Friday, June 15, 2018

LAW 151: The Anatomy of a Collage

The way i approach the creation of a collage has changed significantly since i created the 52 Weeks series. There are many reasons for the changes that have occurred, first and probably foremost, with time and practice my art has matured. Certainly the space i am working in has changed, as in, it has gotten much smaller, and it is shared use space. I can no longer leave a collage on my work table for a week at a time auditioning pieces.

Trajectory, 5.17.18
 So, i no longer simply page through folder after folder looking at material waiting for the inspiration angel to strike. No more waiting for that aha moment when a narrative builds itself around disparate imagery.

The process i am now using stems from the work i did with the altered  book project, Never Dine With A Dino. Please see LAW 144 for more about this project.

Using imagery from just one source, in this case the work of Oleg Tselkov narrows and refines the process even further.

I start by pre-selecting a color palette. This involves choosing between 10 and 20 whole or relatively whole pages in a specific color range; usually grey/black tones and either a warm or cool range as well as a limited amount of contrast color. At this point i also usually choose a texture palette, with Tselkov that is either an airbrush smooth, or his beautiful, crackly, painterly style.

Vortex, layer one

At this point i have already reinforced the corners and edges of the book board as well as gessoed the front and back surfaces.

The next step is to create the background. This is the most random element of the process, as well as the one that really develops the overall composition of the piece. Literally i start with a randomly chosen page, start cutting it into strips and triangles and start gluing them onto the board.

Since my intention is to not frame these pieces i am very careful to wrap the imagery around onto the back of the  board. As if i was painting the edges of a canvas. Years of book making come in handy here. I finish all the corners with a "library corner". I have always preferred this technique to the mitered corner. Although bulkier, a library corner is far more durable.

Vortex, complete

A note on adhesives. On a boat, living on the water, absolutely none of them work very well. I go back and forth between liquid glues, which i really do not like, to glue sticks, and back and....

Which ever i am using i always end up taping the edges of every piece that wraps around onto the back. And yes, i always always always use pressure.

Once the background layer is complete, i document that and usually stop for the day, sometimes, but not very often a piece will come together in one sitting. It usually takes a couple of days to finish one of these pieces.

Witness, layer one

I keep the cut pieces from previous collages, you can never know when you are going to need that little curvy bit of pink that was trimmed from something else. Yes ultimately i will discard the scraps, actually they all go into the bin of scraps to become hand made paper. Waste not.

I always look at these pieces from every point of view. I almost always start from a portrait perspective, but turn and work with the composition from every angle.

Witness, complete

Any questions or comments would be greatly appreciated.

More later,

Monday, June 4, 2018

LAW 150: The Single Artist Series

Sometime at the very end of April i finally made the decision to cut into a book that i have been holding onto; a beautifully produced monograph of Oleg Tselkov's work. Considering that we radically downsized our library when we moved onto the Floating Empire four years ago removing a book from the 'library' was/is a rather radical move, a significant reduction of the library population.

Public Safety, 4.23.18, 10 x 14"

I knew sooner or later i would work up the nerve to cut into this beautiful book, it took several years.

Tselkov is a brilliant colorist of extreme subtly; he consistently utilizes the same imagery, and subject matter. His figures are very soft, amorphous, often fading into the background. His imagery is not something i find interesting, but oh my, his color, oh my!

His subtle color work, with it's generous swathes of gorgeous, soft shapes simply invite cutting into. What a gift this book, this work is to the collage artist.

Embrace the Light, 4.26.18, 10 x 12.5"

Public Safety is the last of this series of collages that i did on cardboard. I had an aha moment, always later than sooner, but... and realized it was really stupid of me to discard the covers of books that i had already cut up. I mean, perfectly good, archival quality book board,, that i would have to pay for; so was born the great art of "book filleting", i will discuss technique in a future blog post.

Public Safety is also the first of this new line of collages that i think of as Paper Painting, or the Single Artist Series.

Survival Suit, 4.29.18, 8.5 x 11"

Why Single Artist? All of the imagery comes from the work of a single artist.

On one hand, a dangerous move, upping the possibility of recognition: after all, all collage is appropriation. The trick, taking the best of someone else's work and using it to re-imagine, to create a new, totally different work can be a real challenge. Somethings, some images are so iconic, so recognizable that they are impossible to use.

On the other hand, and there is always at least one other, the advantages of working within a single artist's oeuvre are substantial; consistency of palette, brush stroke, style.

I am reasonably sure if Oleg Tselkov saw this blog post he would recognize, at the very least, i am  strongly influenced, perhaps even that i am using his work. I doubt even he could say with certainty what color, what shape comes from which painting. Which leaves me comfortable that i am performing this particular balancing act with a certain amount of grace.

