Tag Archives: Atlanta Collage Society


Last month at a meeting of the Atlanta Collage Society I had the opportunity to show to my peers the latest collage I was working on.  I showed them the book from which I got the idea for this exercise in flattened perspective:  Study for Bart Van de Leck’s “Composition 1916 no. 4” done roughly in what looks like tempera paint.  He was an architect by trade, but he messed around with his drawings of houses and rooms to create new compositions.  I was really impressed with how a flattened drawing could still have depth, so I set about to recreate it in my style.

I explained to my peers that I was using 1/4” strips of magazine papers (cut precisely using a ruler and Xacto blade) for the blocks of color, and strips of plain white art paper as the outlining.  The background edges are covered in a neutral decorative paper from the art supply store, to simulate the plain yellowed paper Van der Leck used.  They asked the standard question:  “What glue do you use?”  When I responded, “Yes! paste,” they got into a lively discussion of everything they don’t like about Yes! paste.  That was the extent of the presentation and following discussion.

I don’t think my fellow collage artists knew what to make of my attempt to copy a master.  Perhaps what I did is too left-brained, too precise.  I think most of them prefer to let their inspiration take them wherever it wants to, free-wheeling their way through multiple collages at a time with minimal planning, experimenting with many mediums.  Perhaps what I do is too much design and not enough spontaneity.  Maybe I’m too mired in structure and too restrictive with myself.  Probably so.

But can’t a self-controlled, structured approach also be a reflection of an artist’s soul?  Does every creative act have to be like a child’s finger-painting—wild, undirected, accidental—or can creativity show self-restraint, too, where what is left out is as important as what is included?  (Think visual poetry.)

As usual, I have no idea how anyone will respond to “Unfolded.”  I am hoping that it becomes the kind of piece in which one can get lost following the blocks of color, marching up and down the unevenly flattened steps that lead only to another block of color . . . .


“Unfolded,” 20×20″ on gallery-wrapped canvas


Falling Waters

I’ve been six weeks in my home studio now.  Although I find that I spend only 2-4 hours out there on any given day, I have been making progress on a piece that I want to share.  The title is still pending, but it’s based on a photo I took from the American side of Niagara Falls last summer.


A work in progress . . .

As you can probably tell, I’m working on gallery-wrapped stretched canvas, 12×24”.  I am wrapping the design over the edges, all the way to the back of the stretcher boards, so the image will be visible from all angles when hanging on the wall.  I bought two canvases this size because I plan to create a collage of the Canadian falls, too.

The sky and the trees were easy to reproduce, but when it was time to add the Observation Tower, I had no idea what to do.  I found inspiration in a box of manipulated papers that I have.  The term “manipulated” paper implies that some artist has taken a piece of reclaimed paper and added to it somehow.  I don’t very often paint or dye my own papers, so most of what I have I have received during paper exchanges at the Atlanta Collage Society’s holiday parties.  I owe a big “Thank you!” to whomever provided me with the ideal papers for this collage.

For the Observation Tower, I layered two complimentary papers.  The bottom layer is an old piece of Manila paper imprinted with a purple-inked dittoed geometric pattern.  To make sure that the shadowy angles of the building were precise, I glued strips of dark magazine paper on top of the Manila. On top of that I layered a thin piece of semi-transparent spongy packing material that had been dyed randomly with clear phthalo blue acrylic paint.  I had to use ModPodge as adhesive for the packing material because my water-soluble YES! paste just wouldn’t hold it in place.

The next challenge was the walkway and bridge.  They had to appear to reveal the background through the bridge supports.  For the pedestrian walkway (above) I found just the perfect magazine artwork which had the pattern of a chain-link fence in the foreground and the correct shade of sky blue in the background.  For the section in front of the trees, I cut up an ad for a wrought-iron park bench with a grass-green background.  Over the strips of paper I used cotton floss to bring out the support structures of both the pedestrian walkway and the bridge to Canada.

Once the tower and bridges were out of the way, I tackled the water and the falls themselves.  I have to work in small sections, in layers, from the source of the water in the direction that it is flowing.  I’m not used to working from right to left, but I am adapting.  So far, my biggest challenge with the water is finding enough bright light/white papers that still have patterns and variations of shading in them to represent foamy whitewater.  Most white/light backgrounds in magazine papers allow words and colors to bleed through from the backside once wet with paste.  Sometimes this works favorably and creates an interesting look, but most often it’s just annoying.  I’m up against this problem currently, and so it requires me to go back through my light papers stack to see if I have anything else I can use.  In the worst case, I’ll have to dig through more magazines to find usable bright light/whites.  I don’t like to put a project on hold for a day or two while I patiently page through magazines looking for usable material.  It’s very boring, and it interferes with my “flow.”  I’d much rather pick out my papers before I begin and have them all in front of me so I can constantly push them around and paw through them as I work.

