The first question I always get when people look at my work is.... "How long did it take you to make that". And without fail, I deflect the question with an overall review of my process, because, really, I never count my hours, so I can't answer that.
So here is an example of my process, using my collage "Time to Bloom" to illustrate.
Step one is finding an inspirational photo, something I have photographed that I keep going back to. This photo has to have a tug on my heart or else I struggle in the process. This particular photo was taken in Santa Barbara, California at a beautiful city park, the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens. What I loved about this particular park is that all of the plants are low-water tolerant! Clean and abundant water is always on my mind. This is a great reminder to everyone that beauty and thoughtful use of water can co-exist!
Here is the photo that I took during our meandering walk through Alice Keck Park Garden. This photo is of a group of purple Scabiosa, or more commonly known as "Pincushion Flower". This photo became my inspiration and reference photo for the new collage.
I wanted to work on a close-up of one flower, but loved the partially hidden, fading flower behind the main flower, so I decided to add that one into the design. I lightly sketched it out with vine charcoal, then when I was happy with the composition, I went over all of it with a black sharpie marker, then erased the charcoal. I've found that the glue medium that I use smears charcoal, so your canvas and collage paper becomes dirty unless all the charcoal is completely removed.
The next step is finding the right colors and values. Here I usually play around a bit, using the reference photo and my imagination. I sit at my table with a pile of old magazines, and my scissors and start looking for colors, words and images. More on my materials in a future post. Sometimes I find a really fun piece that I want to put in the collage, in this case it was the head of a cat. I never know if a piece will make it into the final collage, sometimes it gets covered over, only time will tell if it makes it! Sometimes I work on one section at a time, and sometimes I work all over.... this is an all over collage!
I found another interesting piece, a figure, that I put in the upper part of the main flower. I hope it makes the cut, but the color is a bit more pink than i wanted. This means I have to adjust my color palette now. Sometimes this happens, I find a piece I love and work it into the design. At this point in the process I am also starting to focus on the fading flower on the left. I'm still not sure how i am going to get it to really fade... It's a mystery! But I do like the difference in shapes, rounded for the main flower and rectangular for the secondary flower.
I am adding more pieces every day. At this point I am starting on the background too. I continually take photos of my pieces, because when you look at your work in a photo (or a mirror, or upside-down), you can see things that need attention. If I am working on a few collages at a time, I have the luxury of coming back to it, after a few days, with fresh eyes.
I eventually get to the point where I have the entire canvas covered with pieces of paper. This doesn't mean I'm finished! It means I've covered the canvas with the best pieces I could find at the time! I then look at my collage with a more critical eye, and start working on the details, adjusting the values and making sure each collage has a few fun, unexpected elements.
At this point I want to simplify the background, so I did this by covering some of the busy pieces. Next, the fading flower's petals were too prominent, so I covered over the darker pieces with lighter value pieces that were more of the same value as the background. I worked a bit more on the fading flower seed pod, making it look more round, along with lightening up the stem and leaves. A few more tweaks with the main flower and I am finished. At some point I have to say "its finished". Knowing when to say that is the hardest part. The cat and the figure made it. And I have no idea how many hours I thought, sketched, searched, glued, contemplated, adjusted, and took to put on the finishing touches, just in case you were wondering!
The finished collage "Time to Bloom"