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Make graceful and lasting change

More November Collage

Cindy Tonkin - November 26, 2020

I continue my exploration of the troves of paper.

At Sydney BAG last week Bernard suggested I should take photos of the workbench where I make these, so here they are. 

My process is mostly serendipitous.

I have over the years collected small stashes of things: 

  • block colours from donna hay magazine
  • spare pages from world book encyclopedia
  • bits from old grammar books or title pages i loved when i altered a book
  • photographs of bookshelves, furniture or kitchen goods – i’m particular taken with giant spoons
  • a folder full of small images from when I was obsessed with artist trading card collages
  • books of movie stills

basically i have piled them, as you see, on my desk.

At one point they had some order, but mostly they don’t right now. That adds to the serendipity of it all.

I usually start each collage with a base image (a bogey and bacall image, a face, a nice block colour, a national geographic photograph) and then dig into the pile at a random heights – sometimes I am looking for an image I know (something to be a nose on a face, something to be a foot), but I also rely a lot on serendipity: maybe the colours are perfect for another page I’ve just seen. 

It’s a revolving jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are of random sizes and shapes. 

I do tend to find that themes evolve with each sitting: I have had penguin themes (because of some old national geographic photos), an elephant theme, a colour block theme.  Last week I got stuck on using a hole punch shaped like a tree, because of the way superimposing a tree in block blue looked against block green.

Sometimes I just want to put block colours together. Sometimes the connections are cerebral: I have, waiting on my desk now a page on airplanes from the world book coupled with a shag on a rock and the giant letter “e”. Flight and birds kinda go together. and the bird is beautiful. Sometimes the connections are because i walk into the studio and find two random images together and they just work.

The beauty of collage is that I can do it in short stints – an hour of me collaging will give me 3 – 5 “works”. And i click into flow mode quite quickly, which is great when time is limited.

I like working quickly and I’m aware that not everything is a great work. but it does allow me to enjoy the feeling of art-making, which is the point of this, not the final work as such. I have so many pieces in my attic and have trashed so many more, i have to love the process. That said I do like to look at the pieces when they are done, and looking back months and years does give me pleasure, and inspires me to do more.  Sometimes i look at something that’s ten years old and wonder how i made it. it’s sad AND satisfying.

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