Christine & Michelle:
We believe that art is a cipher – a coded message from one’s inner self to one’s outer, more worldly, persona. A collage gives us messages, just like a dream, using metaphor, association, hint, cliché and pun to send us messages about ourselves. Building a collage is like creating a dream. Together, the conscious and unconscious mind paw through the assortment of the day’s images saying – there’s my favorite color, that dog reminds me on my dog, Spot, – that picture scares me, gladdens me, saddens me makes me feel loving, embarrassed, lonely… Sometimes we know why a picture attracts us sometimes we have no idea, we just find it irresistible.
This is what makes collage work fun, quirky, unexpected and easy. There is no right or wrong, up or down, smart or dumb. Simply pick up what appeals. It’s easy! No expensive art supplies to buy – all you need is paper, glue scissors. No studio space required – a table top or floor works perfectly well to spread out across. And it’s easy to put away your supplies and store them to play another day.
How do you begin a piece?
I usually like to work from the unconscious. I find discovery exciting. It isn’t uncommon for me to start with nothing in mind, or at least nothing conscious in mind. I start by drawing lines lightly in pencil on the paper, sort of a controlled scribble. I usually concentrate on dividing up the paper’s white space. I also work by turning the paper repeatedly. It isn’t until well into the process that I decide which way the paper is oriented. Sometimes I don’t know for a long time what the piece is about. Other times I have an idea that I want to express. I try not to preconceive the drawing; I want the idea to unfold.
Sometimes I come across a picture that won’t let me alone and I build an entire collage around it. Sometimes I ‘m inspired to manifest a concept. A series called the Triple Goddess hangs in my studio. Separate works define the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Other times I just want to create a collage and I pull out my files and start looking through them pulling random images that appeal to me. Then I go through them a second time and pull out those which seem related in some way, when I figure out what the relationship is I’m on my way.
How long does it take you to complete a piece?
Christine & Michelle:
Every piece differs; some take hours, some days, some weeks. The cutting out alone takes several hours – especially if there are a lot of small fiddly bits , Sometimes we keep moving the pieces around and around in different combinations. We often have to leave the arrangements for a few days between takes and then try again. On the other hand there are times when the pieces seem to fly into place on their own.
Have you always been an artist?
Yes, I have. I haven’t always been a practicing artist, however. When I was a child I had a lot of trouble in school. I am dyslexic and it took me a long time to learn to read. Doing art work gave me confidence. I was the one that volunteered to make the posters, design the program covers, make the signs, etc. The visual arts have been important to me. It was my art talent that got me into college. I have not always appreciated or taken my creative talents seriously. As I’ve grown older I have spent more time exploring what I can do. Writing is newer to me; it’s exciting to put words with my images and how the two work together.
We are all artists, born with a wealth of creative talent, but because I couldn’t draw well I thought I couldn’t do art. I had to rediscover my own creativity. Luckily, sometime in my thirties a friend dragged me to a collage workshop for ‘non-artists’. The pieces we produced were astounding in their emotional depth and aesthetic appeal. The experience taught me that being an artist is my rightful heritage as a human being.
Why do you write, paint, draw, cut and paste? What’s the point?
I do it for me; for you. Because it pleases me, satisfies me, drives me, teases me. Because time stops when I’m creating. Because I can.
Creative expression has helped me through some difficult times. Writing my book, Crying Woman helped me through the grieving process after my husband died. Being a disciplined artist is very hard for me unless I’m into a project. Once the idea has taken hold I become obsessed with it and often do little else until the project is done. Sometimes creating an idea, letting it unfold is just plain hard work — blood, sweat and persistence. When things are going well I love doing creative work and when I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do next I feel like I’m cursed — I wonder what’s the point? Why do I make art? I guess because I can, it’s how I express myself.