. 

Script/Portal 1-28-16

Illuminated MS  1-26-2016
And some mornings I don't have anything specific in mind . . . I just dive into my papers and grab things that seem to speak to me and start gluing them down.  Maybe adding some paint or some writing here and there. 

Questions, 2-19-16
I'm having a lot of fun with these.  They feel very spontaneous and free compared with most of my work which is exceedingly thought-out.

I began to notice that what with all the pasting of paper down on each page of my sketchbook, it was beginning to bulge.  So I started slicing out most of the page and gluing or sewing in a new, usually smaller page to the remaining stub.  For these photos I have slid plain white paper behind the collage for clarity.


Terrorist attack in Brussels 3-22-16

I couldn't resist the temptation to see if some of these little pieces might, with judicious cropping, be suitable as small, 4"x 6" tapestries.  So I placed a 4 x 6 paper viewfinder over some of the collages to see what would happen:

Annunciation 2, cropped

Spring Peepers, cropped

Aubade, cropped
Questions, cropped
What do you think?  Would any of these make a good miniature tapestry? Do you have a daily art practice?  Let me know in the comments below.


  1. What a terrific idea, Molly! I go for a while sketching each day but then it drops off. I'm wondering if this collage idea might be something I should try. I love your compositions. Script Portal 1-28-16 is my personal favorite.

  2. Thanks, Martha, for the kind words! Do give it a try--it's fun and not intimidating. One of These days I'm going to add more drawn lines to my collages. . . .

  3. What a beautiful collection of small works! Aubade literally sings to me, but all of these are exquisite little gems in their own right. I love them all!