What is collage?
Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines collage as
“an artistic composition made of various materials (such as paper, cloth or wood) glued on a surface.”
You know what first popped into my head at the word “collage?”
The image of something I might have made in middle school.
An oversized white poster board with a handful of cheesy magazine cutouts pasted on.
Perhaps a page of text attached as well.
And bubble letters inked across the top.
I suppose so.
I’m not so sure.
I bet as soon as I said “collage,”
You too visualized cutting images out of magazines and gluing them onto a big sheet of something.
I’m not saying cutting images out of magazines is a bad thing.
But if I start a collage with magazine cuttings,
I end up with that school project look.
Which is definitely not the result I’m going for.
So what am I aiming for when creating collage art?
I want to make something rich.
I want my collage to invite touch.
Or if not touch,
Then I want it to invoke curiosity.
Can I make a viewer look twice?
To wonder what materials I used?
And ask how I wove it all together?
Maybe there will be an embedded message or story.
A path for the eyes to walk through.
Either across the work.
Or down through the layers.
This is what I want out of collage.
Now, how do I systematically achieve this?
|“Butterfly” by Val (Mixed media collage on 5x7inch board)
Just wanted to offer proof that I have managed to grow something to eat.
Even if it’s just chard.
I know chard grows like a weed.
I understand it takes no skill to grow it.
I’m sure the serious gardeners out there are rolling their eyes at me.
But I’m going to take this little bit of garden success and eat it!
Because this gardening thing is way harder than I anticipated.
Grateful I don’t depend on my planting prowess to actually feed myself.
After a failed summer growing season last year,
I was ready to just give it up.
I swore I wouldn’t waste another dollar at the local nursery.
Then the fall weather kicked in.
A respite from the monster mosquitoes.
Too beautiful not to be outside.
Too tempting not to plant just a little something…
The rainbow chard seedlings went into the earth in October.
They provided a splash of color all winter long.
I wasn’t confident they’d survive the cold snaps.
But they did.
I figured they’d drown in the torrential early spring rains.
But they didn’t.
Then one warm spring day,
I suddenly had a booming crop of rainbow chard.
For the past couple of weeks,
I’ve harvested chard every few days.
I cut only the larger outer stalks from each bunch of chard.
Leaving the tender middle parts to continue growing.
It seems that the more I harvest,
the bigger and faster the plants grow.
Most of the time, I stir fry my one garden success.
I also add it into vegetable soup.
I harvested so much the other day,
I had to beg a friend to take some home.
Even if it’s only chard,
It’s still such a cool thing to share something I actually grew.
And don’t you think a big pitcher filled with chard is just as pretty as a vase of flowers?
I guess I’m not altogether finished with the garden…
I wonder what else I can coax from garden to table?
|“Feral Kauai Chicken” by Val (Oil on 12×12 inch canvas, February 2017)
Everyone knows it’s a lush paradise.
But did you know it’s a paradise overrun with feral chickens?
My understanding is this:
Back in the 90’s,
a bunch of chickens were liberated from chicken farms and family coops
when a hurricane hit Kauai.
Because there are no natural predators on the island,
said chickens were free to roam and reproduce.
Now they are everywhere.
I don’t think there’s a chicken free zone anywhere on that island.
They are on the beaches.
Hanging out by the pool.
Wandering in and out of gardens.
Loitering around storefronts.
Crossing the road…
I saw this “Feral Kauai Chicken” on my way to the market to buy lau lau.
She was unabashedly perched on a bench outside a cafe.
Ignoring the half empty mugs of coffee.
Availing herself to someone’s leftover breakfast.
The sight of that chicken calmly eating breakfast made me laugh.
Of course, I had to paint her.
Please be introduced to Barkus.
Newest member to our family.
(because he smells like corn chips)
The truth is,
I did not want a dog.
Growing up, I was never interested in any of our family pets.
Then after making it through the little kid years,
The last thing I wanted was to be tied down with a puppy.
And then look who become part of our family one year ago…
Barkus was a bribe.
When we moved from NYC,
We promised one boy his own basketball hoop in the driveway.
And the other boy a puppy.
(With the understanding that both kids participated in the dog’s daily care.)
You’re probably laughing at me.
What kid ever actually keeps his promise to take care of that dog he begged for?
Both boys stepped up to their dog owner responsibilities.
They walk him.
Take him out for potty breaks.
Play with him.
Make sure he’s not up to mischief.
But here’s what we didn’t count on.
We never considered Barkus might favor one of us.
He chose me.
I am Barkus’s human.
The joke is on me.
I didn’t really want him.
Yet here I am,
with this furry little shadow following me from room to room.
If I’m in the kitchen, then he is in the kitchen.
If I’m reading, he’s snuggled by my side.
Even when I’m painting, he needs to be directly next to me.
On the couch wasn’t sufficiently close.
He waits for me to finish painting in his own special cubby next to my easel.
By the way,
He’s sleeping across my lap even as I sit here blogging…
You know all those reasons I didn’t want a dog?
They are all true.
This troublesome, smelly, furry bit of mischief has become an integral part of my day.
Much as I complain,
I suppose it’s a good thing to be Barkus’s human.
|“Eggs and a Feather” by Val (Oil on 8×10 canvas, February 2017)
I consider “Eggs and a Feather” my first “good” painting.
“Eggs and a Feather” was my 14th painting in 6 months.
(Most of my works are smallish)
I don’t rush.
But I try not to get stuck on any one painting either.
I don’t aim for perfection.
Instead, each new painting is a chance to learn.
Once I consider a painting finished enough,
It’s time to move on.
I really liked the photo.
But I wasn’t sure if I could make it work as a painting.
The colors were all in the same family.
The wood of the table so very distressed.
Could I handle the detail?
How would I convey the softness of the feather?
The painting process for “Eggs and a Feather” ran par for the course.
Initial sketch straight onto the canvas looked sloppy.
My lines are always a little crooked.
And my curves a little shaky.
First wash made it all look even worse.
I painted on.
The dark in the bowl wasn’t dark enough at first.
How many of those countless cracks in the table should I actually paint?
My eggs were wavy.
They look a little like lumpy potatoes.
But let’s just agree that they are eggs.
There’s always a moment when I throw the brush down in disgust.
I have to walk away for a bit.
Hoping when I look again,
I can see what worked.
And what needs adjusting.
“Eggs and a Feather” was done.
And I liked it.
I thought it was actually good.
But here’s the deal,
It can’t stop there.
Because it’s just one painting.
And when it’s done,
It’s onto the next painting.
Can’t rest on one (relatively) successful painting.
What I’m mulling over is this:
Why is this one “good?”
What makes it stand out from the other paintings?
Was it the composition?
What is my style anyway?
Do I have to have one?
Will it take 14 more “meh” paintings before I produce another “good” one?
How do I shrink that ratio?
I have no answers.
But I’m pondering it hard.
There’s a student art show coming up in just a few months.
I’ll be obsessing on that much more another time.
For now, I’ll just say that my goal is to cough up four more “good” paintings in time for the show.