Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Depth Collage

I was in a workshop a few weeks ago run by a friend of mine. Callista has begun giving classes on what is called 'Depth Collage', and I was quite curious to try it. I confess that in creating artwork, I have rarely given myself permission to do things like using others' images, or even just letting myself be blown around by impulses and creating art without a plan in mind. The description of the exercise was that it would help you dive past your waking normalcy to reveal deeper parts of yourself, and that idea made me want to see what would bubble up for me. There was also the added bonus that it was being given by Callista, who is an intelligent, funny and sensitive woman that I greatly respect and admire.
Callista capturing me capturing her...
So we started with a guided meditation, to let go of the everyday worries and hassles and reach down more into our central being, to let our deeper thoughts and desires come up. We were encouraged to think about what we wanted to bring into our lives; not so much material things, but qualities we wanted to have in our lives, states of being, ways of living.We gradually, gently came out of the meditation and went on to the process of finding our images, while not falling back into the everyday world, but holding onto that meditative state.

Finding images that call to you is surprisingly fun. There were many, many different magazines with lots of color photographs and illustrations to choose from and we all happily began choosing images and setting them aside to use in our collages. It took some effort not to get sucked into reading articles, but the idea was to leave the analytical part of the brain out of it and let the other parts of the brain choose. It was a more emotional, visceral approach for me. I found myself drawn to nature images, to vivid colors, to animals and art and people, and before long I had quite a pile of pictures to work with. I was touched because several times other people came and gave me images that they thought I would like, and their images were so uncannily spot-on that it kind of threw me, but in a good way.

After a break and some explanation from Callista about the process of assembling the images into an overall collage, we were off on the harder part of the journey (for me, at least) of assembling our images into a collage on one big sheet of posterboard. Cutting out was easy; arranging was harder, especially since we were trying to do what felt right rather than letting the 'rules taskmaster' part of the brain take over. I enjoyed this part too, actually, since for me it became a fun puzzle solving sort of game of sensing my way along to what felt like the 'right' combinations and compositions of images, without letting my analytical side dictate rules. Many of my images were powerful certainties, and I was surprised to find that other images insisted on coming forward when I hadn't been at all sure of them when I had first selected the images. The colors were beautiful all blended together, and the images flowed from one into another in very pleasing ways. Callista had suggested at the beginning finding a central image or images that would represent yourself, and I had found a large white rose that started the entire collage; everything else built outward from that. I would never have guessed I would pick a big white rose as a central feature, but I love it. And then figures came in, paintings of strong women, the man sketching by cave paintings, other figures and objects and things that I found quite moving and powerful, especially when placed together.
I can't explain why the images are so important or why they move me and make me emotional, but they do, especially when they're all placed together, just so.

Towards the end of the time we had, we glued down the pieces, which was kind of a technical challenge in figuring out which layers had to be glued first; trying to glue them without losing the balance and composition of the pieces was a challenge. Some of them migrated during this final phase, but that wasn't a bad thing, really, maybe just another step in the process.

Eventually we finished up, gathered together and went around the tables to look and talk about everyone's collages. There was an amazing variety of designs and choices made, and as we went around, each person shared what the various images meant to them within their own collages, and everyone else offered their own feelings and insights about others' collages. Between the fact that many of us were already friends and the supportive atmosphere created during the workshop, we all felt quite safe and free to speak openly about our feelings, so there were many very personal and deeply meaningful insights shared. Some people's ability to articulate their own insights about their images and how they were assembled together was really profound and deeply touching.

I can see how making collages like these could be very helpful as a regular practice to help yourself to work through problems, life lessons and gain insights, because the entire process lets things in the subconscious percolate up and be expressed in the most surprising ways. Callista had advised us to keep our collages within easy sight afterward so we could keep looking at them later, to let them speak to us and let us draw further insights. I admit I want to hang it up at least partly just because I really like mine and I think it's beautiful to gaze at.. I don't feel like I've had time to really sit and look at it since the workshop, but it's calling to me with a craving to be looked at and savored. I'm curious to see what it says to me when I get that chance to indulge in it for a while.
The completed collage; click on it to see it larger.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daily Doodling with Debbie

I'm going to take the liberty of posting about a very cool thing Debbie manages to do pretty regularly in the midst of her busy schedule. Debbie has cultivated what she calls her daily doodles. :) She never makes a big deal out of them, but they're always fun and it's always  interesting to see what comes out of her creative and twisted brain:

She also uses her daily doodles for working out details of projects, like this recent group of thumbnail roughs to work out character design:


I have had very mixed success myself with keeping up daily doodles, since life somehow keeps getting in the way. But the fact is that even trying to keep up with a weekly doodle can go a long way towards building up a great family of sketches. I have a collection of sketchbooks that go back many years now; they vary in how well I managed to keep up with a weekly practice, but they do add up. You can look through them all later and have them stun you with all that they reveal. You may realize they show growth as an artist, they surprise you with their quality and how well you did, they show an evolution of your own unique style and a really surprising chronicle of your own internal life. Even if that includes crazed killer squirrels.