I’ve been busy. My writing has been entirely other. There has been no room for anything birthed by the beautiful push of Muse. Nothing deep or soulful, nothing but lists and formulas and direction. My time consumed with readying for class: the class in 2 days, the class in 2 months, or the potential class, 6 months from now. Ingredients and method, time and temperatures, facts and figures. This, on the tail of my year-end cleaning binge, has me feeling empty, creative bits alone, unable to find a foothold in the vast cavern where they usually have many. So, yesterday, I collaged.
My collaging hiatus has been far longer than my writing. It’s been almost a year since I’ve bellied up to my collage bar, when I finished and mailed the most recent Candace Card. My Candace Cards are for my friend who moved away, a reason to collage on an almost 5×8 sheet. These collage are random, stream of consciousness, whatever-ephemera-grabs-my-eye, feeling-about-my-friend-based things. Sometimes they’ve been fantastic, other times too busy, too strained, but I still send them, the back covered in chit-chat. Yesterday I created a Candace card and will mail it today. While it felt rough, and I found I do not care for glitter, it was a start, a spark.
Letting myself collage was an opening. While initially only for myself, I was tentative, afraid of doing it wrong, afraid of not being good enough, creative enough, whatever enough. I read books and looked at many images, seeing the layers, feeling their depth, catching glimpses of the backgrounds, beautiful on their own, but almost completely covered by the end product. I loved the idea of Art Journals, notebooks devoted to whatever medium, most often mixed media collage. I found a small spiral bound notebook which I had used to plan weekly meals and shopping trips. I began adding color and cut-outs to its pages. With each week dated, I could use the events surrounding those dates as a catalyst for idea. For color, I started with what was on hand: Jr’s toxic-free tempera, kid-grade watercolors, and any pastel crayon stubs large enough to hold.
Cautious at first, I found images, bits of magazines, greeting cards, wrapping paper. I used colored tissue papers. I highlighted original bits of text with markers. I incorporated existing torn pages to make layers of image. I love words and paper and texture and color. Letting myself play without judgement was an unmistakable Spring gust, the breeze of a perfect morning in May flapping about my soul. I couldn’t wait to work on my notebook. Lucky for me, that while I ignored dinners and housework and child, Spouse is a far deeper Creative, one who knows how everything falls away when you’re in the middle of It.
Since that beginning notebook, I’ve worked on others, made greeting cards, and, more significantly, did an art journal that encompassed the year leading up to my 50th birthday. This journal, meant as a daily, had some days spent catching up for several missed. It was here that I moved to acrylic paint, that I started blending on the page, trying different colors, experiencing the feeling those colors produced. Messing about with my 50th year journal led me to collage on stretched canvas. I purchased papers and background images for scrapbooking to use in collage. I fell deeply in love with creative services directories and image catalogs. Everything gleaned for images or design elements before meeting the recycle bin.
At some point during the year, Spouse said he’d like me to do a large canvas to hang over the mantle. I felt shocked and pleased. His work has always occupied that space and I’ve loved him for it. The thought had never occurred to me to go big. The experience was significant. Spouse knew what he was doing. I had to try things, try colors, cover it all up with different colors. I stamped images, I tore strips of text, I transferred black and white toner images, I painted over most of it again. Finally, the image started to appear, the gist of the thing began to emerge. It was about story. About telling. It was perfect to me after I dry brushed a lot of black over most of the images. What I’ve felt when I write happened with this collage. Never before have I been so viscerally connected to an image. I never thought I would be. The piece looked like crap above the mantle-wrong color. It didn’t work in the living room either. It did, however, find its place in the small hallway connecting Lego Room and Jr.’s Room. The large canvas, dominate in the small space, sits directly across from the bathroom door. Each time I face it, it draws me in, sometimes just to stand and stare.
I’ve not done any collaging since, save for my Candace Cards. Perhaps, as Monty Python puts it, I was “shagged out after a long squawk.” I’ve written things, I’ve cooked and baked, I’ve worked in my garden, but seldom do any of those overlap. This year I will try to change that. Rather than post nothing, to feel empty of words, I’ll show my latest card or a page from a journal. The 2nd Volume of my year-long journal still has empty pages. While I stopped on purpose, not quite 2 years later I’m going to fill it up. This time I have clear gesso to ready the 20-pound bond pages, letting the faint blue lines show through if I choose only a wash for background.