Unmasked, 5.1-7.18, 9.5 x 12"

What are your feelings about this?

More later,

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

LAW 149: The Merry Month of May.....

I  have obviously been trapped in a time rift somewhere, yea, that's right, the Time Bandits took me away to let the aliens experiment on me. That's my story and i am sticking to it.

So, the aliens were kind enough to transport my entire collage studio for me, so even in my captivity i have been quite productive. Since i was just now granted internet access(evidently the intergalactic rates are prohibitive) i thought i would take a moment of two to up date you.

Beyond Our Horizon, 3.21.18, hand cut and torn collage on cardboard, 7 x 13.75"

My original intention; that yesterday's collage, Beyond Our Horizon and this one were to be companion pieces, a diptych of sorts. That idea got thrown out the window when i decided that Beyond.. worked much better in the the horizontal.

Gravitas, 3.22.18, 7 x 13.75"

I think we will dispense with the "hand cut and torn collage on (whatever) for the sake of brevity. I don't know when my alien overlords will cut me off.

Fallen to Earth, 3.28.18, 9 x 9"

Am i the only one in this experiment who lies awake at night dreaming up new ways to approach my art making? Probably not. I have been consciously trying to change up my approach to collage; techniques ranging from limiting my "palette", to creating a complete background prior to considering other compositional elements. All of this in service of achieving a greater fluidity in the work.

If the truth be told, i think that the Time Bandits were responsible for the limited palette idea, likely since they took all my color away last night.

Today my alien masters wanted yet another experiment, will they never simply leave me alone to pursue my art making in peace? No, they simply, always have more questions, more tricks they want me to try, and they want me to write about it as well! See below....

THE LONELY CITY,  3.30.18,  9 x 9"

I sometimes find it difficult to give myself permission to use torn and cut edges in the same composition; i really prefer the look of torn paper. Sometimes nothing but a clean, crisp, cut line will do. Unless i am tearing simple, straight edges it is not faster, nor more convenient to tear an edge. if i am looking for a curve, or a simple form i score, then pinch and or fold along the score line to guarantee the line i want.

Okay, i think i have to post one more image, some of my fellow detainees say that we will be granted access again tomorrow, i'll do my best.

Blind Prophet, 3.31.18, 9 x 9"

Later, hopefully not much....

Saturday, April 28, 2018

LAW 148: Take care of your tools

If you are a serious cook, or even half way serious about cooking the single most important tool you have is your knife. Without a good sharp, did i mention sharp? knife you are putting your fingers at risk. I know a lot of people actually seem to prefer a dull knife; i guess they feel safer, the opposite is actually true.

I just had to replace my cherished Old Hickory chef's knife, see picture below.

Yes, these are the same knives!

I have used this knife for over twenty years; i took it with me when i was cooking for Mungo Jerry's Fat Cat Cafe, i took it with me when i left after three years there.

Years of use!

I also know a lot of people prefer stainless steel knives; i have to respectfully disagree with them. Yes, i will concede that they are minimally easier to care for as they don't rust. But, and it is a very big but, no matter how sharp they are when new they simply do not hold an edge and have a very limited life span. They don't stay sharp and are difficult to sharpen.

Did i mention that a high end stainless steel knife is expensive?

If you cherish your fingers and an excellently sharp knife, one that takes only a few swipes on a steel to regain its razor sharp edge look no further than a high carbon steel knife. Yes they will rust if not dried properly, yes they develop a beautiful patina over the years, losing the bright shiny surface they come with. I'll take sharp over shiny any day.

A knife for every season

Since these knives retail in the $20 range i think i got my money's worth. If you look at my knife rack i think it is pretty easy to tell that all of my knives are high carbon steel. Some are "heirlooms", passed down through my husband's family, some that i bought when i was a very young woman, first starting my kitchen odyssey.

I own only one stainless knife, it's new, a replacement for my filet knife that somehow disappeared. I mean, i live on a boat, we eat a lot of fish. I simply have to have a good filet knife.

a good Finnish fish filet knife

I also really appreciate that Old Hickory is an American company; they have been making these excellent knives since 1924.

Did i mention i have my own sushi knife?

More later,

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

LAW 147: Taking a Turn to the Abstract

Hey hey hey! Happy Vernal Equinox. So far today it has rained, snowed, sleeted, rained, snowed.....
our boat, Tesla's Revenge is rocking back and forth in her slip in concert with a charming North Wind.


 Have i mentioned that i am throughly done with this winter? Magellan our first mate/cat is definitely as dis-amused as i am with the weather. The ice/snow build up on the docks gets in the way of his important off the boat cat stuff. SIGH.

