With a glass of refreshing and cool iced water to drink in one hand, and a fistful of neutral papers in the other, it is time to get started on the first leg of my collage journey. Glancing over the different pieces of colored tissue strewn across the work table makes me think of landscapes so that will be the first trail to follow. With that in mind, most, if not all of the paper used, will eventually be covered with watercolors after the collage is finished and dried. The papers are a mix of purchased and found, some neutral and others tinted with watercolors. I try to avoid anything that will be too dark since I will be painting over them with more watercolors later and I will want to play off of the varying colors and textures of the collage papers beneath. In a way, the collage papers are a type of secondary under painting, the first step having been to loosely paint general shapes with watercolors on an 11”x 15” sheet of 300lb Arches watercolor cold press paper.
The painting offers a general idea of the composition and a map of sorts that will help guide the placement of the torn pieces of papers. Once the gluing with matte medium begins and a rhythm is found any paper within my reach is fair game as the work table becomes a sort of paper maelstrom…at least I like to imagine it to be so. There are a few things I try to keep in mind such as composition, balance and placement, trying not to use too much of the same paper or color in one area, and not tearing everything the same size or shape. But these things sit at the edge of the mind, like birds on a branch that pipe up every now and then when I seem to be veering off course, while the rest of the time they stay silent, allowing me to settle into the rhythm I spoke of earlier. If I think about it, most of my creative travels seem a bit meditative, there are aspects of ‘letting go’ and doing things intuitively, but usually within a preplanned idea or area. Laying down the torn papers is no different, as long as I follow the general pathway laid out by the under painting I will not get lost in the flurry of shredded bits.
Before I know it time has flown and the first sheet is finished. The beauty of collage is if there is anything that bothers me later, even after it dries, I can either pull the offending paper off or collage another layer right over it which helps to alleviate any worry. After a quick refill of iced water to help reinvigorate any wilting energy, it is time to move on to the next sheet. For this reason I like to have several under paintings ready to go so that it is easy to move from one to the next while I am still in the rhythm and while I have this pile of papers available. After the last landscape collage is finished I move on to doing a few semi-abstracts and from there I finish up with some still-life subject matter. By the end of a couple days just gluing down paper I am happily tired and feeling like I accomplished something. I also have a nice stack of projects ready for the next step of painting, several sheets with watercolor dyed under paintings from tinting collage papers as well as a nice mixed group of collage.
I sweep the table clear of all the torn paper, putting them back into bags and drawers, or just piling up a few with a promise to self to organize them later. The hot and humid days of summer continue with us and the air is still. These kinds of days seem to almost slow down time itself with the heat, so the best thing to do is get another fresh glass of iced water to sip on while taking my time in deciding which collage will be the starting point for the next leg of my collage journey.