Category Archives: collage

Rice Paper Birds

Sometimes a new piece of paper can suggest a new direction, or a new way of seeing things. Such is the case with a gift of the most delicate pale blue translucent paper my daughter Laurel brought me from Toronto. For a while I just admired it hanging in the window with other strips of translucent paper being hung over it for effect. Eventually, two new pieces took shape.

I love flocks of rice paper birds. Playing with such sheer papers encouraged me to focus more on the abstract shapes of birds and the spaces between them (and less on the individual birds).

The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad

(Li-Young Lee ‘Praise Them’)

Something about birds

What is it about birds? I love watching birds…. birds at the feeder, birds flying by, especially flocks of birds. On occasion, I try to paint the birds I see in a realistic way, but more often I create colourful birds of the imagination, birds from faraway tropics, birds with hairdos, eye rings…improbable birds. As far back I can remember, I have painted, drawn, sculpted, collaged and colored these fanciful birds.

Our spring has been unfolding slowly, with many false starts and sunny days that tease. Outside these past two weeks, we have had many gray and overcast days. Inside, I have been immersed in a world of colourful and wild birds in tangled gardens. It is as if another spring is blooming inside me! When I make a rice paper birds and arrange them between sheets of plexiglass or when I paint birds, It feels as if these birds reside inside in me, too many to count, and as they are created, they fly free in paint and ink, in collage papers. Why I love to paint fanciful birds, I do not know. They are a happy mystery to me. I feel as though I could create birds forever! Look below for my recent spring pieces followed by  an assortment of other birds in flight from years gone by.

" Spring Bursting Forth", watercolour and inks, 18" x 24"

” Spring Bursting Forth”, watercolour and inks, 18″ x 24″

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"Tree Blooming Birds", Rice paper Plexiglass Collage, 32" x 40"

“Tree Blooming Birds”, Rice paper Plexiglass Collage, 32″ x 40″

 

Commission

 

Definition:

An order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially:
Mozart at last received a commission to write an opera

My Definition:

A mission which is shared by 2 or more people, with one being the co-creator or maker and the others having creative imput. Sue at last received a commission to create a rice paper panel in consultation with those who commissioned it.

The mission:

To create a beautiful rice paper plexiglass panel for a bathroom window that would serve as a kind of “curtain” or blind so that people outdoors could not see in to the bathroom.

How we worked together:

We knew two things at the beginning – the size of the window (which suggested the size of the plexiglass panel) and that we wanted colourful rice paper birds to be a part of it. Because the window looks out to trees (bare branches in winter), we decided to create branches for the birds. The branches would be bare in winter while in spring they would be enlivened with the green foliage that could be seen through the clear parts of the plexiglass.

My Part:

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Creating a template for the branches

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Trying the branches in the window

Trying the branches in the window

Trying simpler branches

Trying  a simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

 

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds to the cottage

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds on the plexiglass. Here it is in its “destination window”.

Time to Consult:

I taped the branch and some birds to the plexiglass and brought a whole handful of extra rice paper birds. The couple I was working wanted more birds, especially at the bottom, and especially more birds with red on them to pick up the colour of the bathroom walls. We also hit a problem: you could see through the panel into the bathroom. We hoped that more birds clustered at the bottom would help solve this problem.

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I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree

I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree. This is #3.

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This is # 6, the version the couple chose.

The next part is the finnicky part. The branches and the birds need to be affixed to the plexiglass. I do this using “zots” – tiny glue spots. The design of the branches that overlaps with the bird is cut out so that the overall design is not too intricate and each birds colour shows well. A few birds, such as the red one, on the bottom left, are left with the branches criss crossing their colour. It takes a couple of hours  and a lot of patience for this stage.

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Then the 2 panels of plexiglass are screwed together, fishing line is attached to the top screws so that the piece can be hung and it is ready for delivery. Because plexiglass panels shift in different lights and through different seasons, they need be lived with for a while to be truly appreciated.