3.16.18, 8 x 8.5" on book board

Okay enough about the weather and on to talking about art.


Several of my latest collages have gone in a decidedly non-figurative direction; which i have been enjoying immensely. There seems to me that working in an abstract style gives a greater degree of freedom; primarily for play. Abstraction Expressionism allows me the opportunity for experimentation within the context of the constraint of design and composition decision making.

3.17.18, 11 x 7" on book board

Collage presents the same challenges compositionally as any of the fluid media; there is always the necessity to balance color, shape, line, style of mark making: along with all of these comes the challenge of how to successfully merge different types of imagery.  By this i mean the basic differences you find texturally between the reproductions of various media; the surface texture of a fashion photograph or advertisement is significantly different than that of a hard edged, or impressionist painting.


I could go on; it should be apparent that each medium has its own particular look and one of the many challenges faced by a collage artist is how to make these disparate elements work together.

3.18.18, 8.5 x 11", on tag board

I was paid a huge compliment the other day; a fellow art maker on one of the many Facebook art groups i am part of praised the way i had successfully merged collage and paint work. Since the piece was 100% hand cut collage i was understandably flattered.

3.19.18, 8.5" 11"

I think that these new collages are successful. I try to always use more than one element from any image that i cut and use. This ensures that i am using the same "palette", which provides continuity and a sense of wholeness that i find is sometimes lacking in some collage work.

3.20.18, 13.5" dia.

What do yo think?

As always, more later

Thursday, March 15, 2018

LAW 146: More New Collages

One of the things that most rocks my boat(so to speak) about collage is the wonderful, serendipitous connections that magically occur.

On the Altar
 I almost always know where and what the images i use came from. That sort of insider information is important to me, and is one of the elements that predicate just which image i use in each collage. ON THE ALTAR, for example the background images include spy satellite imagery, the American flag flying on the moon and a atom bomb test photo. Combine with the profoundly disturbing, yet silly image of the little girl "wrapped" in the flag reading these images should give you a greater understanding of where i was going with this particular piece.

  I keep my collage materials in manila file folders. This allows me to keep the material in some sort of order and also  keep track of the last time i searched through a particular file as i date a file each time i search it. I do this because i find that material gets stale if i look at it too often; if i know what is in any particular group of images i find that i tend to not really look at them, not see what is there.

Does this.... make me look....

New material is the life blood of analog collage work. I think that this is particularly important if you work the way i do; which is in a very open ended, spontaneous connection making fashion. I almost never have any preconception of what i am going to create; instead preferring to see what offers itself.


It is getting more and more difficult to find the sorts of materials i like to work with. Second hand stores used to be great sources, and to be fair, some still are. Just not the ones that are close to me. So now whenever we travel a visit(s) to new, local thrift stores are always on the agenda.


We went to visit friends in Delaware last week and i managed to score s few pretty awesome children's books in one of the three stores we visited. I don't often find kids books that i like to use, as the imagery is usually to simple and cartoonish.

What Do You See When You Dream?

These books however proved to be little gems of slightly psychedelic pattern and color. They have provided much of the imagery i used in these last few collages.

Enjoy, and as always
More later

Friday, March 2, 2018

LAW 145: And They Called the Wind.....

Well today's creativity will be limited to the sorts of things that can be done without sharp, pointy, and cutty things. We are experiencing some of the effects stemming from whatever this northeaster is called. The wind has been rocking our boat strongly since about one this morning, and it is supposed to peak about three this afternoon. Oh joy!

I will take the opportunity given to update you all on what's happening in my studio here on Tesla's Revenge.

BUY, BUY,  2.23.18, 5.5 x &.25"
I have several projects i have been working on through out this winter, some of which are close to complete. I've been doing a lot of drawing and an abstract collaged altered book project as well.

DO NOT SPEAK,  2.25.18, 8.5.X 11"
Narrative/surreal collage is a special favorite of mine, and after the Parkland shooting i felt compelled to pick it back up again. These are unrelated(to each other) pieces in a variety of smaller sizes. I am not planning on showcasing them in book format.
YOU,  2.26.18, 8 x 8"

My intention is a daily practice; quick reactions to my emotional/mental state that require fluid i decision making. In other words, yet another attempt on my part to stop my obsessive search through every piece of collage material i have here on the boat for that "just right" element.

ANOTHER DIVIDED MIND, 2.27.18, 5.5 X 8"

I have to learn to trust my design choices, to not drag out the process until even i get tired of it.

So here are the first five; i did back myself into a corner with the 2.28.18 piece, as yet unfinished; i know what type of image i need to complete it, i just don't own it. So it is waiting.

NOT TONIGHT...,  3.1.18, 5.5 x 7.25"

There will be more later.