As reference, here is a copy of the original photo I took last June.  What in the world did we do before we had good cell phone cameras?


Looking across the American Falls to the Observation Tower from Luna Island

My Muses

Professional Artist magazine recently solicited its subscribers (of which I’m one) to write about their muses—those sources of inspiration that whisper gently into the subconscious of artists, causing them to create new masterpieces.  Those artists who can best explain their muses have a chance at being featured in the next edition of the magazine.

I have looked at that email offer repeatedly, totally uninspired to identify my personal inspiration.

And then, this week, the Board of the Atlanta Collage Society (of which I’m part) held a meeting to discuss plans for requesting a grant to participate in the 2014 Art on the Atlanta Beltline public art exhibit.  We are proposing to create nine 12” pillars, each dedicated to one of the nine Greek Muses as she has inspired Atlanta over the years.

I found it oddly consistent with my own thwarted self-discovery of who might be my personal muse.

Today, I suddenly paid attention to what I’ve been working on.  During the last couple of weeks, as I included in my last blog entry, I’ve been creating small abstracts by cutting actual photos into ¼” strips and rearranging them.  Last week I decided to combine a real photo with some calendar artwork.  Today I began lacing together two calendar pages of famous paintings.

SURPRISE!  I now know who my muses are!

My muses are those people who have donated magazines, old calendars, and photos to me:  my old friend from CA who cultivates pots of cymbidiums in her yard and whose husband stops the car to take photos of wine grapes; my local friend who has collected and given me so many beautiful calendars containing reproductions of some of the best paintings ever; my daughter who fearlessly snaps unusual pictures on her global travels; my brother-in-law who spontaneously creates still-life yard art; and to all of you who have brought me bags and bags of travel, home, and fashion magazines.  You all are my muses!  I am merely the eyes that see the patterns and the hands that cut and glue the pieces together.  I connect the dots, but the images all come from you!

I have decided to go forward now and tell Professional Artist magazine about all of you.  If I get a treasured place in one of their editions, rest assured that it will be dedicated to your generosity.

In case I haven’t said so lately:  Thank you!

Heliconia Pendula in the Conservatory

Heliconia Pendula in the Conservatory

On Waiting

I don’t like to wait for outcomes.  If I submit a collage to be juried for entry in an art exhibition, I want to know exactly when and how I’ll hear whether it’s been accepted.  If I’m in a judged exhibition and I can’t attend the opening reception, I expect to know the outcome the next day.  I’m in a holding pattern right now with two national exhibitions (University of Minot [ND] and South Cobb Arts Alliance), and it’s making me nuts.  For the past week I’ve checked their websites several times a day.  I’ve sent emails requesting the results.  Nothing.

It’s neither the possible recognition (nice!) nor the potential monetary rewards (really nice!), but the not-knowing that makes me nuts.  I want the information so that I can update my records and my blog.

At the first of this year I took over as Treasurer of the Atlanta Collage Society.  I’ve had fellow artists ask me WHY and HOW I could be a treasurer and an artist at the same time.  The answer is simple in my mind:  As treasurer, I’m classifying and storing details in spreadsheets and paper file folders, which is not really unlike what I do with cut paper.  The numbers are nothing more than numbers, for I don’t try to ANALYZE what the numbers imply; I just put them in the categories where they belong.  In my art, I arrange scraps of colored and patterned paper relationally and spatially, connecting the patterns and shades and tones, putting them where they belong in my mind’s eye.  If I were spending an equivalent amount of time writing instead (my dream job according to BuzzFeed), I’d be arranging words in pleasing configurations.  Aren’t these tasks similar?  Aren’t they all driven from the same compulsion?

Now that I think about it, keeping the books for our home accounts, my business accounts, and the Atlanta Collage Society is probably the easiest of the tasks I’ve mentioned, because when the numbers come in, I record them according to pre-determined categories.  It’s just a matter of paying attention and staying on top of it.

. . . Which gets back to why I HATE WAITING!  I want the information from these arts organizations so I can update my records, document my life, and move on.  Expect another blog entry when I FINALLY do hear from them!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this small ditty:

"Split Decision"

“Split Decision”