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chapter four:
pick it out
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incorporating collections
Just as I began painting as a way to illustrate my poems, I started using collage
to make use of my many collections. I had always thought of painting and collage
as two separate ways of making art until I discovered the “right” kind of collage
materials to work with.
One day my husband brought me a pile of old pamphlets that had been discarded
from the science library near his office. The pamphlets were made of papers so thin
and delicate that when I turned the pages, they often tore. I carefully studied these
old, forgotten pages, each filled with beautiful botanical illustrations. I was drawn to
the captivating interplay of text and image printed within each figure. Many of the
publications were written in French, which made them even more appealing to me—
an unabashed Francophile. Because the pages were so thin and translucent, they
could be subtly layered into my paintings, giving me a whole new way of working.
I soon began to search out other types of books with thin pages and discovered
just what I was looking for in antique stores, junk shops, flea markets, and at library
book sales.
It’s a lot of fun to search through a collection of old books to find the perfect bit of
collage material to use in a piece. In fact, it’s become a central part of my creative
process. I’m sure I have enough books to last a lifetime, but they continue to offer
endless inspiration for my paintings.
In addition to books, my collage source materials have grown to include outdated
maps, old dress patterns on tissue paper, vintage bird ephemera, and small black-
and-white photographs from the early twentieth century. In this chapter, I’ll show
some examples and techniques for incorporating collections into mixed-media paint-
ings. I hope these will inspire you to start collecting ephemera and other collage
materials to use in your own work. Ill share some ideas to get you started, as well
as provide a more detailed and in-depth how-to technique for you to explore.
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start your own collections
Visit your local antiques or junk shops on a regular basis;
you never know what might turn up.
Scour ea markets and yard sales for ephemera such as
photographs, ticket stubs, postcards, and trinkets to use
in your work or for pure inspiration.
Used-book stores and library book sales are great sources
of not only books but also things such as maps, games,
old pamphlets, and fl ash cards.
using your collections
in your work
Fill your sketchbook pages with glassine envelopes
to hold ticket stubs and old photographs.
• Rip out a page of an old book and use it for collage.
• Use an old sewing pattern as the background
for a painting. The tissue has a nice translucent
quality when glued down on your board with
gel medium.
• Spread out an old map on the floor and use it as
your canvas. Draw directly on it, connecting the
lines and filling in the spaces with paint and
color.
• Pick up an old dictionary; close your eyes and
flip though the pages. Stop, open your eyes,
and illustrate whichever definition your eyes
land on first.
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