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Collage Insight

Tools for jumpstarting creativity can be as varied as the individuals who use them. So far, we have talked about writing, atmosphere, and walking as different ways to tap into our creative brains. Today I introduce an actual creative art form that many of you probably haven’t done since grade school. Collage as art form has really been gaining in popularity. It has been around for a long time, but some of the pieces I am seeing on line are really remarkable. Intricate and sometimes photorealistic images put together with slices of magazine pictures are breathtaking in their presentation and charm.

Collage as a way of sorting out creative blocks, or discerning direction, is perhaps, relatively new. Many have never even heard of the idea. I first tried it when doing an exercise from a Julia Cameron book. I have used it over the years when my vision for my art seemed stalled. I am not a collage artist, and you don’t need to be in order to try the exercise. You just need to be willing to try something new.

Step One: Take an old stack of magazines that you don’t mind tearing apart. (They will not be readable when you are finished.) 3 to 6 magazines is a good start for your first collage. Set a timer for 30 minutes or so. Begin going through the first magazine page by page, and with out overthinking, or “editing out,” begin to cut or tear images from the pages and setting them aside. Do this as quickly as you can. We are aiming for first impressions of things that interest, intrigue, or inspire you. It could be a particular color, a word, a phrase, a scene, an item of clothing. It could be an article (only grab the title, if that is the case – don’t stop to read the whole thing!) Pulling images unedited is tapping into conscious and unconscious interests and curiosities.

Step Two: Once images are pulled take a few minutes to trim them up and prepare to glue them to a larger piece of paper or cardboard. The making of this collage is not necessarily intended to look like a work of art, though it may tend to be one. When you are ready, begin arranging them and gluing them down as you see fit. This should feel natural and not stressful. You are putting together lots of different and maybe even disparate images. I have often held each one and decided, should it go right? Or left? Up? Or down? Sideways, or even upside down? This should feel fun. It should not feel pressured. It should feel like you are back in grade school enjoying yourself.

Step Three: Take a few minutes to look at your finished collage. What comes into your mind when you first look at this? What is your overall impression? Now is the time for reflecting on paper. And yes, I am going to ask you to write again. Below are some questions to think through in your writing.

Are there people? How many? Who might they represent? If there are none, ask yourself why?

Are there colors that are repeated? What are they? Do they remind you of anything?

Make a list of the words you pulled. Are there any that are repeated? What might that indicate?

Are any of your images repeated? Is there a message that this gives?

What comes into your mind when you first look at this?

This may seem like a very elementary exercise. It is supposed to be. The artist in you requires “play time,” much like you would give to a child. “Play” is one of the things that feeds our artistic mind. Paying attention to the images of our collage is one way we begin to tap into dreams, or fears, or goals that may live “below the surface” of our everyday thinking.

Enjoy this exercise as you would enjoy “recess.” It is good for you. If it doesn’t appeal to you at all, then by all means, don’t do it now. I find that something in us will either say “yes,” or “no,” and sometimes we listen, and sometimes our “no” needs to be overcome. Only you will know this. There is a great book about "Resistance" for artists. Sometimes our resistance just needs to be overcome. (More about this later!)

I plan to do a collage today. It is always exciting to see if I may learn something new about myself and my particular season of life. Maybe I will share it tomorrow.

Finding Joy in the Journey,

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