I was recently asked what my “essential image” was. Supposedly this is a single image that continually inspires the art one creates. I found that not only did I have no such image, I can’t even imagine having one. The idea of a single anything being a source of inspiration is one that completely baffles me. Everything I create is influenced by my whole life, by everything I have seen, heard, experienced and even the people I have met. But the question did make me think a bit about the evolution of my work and how I got to where I am now, which is what this blog post is really about. Let’s start back in early 2011.
The first tissue paper collage I ever did was this Daddy Long Legs.
I created it in one of my very first illustration classes at SCAD. The assignment was to use Eric Carle’s signature technique to create an insect. (Think “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”) This meant hand painting tissue paper with acrylic paint, cutting shapes from the paper and gluing them onto a plain white background. It was a fun project, but I didn’t see much future use for the technique. In typical artist style, I kept the extra bits of painted tissue paper anyways. You never know when you’re going to use things again!
I didn’t touch the paper for year, but then I accidentally ended up in a collage class. I wasn’t planning on taking it, but the class I had signed up for wasn’t what I was hoping for so I switched over. Turns out it was one of the most significant classes I took at SCAD. It started out with this bear.
We were practicing the encaustic technique in class, which means we were using layers of hot wax to attach paper to a surface. (It’s a wonderfully fun technique, but please do lots of research before you try it. If the wax gets too hot, breathing the fumes can cause permanent brain damage. My mom never listens when I try to tell her this.) My left over tissue paper was perfect for our projects, and I discovered that I loved being able to see the layers of paint and the brush strokes on the paper. So I tried a little lobster, without wax this time. Just paper, paint, glue and a touch of pen).
And then I tried something bigger, with no pen, just paint. It was a simple landscape, but I was developing my own technique. It was no longer something I was borrowing from Eric Carle, it was becoming something more, something that fit me much better.
After the landscape I decided to try something less experimental, and a little more realistic. Enter the portrait of my little sister, Jubilee.
All the experimenting led to my first published collage illustration, a painting called “Women, Art and Censorship.”
Now, in the middle of 2014, I’m still creating art using the tissue paper collage technique. Still learning new ways to use it, still practicing making it my own. Still taking a little idea here, a little inspiration there, and trying to weave it all together.