I always joke to my other half that I’m at my happiest when I have something to cut and stick.
My journey into collage began with a crisis. I had been working for a good many years as a jewellery designer-maker - both retailing and wholesaling my designs . I became a victim of my own success with a repetitive strain injury in my right arm. I ignored the tingling, numbing and pain for too long.
Eventually I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It wasn’t going away. I had to make a life change.
A chance encounter in a Manchester bookshop with Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, reignited a buried dream that I’d had since my art school days: To work as fine artist.
The art we hide - even from ourselves
The Artist’s Way led me to start a collage journal. The basis of most of the pages was small, random works on paper that I had made during my years as a maker.
If you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you that I had made NO ART over those years. The amount of collage fodder I found told a different story!
This is the work I call “the art we make when we say we’re not making any.”
You might have some of it too. You’ll find it stuffed in a drawer, in a suitcase under your bed or in a cardboard box on the top shelf of your closet.
From pastel to paint
In that journal I first experimented with applying colour over the collaged elements.
I used thick creamy oil pastels which blended the different elements an areas wonderfully.
I still had a real phobia about paint. I felt I had no control over it. It never seem to do what I wanted it to do.
Mostly what I wanted it to do was behave more like an oil pastel!
It would take me another four years before I embraced acrylic paint as my medium of choice.
Many-layered collage process
The basis for the layered process I use today was born in 2008 when I did a series of seven large paintings based on the story of the Handless Maiden. It goes like this:
1. Apply texture - any or all of the following:
3. Gesso layer
4. Coloured acrylic ground
5. Collage pieces - paper and/or found elements
6. Matt medium to seal the collage - makes it possible to wipe paint off
7. Acrylic paint
8. Final layer of matt or gloss medium to seal
Sometimes I also do some stitching during layers 5 to 7.
How I cut out my collage elements
There’s something soothing to me about cutting paper. It takes me back to my childhood when my grandfather gave me a weighty tome that turned out to be a McCalls dress pattern catalogue. To me it looked like hundreds of pages of cut-out paper dolls! As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I was cutting...
To this day, I still love to wield a pair of scissors.
Listen to the audio of me talking about my cutting process: