Posts Tagged ‘Collage’

Glass AppleI attended an event in Harvard Square a few nights ago in which the prolific novelist Joyce Carol Oates read from her latest novel, Mudwoman, and answered a variety of questions from the audience.  When asked if she kept specific routines for her writing (for example, a goal of 500 words per day) she said that she didn’t, but that she liked to hold images in her mind before writing about them. She described waking up and lying with her eyes closed for 20 minutes or so, and just turning an image or an idea over in her mind.

I found myself closing my eyes and imagining doing this, realizing it is similar to what I sometimes do when I wake up from an unusually curious dream. For me, staying with an image or an emotion upon waking helps the rest of the dream events unfold like a long cord unraveling.

Oates went on to say that it is her practice to try to hold and turn over these images without putting words to them, and letting the words come later when she is sitting down to write.

Since hearing her talk about his, I have been thinking that there must be some sort of visual art equivalent to this process she uses for writing. The night before I heard her talk, I had purchased a copy of Digital Studio, a magazine put out by Somerset. I pick up a copy of Digital Studio a couple of times a year when I have the urge to feed my experimental spirit. It isn’t that I have been lacking in inspiration. I’ve been making art any chance I get and having fun with it. But sometimes I just want to shift a little bit in another direction, without necessarily even thinking about it in those terms. Which is what led me to the massive arts-related magazine rack in my neighborhood, and to taking home a nice thick issue of artistic images to soak up. The images featured were (and usually are) collages, some made from photographs, some made from free shared images available on websites like Polyvore.

I liked the collages very much, but found that many of the images used by the artists in the magazine didn’t quite resonate with me. So what were my images? The day after Joyce Carol Oates’ talk, I began to look around at objects in my home that I especially like. Pretty things. Things I just like looking at. Out came the camera, and I began to take photographs of them from various angles and in shifting relationship to one another. It was an opportunity to spend time just turning them over in my mind, studying and appreciating their qualities.

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

I downloaded the photos and opened Photoshop, placing the photos, layer upon layer, onto a deep orange and white multi-layered pattern design I had recently made. I added another pattern into the mix, this one with orange, gold and turquoise. As I layered, I adjusted the transparency of each layer so that the layers beneath could be seen, and I erased in and around many of the images to bring forward what I didn’t want to be as veiled. When I was done, 15 layers later, it was like rising to the surface of a pleasant dream and stepping tired but happy onto the shore of the topside world.

I liked the piece very much, perhaps because it felt true to me. Making it was like letting that long cord unravel, beginning with the urge to find some fresh inspiration, and following it to its eventual end. But the end is always a beginning, too. What’s next, I wonder….?


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Greetings folks,

This is a quick post to mention an exhibit of my work in Boston at the new Japonaise Bakery & Cafe. These are digital paintings based on original photographs and paper collages. They’ve been giclée printed by a terrific Somerville-based photographer named Mark Peterson. (To see Mark’s photographs of Boston and far beyond, check out http://www.siteandsituation.com.) The color came out beautifully and I’m happy to see them framed and up!

Cheers, Paula

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"City Life,"mixed media (paper collage based digital art), copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

For me, some pieces of art start and develop spontaneously — by an act as simple as taking a marker in hand and moving it across a blank page, or by focusing on a photographic image and improvising on it. But others are like tiny seeds that lie beneath the soil for a long time until a ray of light hits them in just the right way. In the case of “City Life,” a mixed media collage I just completed, it was the latter.

In the beginning...

One night, maybe a year or so ago, I sat down with a scissors and a stack of magazines and began to cut tiny squares from the pages. I cut from a variety of sources, including catalogs for silk clothing and interior decor magazines with textured fabric images. I thought that one day I’d use these little squares for windows in a collage with a city scene. For a long time I had held an image in my mind of lighted windows in buildings at night. So I cut them to a size slightly smaller than my own thumbnail, but I didn’t worry about them being exactly uniform or square. I thought the slight irregularity of their size and shape would give my imagined buildings a pleasantly soft off-kilter look. Once I had my fill of this meditative exercise, I poured the squares into an envelope, labeled it, and promptly forgot about them. It wasn’t until I came across them again recently that the image began to take more solid form in my mind.

