I got an anonymous comment from a reader on my last post about ripping up my watercolor work for a collage piece. I thought this was a really good response, since it raised other questions in my mind that were relevant and quite interesting. Thank you, whoever you are, for giving me this opportunity to answer you. Here was Anonymous' query:
I find it very interesting that you say how it hurt you to tear up your own watercolor for use in a collage. How does it hurt you to tear up other images or other people’s work? I am an artist myself and I can relate to the feeling of accomplishment when one creates something, when you personally have designed, created, and finished an original piece of art work. By reading your blog I understand that you are a dedicated collage artist . Will you ever consider painting with the same inspiration as you show with collage…and not tearing up the image? I believe we can do what we set our mind to. Great art does not just come through inspiration alone, we need dedication, research, and above all practice.
I am going to respond to this line by line...
I find it very interesting that you say how it hurt you to tear up your own watercolor for use in a collage. How does it hurt you to tear up other images or other people’s work?
Each time I consider a piece of ephemera for my work, a few decisions have to be made. I have mentioned before that my fiancé runs an antique store. He has taught me alot about the value of aged goods, and especially paper goods. Books with bindings that are destroyed, or pages that are semi-moldy - ripped or torn - or destroyed....these are candidates for my collage. As an ailing book, the item has little or no cash value. Most people won't buy things that are falling apart, and if mold is involved it is probably just as well! I willingly and happily cut up these types of items with wild abandon. Sometimes, these older books (such as dictionaries) are filled with etchings, or unique art and I will separate these and save them. Chris sometimes frames them and sells them, since they have merit in their own right. Once I bought a book loaded with great animal etchings for $40 at a flea market with full intentions of ripping it up in my artwork. But, after I took it home and considered it, I was unable to use it. It has so much more value as a book in one piece. I have found myself using these images as reference for my own drawings. I will admit prior to my becoming further educated on copyrights...at one point I would have laser copied these and used the copies in my work. I don't do this anymore. At this point, I am pushing more than ever to be the originator of as much of the ephemera in my collage pieces as possible.
I want to also mention the fact that I have rarely had an opportunity to get a hold of someone else' art...the "original"...to be able to use it in my work! Who has? I don't often come across discarded pieces of creativity. I usually am using multiples. Printed objects, magazines, newspapers, brochures, old cards, books.... Labels, foil parts from candy wrappers. Things that have been discarded, or partially destroyed. I do have a few old acrylic paintings that someone discarded. I bought them from Chris for their frames, so I could recycle them in my stuff. The paintings? Well, I didn't want to rip them or tear them, honest, they were pretty lame. I gessoed over them and had my way with them as blank canvas instead. (I have since stopped doing this...since I have had some technical difficulties with adhering to the base)
I am an artist myself and I can relate to the feeling of accomplishment when one creates something, when you personally have designed, created, and finished an original piece of art work. By reading your blog I understand that you are a dedicated collage artist . Will you ever consider painting with the same inspiration as you show with collage…and not tearing up the image?
This question was the one that got me. Actually yes. I have done many watercolors and pen and inks. In fact, these mediums were my choices prior to my doing collage. I have a secret body of work that I keep to myself. These were painting that I did in a certain period of my art development that I cherish, as they have other meanings besides just being my watercolors. There are only a few that I feel have any serious artistic merit, and some of these are framed and hang in my home. There are others that were half finished, or that I thought didn't "work out". These I have used in my collage work as I see fit. I don't cringe as much when I tear something that I already have written off! As for painting with the same inspiration...again, I have done this. And lately, I have been painting again, and more than ever. My skills are rusty, but I really enjoy the challenge, and I keep thinking someday I may actually get good at it! It's been about 7 years since I seriously painted. I think this past 4 months I have done probably 12 watercolors...I still really want to try to use my own paintings in my own collage work.
I have found that painting is great, and it provides a certain kind of challenge...the use of pigment and brush, the integration of line, shape, texture, and value. It produces one type of end result. If I created a collage, then sketched from it and painted it, I could produce this flat rendering we call a painting. It would be a vastly different object than the actual collage. I believe MY personal passion is in painting with textures. I feel as though the painting...it's missing this tactile thing that I revel in. If you look at a collage in person, which is highly preferred to viewing here on the screen, you see a myriad of physical layers. Each element has it's own thickness, it's own varnish and surface treatment, it's own sheen, it's own individual tactile quality. It's the melding of these various textures that is my own special given talent. Even though these layers are pieces of textures that others have printed on their chosen papers, when removed from their context, these textures become my paints, which I weave and paste into collage, using those very same principles of line, shape, texture, and value. It's a rich medium, full of endless potential, certainly as much potential as a painting.
Some of my collage works go together like clockwork. It's as though someone else is guiding the finding and the placement of every element. I can do a few smaller works in a really serious, intense full day in my studio. Other times, I struggle for weeks, even months, with artworks half done, waiting for just the right piece, or to finish off something just right. Inspiration and dedication is required for a collage piece as equally as it is required for a painting. I feel that to be a successful artist in ANY medium, including collage, painting, photography, digital illustration, sculpture, crocheting....it all takes dedication and practice. ANd then some more dedication and even more practice!