Apr 25 2014

Image Quest Through Soul Collage

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I felt I was onto something with my last collages… and I was excited to begin some drawings based on them, to create more personal interpretations before digging out my paints. But my drawing table was full of hundreds of collage images so I had to clean off the table before I could make room for drawing. As I began sorting through the images to put back into their respective folders, I was pulled back into trying different combinations. I ended up making several more collages.

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Collage is a very seductive medium for someone like me, who is attracted to the idea of combining images out of context.  It provides a means to play with the relationship that images can have to each other.  When drawing or painting, one needs to commit rather quickly to the composition.  You can always paint over or erase as you work on a painting or drawing, but nothing provides as many possibilities for multiple compositions as collage.  Picking up images and placing them down on top of or adjacent to other images is a seductively simple.  Sometimes the perfect combo of images easily find each other.  Other times, it requires reworking the ideas over and over again.   Sometimes the perfect combo requires only a few images, whereas others require a complex composition.

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A friend of mine recently commented on the fact that I seem to have unlimited sources for imagery.  I guess this is true, as I have been collecting photos for painting inspiration for years.  I have one of those portable filing boxes that I have hanging file folders in, with separate folders for many categories (birds, flowers, trees, landscapes, faces, figures, as well as separate folders for textures in various color ranges). I also have folders full of painted papers for some of the backgrounds. For these recent collages, I also harvested images from my Pinterest page (where I have a similar category system for my boards).  So I downloaded many of the images I gathered there onto my computer and printed them out at a laser printer (unlike inkjet, the images never fade). This also allows me to play with some of the images by sometimes shifting the colors, mirroring images, changing scale, etc.  Of course, most of the images are fairly low resolution since they are for the web.  Since my aim was to create small collages to inspire paintings, this doesn’t bother me (the finished size of these collages are usually within 8×10″). Also, if I like a collage and want to see it larger, I take a photo of the finished collage, transfer it to my computer and print a higher resolution image. Then I can tweak and adapt the image even more. 

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I have SO many images that it was necessary for me to limit the categories of images I’m exploring, to develop a theme.  For this set, I am exploring primarily images of flowers, birds, women and children (the latter mostly from vintage photos).  Representing the images in an unearthly scale (where birds or flowers are outsized compared to the figure) shifts the psychological content… where it becomes obvious that the unworldly landscape might represent the person’s inner life.  One reason for using vintage images instead of contemporary ones is for copyright purposes, but I also feel strongly attracted to these classic images.  I think they have a timeless quality. 

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I recently wandered into my local bookstore and stumbled upon a copy of “Soul Collage” (by Seena B. Frost). I realized that I’ve been creating soul collages for years, and I bought the book for further inspiration.

Because collage is a form of art that is accessible to nearly everyone (one does not need to have the technical knowledge of drawing or painting), it is a perfect tool for people to explore images that they connect with on a soul level.  The book inspires the use of collage less for artistic expression than  as a personal development tool.  The author explores the idea of archetypes within each collage image, such as the “Creator”, the  “Warrior”, the “Wise Old Woman”, the “Great Mother”, the “Shaman”, the “Hero” or “Heroine”, etc.  By creating a deck of cards from self-created collage, one has a handy divination tool that is very specific to it’s creator.  I have not yet used my collage images in this way. 

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I don’t know what my images mean to me yet, and perhaps if they were analyzed, many might belong to the same or similar archetypes, such as “earth mother” or “inner child”. Perhaps I will explore this later, but for now I am more interested in exploring my collages as a way of finding out what I want to draw and paint.  Also, I’m not honestly certain if all of these are going to be developed into paintings yet. Right now,I am thinking of them as “working sketches”.  Some of them call me to bring them to further completion more than others.  And while none of these are completely finished in my mind, I feel a strong desire to share them and bring them out into the world. I expect that some of these images will continue to be reincarnated in a variety of ways, through drawings and paintings…. whereas others might exist only as collage.  I welcome your interpretations and thoughts about soul collage or the use of collage as an image development tool for art-making. (All of the images on this page can be enlarged by clicking on them).

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