Some of the challenges in creating rice paper collages in plexi glass are:

  • Can the two pieces of plexi glass be sealed so that there is no condensation in a bathroom? Someone has suggested using acetone and I am going to try this.
  • A plexi panel is like a see through shirt- not everything is hidden. I have used rice paper backgrounds but then you lose the beauty of seeing what is really beyond the window.We did cluster birds at the bottom, but this did not work as well as we had hoped.
  • Plexiglass is great stuff but it picks up dust and tiny bits of whatever – how to reduce its static qualities?

Each new art piece is an adventure for me. I welcome any knowledge or insights. To see more panels, check out http://poachedeggwoman.ca/galleries/rice-paper-glass-collages/

 

 

 

Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.
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Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

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In Praise of Play

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

I recently had someone ask me if my art PLAYshops were for adults. Most definitely, they are for adults. Sometimes they are also for all ages and at other times exclusively for children and youth. Most often I tell people that PLAYshops are like WORKshops, only we play instead of work. I offer PLAYshops in paper collage and watercolour painting, but the spirit of playful exploration is possible for so many endeavours. People do learn techniques at a PLAYshop but almost by accident  as they ask themselves “what if I tried this?” It strikes me as a sad commentary that “play” for adults is often the domain of adult only sexshops or professional football. The recent popularity of adult colouring books is one sign of how hungry we are for pure play in these busy and often serious times.

IMG_1512Here is what I notice about those who attend my art PLAYshops. Many of us learned in elementary school that there are one or two “artists” in the class and that that artist is not us! No wonder there is often initial concern about “getting it right”. Part of my job as a leader is the open up the space for experimentation, exploration, skylarking* and simple play. Once people get past “getting it right”,  and they usually do, I notice the great comfort that comes with the simple act of cutting with scissors, tearing paper with fingers or wielding a glue stick. The same is true of dipping a brush in a tray of pure colour, dipping it again in water and applying it to paper. Many of us have not enjoyed these simple activities since we were in school, or perhaps when we sat down to show a child how to cut or paint. It is as if by cutting or gluing, we are remembering something, some pleasure, that we long since forgot. We feel that pleasure deep in our bodies.

Although there is sometimes chatter as we create and experiment, there are also often periods IMG_1811of silence, when participants are so absorbed  and focused in what they are doing that they forget to drink their coffee or go to the bathroom or worry about when they will buy groceries. I love this feeling of a group of people being being wholly absorbed in what they are doing. I sense a sort of “hum” of contentment in the room.

I have just started taking an art class based on learning some very specific techniques. I feel excitement about trying out new things. What I noticed right away though, is how frequently those of us in the room criticize and put down our own work, even though we are there to learn something new. We can’t help ourselves. We are afraid to make mistakes. We take ourselves pretty seriously.

I understand this terror of creating visual art a little because I am terrified to dance in the same kind of way. I don’t seem to have natural rhythm, I trip over my feet, I try to take the lead. I need  to draw on this sense of play and fun when I hit the dance floor. Well, actually, first I need to get near a dance floor!!

Image 2Part of the appeal of the PLAYshops is the “play” part but another part of the pleasure is returning to work with our hands. We can get this same kind of tactile pleasure in a myriad of ways – carving wood, sewing by hand, kneading dough, painting a piece of furniture, raking leaves, polishing silver or leather. In an era when our fingers and thumbs are so busy sending messages via screens, we crave this ability to touch something real, something not virtual, something that we can transform and something that will transform us, even in the smallest of ways.

 

 

*skylark
n.
the common European lark, 1680s, from sky (n.) + lark (n.1). So called because it sings as it mounts toward the sky in flight.

v.
“to frolic or play,” 1809, originally nautical, in reference to “wanton play about the rigging, and tops,” probably from skylark (n.), influenced by (or from) lark (n.2). Related: Skylarked ; skylarking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day

Creek

 

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“SongLines”, Paper collage and watercolour on watercolour paper, 10″ x 22″

During “Immersed in Nature: A Retreat at Valley View Farm“, a weekend hosted by my friend Debra and I in late August, we considered and explored line, shape and colour. The lines, shapes and colours  that called to us as we explored the natural world.