Window repair

I began constructing buildings one by one, finding magazine pages with large sections of one color. Sometimes I picked sections of color that had a slight metallic look to them. Others sections I picked for their quality of surreal-ness as a building material, like the building near the forefront made of cloud-streaked sky. Sifting through the packet of squares, I picked out windows for each building to contrast with the exterior. The tall, sleek glass-paned building representing the Hancock Tower (here in Boston, where I live) was made from cutting out a section of pale painted wall from an interior design magazine, leaving a little bit of the ceiling molding at the top. It had just enough sheen and translucence to mimic the outer surface of the Hancock Tower. With a ruler and dark colored pencil, I drew grid lines to create the windows.

Construction site

For a backdrop, I had glue-sticked some torn sheets of purple tissue paper to a 9″ x 12″ page in a sketchbook. Some of the torn edges of the tissue paper overlapped each other, and I left them that way thinking that when I finished the paper part of the collage, I might photograph it and take it into Photoshop, and those ragged overlapping tears might become part of an interesting sky pattern. Really, I had no idea — that part was purely experimental. As I constructed each building, I moved them around on this backdrop, slipping them behind each other and moving them up and down to decide where exactly to place them. I didn’t want any of the buildings competing with each other, so it was important to place them in complementary relationship to one another. Once it was determined where a building should sit, I’d glue just a part of it down with glue-stick so that I could still lift the edges to slip other images behind it.

Cutting out shapes on the self-healing cutting board

The buildings had a flat look to them, which I liked, but I wanted to add some images with depth as well. I started looking through other artwork of mine to see if there were any elements I could borrow. I found a photograph I had taken of a street in my neighborhood, with old brownstone homes and trees. I had put the photograph through some coloring filters in Photoshop, and had achieved a stained glass look for the trees that I really liked. I printed this image onto photo paper and then cut out some of the trees and buildings to insert into the paper collage. I found another piece of digital art I’d created (Winter, Five P.M.) from a photograph I’d taken of a sunset in Harvard Square, and I cut out the glowing streetlamp and part of a silhouette of buildings behind it to add to the collage as well.

As I added buildings, I added plant life. I was stumped about where I was going with this piece, though. I had originally thought I’d keep adding buildings, moving further into the sky with them, but now that wasn’t feeling quite right. As I contemplated the skyline, it occurred to me that a sky full of plant life would bring this city to life and create upward movement.

Adding color to butterfly

The plants were made by cutting out leaf-like and petal-like shapes from paper. And then the butterflies, cut with an Exacto knife and colored with colored pencil. I use a self-healing cutting board for cutting shapes with an Exacto knife. If you’ve never used this kind of cutting board, the cut marks are visible in the board but they don’t leave grooves in the surface. So you always have a smooth surface to cut on.

Applying adhesive

When the last butterfly went on, I knew it was done. It conveyed the happy, magical feeling I have about living in the city. For me, it is a place of ongoing surprise and discovery of beauty.

I wasn’t happy with the tissue sky, however, which had rumpled and bubbled up from below. And when I photographed the piece, there was too much reflection off the pieces of black paper. Bits of dust and cat hair had slyly found their way into the photograph even though I’d taken care to dust it. I’d suspected I’d end up doing some digital work to this piece, but now I knew it. In Photoshop, I took a color sample from the darkest purple of the sky, then painted it in. I did the same with the black buildings, to get an even finish. At one point, I realized that a window on one of the buildings had slipped loose and was dangling a floor lower than it should have been. I had already done so much work cleaning it up digitally that I didn’t want to re-photograph the piece and start over. Instead, I rebuilt the window using the “clone” tool. The digital work took a long time but I was really happy with it when it was done. It represents the city of Boston to me, but it definitely carries influences of my former life in Miami, where I lived until 1993.

Final paper touches before photographing and digitally painting

May you find wonder, surprise, and beauty where you live.

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