Thursday, January 12, 2017


This much I have learned. Never give up. No matter how broken you are, it is possible to mend. It may take a very long time, and it may be the fiercest struggle you ever face. And you will probably be completely unprepared, like I was.

mixed media collage, 17 x 11.5 inches
ingredients: vintage book cover, vintage book pages and other ephemera, vintage textile, image transfer, watercolor pencils, found objects, acrylic ink, rice paper, feathers, stitching
available for purchase here

I thought I was unbreakable. Just pile it on, I can take it; I've been doing it for years, right? I never gave any credence to that whole "straw that broke the camel's back" thing. How could one little straw make a difference? After all, it was nothing at all when compared to what I'd already been carrying around for so long.  The phrase, "nervous breakdown" never even crossed my mind.

But I was wrong. To my great surprise, there is a tipping point, and I suddenly landed flat on my back, broken into pieces. There's a saying, attributed to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Rumi, something about the cracks being the place where the light gets in.  That may be true, but that light can be blindingly, relentlessly painful.
For a year and a half, that pain seemed unbearable, unsurvivable. It's difficult to talk about this without seeming melodramatic; I just want to say this as plainly and as honestly as I can.  If the last straw has broken the camel's back, the camel will have to build up it's muscles, to become stronger than before. If you lose a wing, it can be mended, and the mended place will be your greatest strength. And someday you may fly again.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


mixed media collage, 7 x 4 inches
ingredients: vintage book pages, ephemera, watercolor pencil
Available for purchase here.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (excerpt)
 By Wendell Berry

Denounce the government and embrace
You need to make a commitment, and once you make it, then life will give you some answers. Les Brown
Read more at: the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns....

... Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts....

I have no answers, but this, one of my most favorite poems by my favorite Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, makes me feel there may yet be reason to hope...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fear Not

Fear Not      
 mixed media collage, 9 x 5 inches
ingredients: map fragments, vintage book pages, image transfers, watercolor pencils, mica, stitching

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.”
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

Friday, December 16, 2016

Broken Girl - the Art of Recycling

Here is the finished version of the collage I was working on in the last two posts (here and here):

Broken Girl, mixed media collage on vintage book cover
ingredients: cabinet photo, vintage book pages and torn papers, vintage ephemera, watercolor pencils, stitching

The edges are cropped because it didn't quite fit on the scanner, and it's been way too dark and cold here to take good photos. (I take them outside in open shade.)  As you may remember if you're a regular reader, the torn pieces of layered papers on the right side started out as a completely different collage. I wasn't happy with the way it was going, so I incorporated it into a very different type of collage, i.e. one where the composition is more planned out and less abstract.  This doesn't usually happen, and I certainly didn't predict this turn of events when I started taking photos for my blog. These aren't the posts I had intended to write, but I thought it might be interesting for people to see what happens when things don't go as planned.

One thing I learned some time ago in my art-making explorations is that there's nothing wrong with tearing one piece up to make another; in fact, that's how I first began playing with collage. I didn't start out to become a collage artist, but as I tried making compositions with pieces of discarded work, I became hooked on the collage process as well as its outcomes. I love taking pieces of old ephemera that would otherwise be thrown out and combining them into something new. They bring with them something of the time they are from and the people who used them, which I think adds depth and meaning to the work.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams
Read more at:

"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
-- Scott Adams

“We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
― Bob Ross

Friday, December 9, 2016

Destruction, and a New Life

A very melodramatic way to describe the second day in the life of our collage, right?  However, I'd have to say it's pretty accurate.

Here's how I left it last night; it was going nowhere, as far as I could see.

I'd had this idea floating around in my head for a few days, using a particular cabinet card photo of a young girl, something nebulous about a lost or broken girl.

You can kind of see her here, amidst the flotsam and jetsam. When I peeled the photo off the card, it tore, but that didn't really bother me.

I had recently found an old set of encyclopedias from 1971 in my basement. Jackpot! I removed the cover from one of them and sanded it to get the slick finish off so that things would adhere to it more easily, also making it look older.

I had already glued the girl together on a piece of an old engineering drawing, and given her a flower hat. Here's where the collage met its fate.

I ripped it into pieces, and laid some of them out on the book cover with the girl.  Not bad. Now we're getting somewhere.

 But where?

 So, putting things on and taking them off, trying to decide which I like best...

 No, way too much...

 So, imagine this happening about a hundred more times...

I feel like I'm getting close, except for that skirt-thing.  Sooner or later...

...I have the basis of my composition laid out. Time to start gluing!  Soon I'll post the finished piece.

p.s. You might see other pieces of the original collage turn up here or there later on...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Collage

It started this way:

I had an old watercolor of a tree that I didn't want any more, so I thought I might recycle it and use it as the base for a collage.

First, I glued some brightly colored pieces of an old museum guide onto it, since I wanted to be able to scrape through to show bits of color.

Then, I covered the entire thing with pieces of vintage paper from old books, drawings, and sheet music.

I immediately added a second layer because it's easier to scrape or rub off when still damp from the glue. (I use matte gel medium as my adhesive.)

Here's a close-up view. I have to apologize for the poor photo quality, as it's been very dark and dreary here, and there's not really enough light to get a good photo with my phone.

Here it is after I scraped some of the papers off to reveal the colored paper underneath.  I call this the "Glaaaaaaah!!!" stage - when a piece gets to the point where I'm either going to throw it away or cover it up again; in other words, I hate it. Could I make a decent composition out of it? Probably, but right now I'm not seeing it.

My studio and materials were also in a complete state of "glaaaah!", but I still couldn't leave well enough alone...

 I glued some more papers on, then rubbed some more off (lather, rinse, repeat) .... and this is how I left it for the night.

Tune in tomorrow to find out what happens to our poor, pitiful collage. Will it live to see another day?  I'm not so sure...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Spring Morning

Spring Morning
mixed media collage, 6 x 4.5 inches
ingredients: monotype, watercolor pencils, vintage ephemera

I haven't been keeping up with my weekly quick collage series, since I've been so busy doing other things. I'm unsure whether I'll go back to it or not; I'll just have to see how it goes. In the meantime, here's a little piece I did recently. I know it's out of season, but at this time of year it can be nice to remind ourselves that Spring will come, eventually.

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season!