Much of my preparation for this weekend took place at Pheasant Creek Coulee, a few miles south of our farm. As I sit by the large stone I have come to know as “Grandfather Rock”, I am drawn by the shape of the creek, by the way that it winds and weaves. Again and again, I have drawn or painted or sketched  the creek as it sings and curls its way through the coulee and the hills in which it resides.

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"Pheasant Creek Coulee"

“Pheasant Creek Coulee”

 

 

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During our retreat, I began to play with the shape of the creek, starting with watercolours and eventually adding metallic papers – candy and chocolate wrappers, cigarette foils, origami paper. And there my own simple exploration of line, shape and colour sat for several weeks. I kept thinking “song line”…. it seemed the curves and rhythms of the creek were both outside me and singing deep within my body.

Collage- shape, line

Collage- shape, line, colour

I knew that I wanted the feeling of hills around the creek but not necessarily something representational. I began to play with shapes and contours, with different shades of rusts, browns, coppers, gold…..I wanted to capture the feel of the place, the movement of the hills, the way that this place sings within me, how it feels like  treasure.

Image 6 Image 7Once finished, I took this piece to the place that inspired it to photograph it. Seeing it in the coulee, amidst the rust of the little bluestem grasses, the gold of the aspen leaves, the shadows of the hawthorn and birch seemed somehow right, plus felt incredibly goofy (in a good way) and was just a lot of fun.
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Putting Up Paper Preserves

At a collage PLAYshop, paper is everywhere. Large sheets are displayed on laundry racks, rolls on window sills, trays of coordinated colours – old wrapping paper, candy wrappers, envelope linings, you name it. Some of the paper is textured, some translucent, some brilliant and many hued, some flecked with gold, some shiny, some thin as tissue. The people who come to a PLAYshop already love paper. I ask them to begin by picking the paper that calls their name, the paper that brings their hand to their heart, the paper that won’t leave them alone…IMG_2110Sometimes people come with a plan but a piece of paper takes them in another direction. Occasionally, two pieces of paper lying in a particular suggest idea. Magical scrap baskets which contains yesterday’s rejected bits of paper are somebody else’s inspiration.Image 4IMG_1141
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Tania started with transluscent paper but found she could not stay away from bold and brilliant colours. As she created whimsical jars of preserves to keep her spirit strong  over winter, she asked us all “What would you preserve?” A prairie fall day, the hope of a rainbow, saskatoon berries, the buzzing of bees on sunshine… sometimes just a brilliant colour (the new green of spring) or a piece of paper that simply could not be resisted.

Tania's jars of preserves - in process

Tania’s jars of preserves – in process

I have enjoyed thinking about what we preserve and what we let go. Just today, I dug carrots – some will go in the cold room and we will enjoy this delicious root vegetable in another season. Maybe I will think of the smell of rotting apples and freshly turned over soil which I enjoyed as I dug them. Some of the carrots, I ate raw today, with a little dirt clinging to them, the freshness of their taste mouthwatering, their crunch loud!!

Preserves are meant to be tasted and enjoyed at some point. They are not meant to stay in their jars forever. Jellies and relishes, jams and salsas…. their colours, tastes, smells take us back to the warmth and abundance of late August.

Much of the paper collage art I create will not endure – the paper will fade, disintegrate, get torn. What matters most to me is the completely absorbed and happy world I inhabit while creating. Added benefit: Maybe for a few days or a few years, the piece will give someone pleasure.

Sometimes the art we hang becomes so familiar that we no longer really see it.  The rice paper pieces are often in flux –  they catch our attention as the light changes during the day, as the colours outside our windows change from green to oranges and yellows, browns and finally dazzling whites and purples and blues. The translucence of the rice paper sends shadows to our walls as the sun moves across the sky. They look completely different at night, especially from the outside of your home. The art itself is ephemeral, a glimmer, a sheen, always shifting.

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day

In a sense each of us who created something at the PLAYshop were “putting up preserves” for a winter day. For Janet, the vision of dragonflies on a summer day.

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Janet's  dragonfly panels. First time playing with paper!

Janet’s
dragonfly panels. First time playing with paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Liz and Karen, a flower garden that can offer light and colour on winter’s coldest day.

Liz's flower panel

Liz’s flower panel

 

Karen, the speed demon,  with her first try at a rice paper panel

Karen, the speed demon, with her first try at a rice paper panel

 

For Darlene, the elegance of a tiny perfect golden flower and birds in flight.

Darlene holding her bird panel and her exquisite miniature cards

Darlene holding her bird panel and her exquisite miniature cards

Darlene's rice paper bird panel

Darlene’s rice paper bird panel

For Jocelyn, a fanciful hummingbird.

Jocelyn and Liz with their birds

Jocelyn and Liz with their birds

For Tania, the abundance of her own amazing imagination – taking form in jars of preserves., some of the jars unable to contain all their contents, bursting with possibility, and sometimes even with flight…

Tania's jars of preserves - almost complete

Tania’s jars of preserves – almost complete.

 

Immersed in Nature

Do you have the patience to wait

Till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

Till the right action arises by itself?

 Tao Te Ching

Photo Credit:http://thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com

Photo – http://thesimplefrontporch.wordpress.com

a joint blog entry by Sue Bland and Debra Brown

Sue : I am not a patient person. Mostly, I do not have the patience to wait until my mud settles and the water is clear. To remain unmoving is very difficult for me. More often than not, I rush ahead with plans and lists and schemes. The wisdom of the twenty seven words above seems written for me.

Last year, when I was searching for venues to hold my art retreats and PLAYshops and my friend Debra was considering opening her farm home in the Eastern Qu’Appelle Valley for retreats, we wondered, slowly, tentatively…is this something we could do together?

the view from the top of the hill - misty moiety weather- at valley View Farm (well named)

the view from the top of the hill – misty moisty weather- at Valley View Farm (well named)

This simple question,  and the eventual answer to it, has taken us on a journey together , something we both came to see as a ceremony of sorts.

We talked about the question, let it rest, dreamed about it and slept on it. In time, the answer to our question arose, and it was YES. When would we hold it? We thought about May, dilly dallied, rejected May. Somehow, late August felt exactly right to both of us.

The burr oaks

The burr oaks

Together we came up with the title – Immersed in Nature: An Art Retreat at Valley View Farm. 

We prepared, each in our own way.

Debra: I sorted, cleared, reorganized more layers of 75+ years of family habitation. While this challenged me on many levels, I never lost the clear knowing that offering this retreat with Sue was a gift, the right “next step” to explore the long-held dream of offering sacred space for people at the farm.

Sue: I am so moved by the beautiful hills and valleys, grasses, woods and wetlands at Valley View Farm. How could this sacred place change and inform the way I offered a PLAYshop or an art retreat? If I truly listened, what did the natural world have to say about how we might approach our time together? I wanted our art to emerge from the nature were were immersed in. I wanted to offer exercises that might shift, ever so slightly, the way we see, experience and respond to the natural world. I practised close to home – in my beloved Pheasant Creek Coulee. There I sketched and painted, or simply sat and took in the beauty. There, I considered the visual elements of line, shape and colour.

the colours of the grasses

the colours of the grasses

Our enthusiasms and efforts were buoyed by registrations and expressions of interest. As we got closer to the weekend, a few people cancelled. Should we go ahead? Doubts surfaced. What if everybody cancelled? We determined that we would go ahead, no matter what. The ceremony of this joint venture was well underway, and even if it was just the two of us, we would see it through until the end because we very much wanted to.

Happily, we had three participants, each of who brought her own special gifts and interests to our shared weekend.  What follows are some “moments” that stood out for each of us.

Sue: Coming downstairs to see guests each with a dark coffee in tow in the sunporch, a book or journal nearby; companionable silence.

Debra: the land being received with such appreciation and delight on our introductory misty-wet walk up the hill, and throughout the weekend

Big Bluestem grass with wolf willow

Big Bluestem grass with wolf willow

More Big Bluestem (taller than I am)

More Big Bluestem (taller than I am)

Sue: a silent walk, sharing wonder and delight with others, but not using words

Debra: women moving and creating in their own rhythms, filling the house with waves of peaceful silence and rich conversation

Sue: the smells coming from the kitchen, as Debra created magic… with plates of such aesthetic beauty and such fresh taste, you could die and go to heaven

Debra's unbelievably scrumptious food

Debra’s unbelievably scrumptious food

Close up!!!

Close up!!!

Debra: the radiance of one participant, after a final pre-departure walk (and drenching) in the hills

Sue: the sound of charcoal on paper as we drew

Creating art…blindfolded!!

Creating art…blindfolded!!

Debra: the insistent presence of Nature throughout the program. ‘Immersed’ we were [or was that baptized and blessed?] by the rain, the shimmering dew on the grasses and verdant forest

the last of the blazing star

the last of the blazing star

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Collage- shape, line

Collage- shape, line, colour

Selecting paper treasure for the trip home

Selecting paper treasure for the trip home

Would we do it again? When the weekend was over, we really weren’t sure. A week later we met and talked about all we had learned, what we would change, what we would celebrate. Then, with the need to follow the insistent thrum in her core, Debra said, “There is something new rising in me”. That insistent rising is the seed of Sweet Darkness: A Mid-Winter Silent Retreat . And so, this ‘ceremony’ continues to ripple through our lives and into the world.

Sue's mandala (left) and Debra's mandala (right) . Each created without looking at the other!

Sue’s mandala (left) and Debra’s mandala (right) . Each created without looking at the other!

Raising the Roof

IMG_2164My summer plan was to stop creating collages for a while, and focus a little more on watercolour painting. Then, this beautiful blue lining from an envelope Jessie received  with a grad card captured my heart. The paper is silky, the geometric patterns simple, the different blues thrill me. The envelope lining is almost perfect – just a slight tear. It beckons me from my work table every time I pass. It wants to be a house. So, I put the watercolours aside and pull out my scissors.

envelope lining - to die for

envelope lining – to die for

envelope lining becomes a house

envelope lining becomes a house

trying different background papers

trying different background papers

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I try the house with the roof on and it doesn’t look right. So I raise the roof a bit…. suddenly in the new space created I can see that a tree wants to grow – a golden tree. I find the perfect gold foil – the wrapper from an expensive chocolate bar.

a tree begins to grow from beautiful and fragile gold foil

a tree begins to grow from beautiful and fragile gold foil

tree is raising the roof

tree is raising the roof

gluing the tree - toothpick and wet glue

gluing the tree – toothpick and wet glue. Slow work…patience, Sue

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green leaves from cigarette papers, turquoise leaves from old wrapping paper

green leaves from cigarette papers, turquoise leaves from old wrapping paper

almost done

almost done

birds fly from the tree

birds fly from the tree

flight

flight

"Raising the Roof" - Paper collage using candy wrappers, envelope lining, cigarette foils and other papers

“Raising the Roof” – Paper collage using candy wrappers, envelope lining, cigarette foils and other papers. 18″ x 24″

 

A few days later, rectangles of the original envelope lining plus a new piece of purple paper from the Paper Umbrella inspire me – this one is about RAIN, I think, and responds to the deluge of rain we got in early July that caused flooding in much of Southeastern Saskatchewan.IMG_2195

 

in the window…this paper is marbled gold in the back and I like how the light picks that up.

in the window…this paper is marbled gold in the back and I like how the light picks that up.