Back to Collage

Dear Liza,

I had a lot of fun making the illustrations for your story, and I learned a lot about composition and color while I was doing it. Now I’m back to making postcards with it.

I used one of the first drafts of the ‘people’ in your story for this one, along with the intense colors from our Portland Art Museum magazine. The words are the packaging from the Awesome Socks I get every month from your dad. I love their motto, “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

This cutie-pie pirate skeleton dude was in an Animation magazine and just needed an acrylic speckled beach and some vivid sky, again from our PAM magazine. The tricky part was cutting out all those skinny bones! The sun helped fill up that bare corner.

Auntie Bridgett’s adorable cartoon of an artist’s mannequin was in a years-old pile of scrap paper. I used it and a page from an out-of-the-garbage Rand McNally Atlas to make this card about heading your way soon.

My most recent project is the cover for my travel journal for the trip. Pages from the Atlas, joined with a fashion eyeglass picture, a scene from the AAA travel magazine, and a bunch of words made it look just right.

And yes, I admit to altering the map of Europe so that Amsterdam and Paris would fit in the same pair of glasses! So sue me.


Grandma Judy

Tying Up Loose Ends

Dear Liza,

I have been working on the illustrations for your story, “Adventure Grandma”, for months now. It has taken a long time because I have no training in art or design and am making the whole thing up as I go.

I started with drawings, but they were not as bold as I wanted.

Then I tried collages made of ‘found’ papers from magazines and packages, but it was too much of a mishmash.

I wanted all the pages to go together, to have some elements in common, so I painted my own. A strong red, soft yellow and several different blues and greens did the trick. For the abstract people, I painted a little orange and lots of black on several sheets of mixed media paper.

Then I designed pictures that had diagonal lines, to show movement and action.

I am very happy with how the illustrations have turned out!
Now I am doing hand to hand combat with my computer to get the story printed out the way I want. I promise it will be ready for you in Spring!


Grandma Judy

Illustration Progress

Dear Liza,

I am still working in the illustrations for your story, Adventure Grandma, and have changed gears a bit. Instead of drawing the pictures of our imaginary adventures in Denmark, I am playing with collage and acrylic paints.

As I go along, I am discovering all sorts of new possibilities and difficulties. Finding the right colors and patterns is tricky. I found some in my collage box and am creating others. You never know what will work. All the circles for my moons, suns and bicycle wheels came off Kleenex boxes.

I need to make sure that all the illustrations are cohesive, as Tim Gunn says, so they look like they are going to the same party. I am doing this by using some of the same colors on each page. Red and yellow from our Portland Art Museum magazine are featured in flames, bicycles, sails, and the Peacock Theater.

Then there are the actual shapes and sizes of all the bits. Trying to make sure that the unfortunate cyclists are believable lead to a sort of accidental circus.

The process of collage involves making a thousand decisions. You get an idea of what your picture should look like, then hunt for paper that will get closest to that. There is a lot of reconsidering and rejecting along the way.

I am having such fun with this project! My only worry is getting it all done before we visit you in the spring, so I will go work on it now.


Grandma Judy

Zooming Again!

Dear Liza,

After what seems like a really long holiday break, Ruthie Inman’s Zoom Art group is back together. I have missed doing art with this bunch of friends!

This week, Ruthie asked us to assemble collage materials in very specific color groups: white with black, black with white (an important difference!), reds, and something neutral, like a light brown print. I was intrigued. I dug in my scrap box and found some bits.
Ruthie had found a wonderful art piece by Deborah Shapiro for us to use as reference. The red wine positively sparkled!

Art supplies are always a bit crowded on my desk, but I make it work!

As the meeting started, Ruthie, Shirley, Vimi and I chatted about everything under the sun and started sketching, sorting and snipping.

A quick hour and a half later, we were all surprised at how well our pieces were looking.

The next meeting, we made more progress.

But still not quite finished. But we will play along, and all will be well. Patience!


Grandma Judy

Creating Postcards Part 3

Dear Liza,

I’m making more postcards! This time I have been focusing more on who the cards are for before I make them. It turns out, if I think about a person while I hunt through my collage box, things show up that I hadn’t seen before. It is some sort of weird picture-association Jedi mind trick.

For this batch of postcards, I thought about my newest friend Amy, my old friend Rick, my French teacher Veronique, and my newly-retired teacher friend, Cynthia.

Amy lives in Lake Oswego, just south of Portland. Every time we visit her, we get stunning views of Mt. Hood. When I mentioned this to Amy, she told me that she was as fascinated by the mountain as I am.

So of course the mountain had to be on Amy’s card, as well as some images that show her love of her garden.

My old friend Rick has an odd sense of humor and a long, tangled history with religion.

For his card, I put a silky terrier’s head on top of a print of a Cardinal on his throne, placed so Frida Kahlo’s head flowers and wallpaper shows. The foil that came wrapped around Christmas pears make up the finials of the throne.

Veronique is from Belgium and loves beauty in all forms. She is multi-lingual and has been an inspiration to me for many years. This Diego Rivera painting reminded me of her. The French on her card says “You must water the flowers” and reminds her to relax and appreciate life.

Cynthia and I taught together for many years and took French lessons together from Veronique. Cynthia has a Master’s degree in library science and is a cancer survivor, and has recently retired. The many changes in her life are making things a bit hectic. The French says “There are so many things to do.”

I am having so much fun making these small, mailable pieces of art.


Grandma Judy

Art Like Tinkertoys

Dear Liza,

There are all kinds of art. Painting, sculpture, singing, writing, acting, architecture. All of these consist mainly of a set of skills combined with a desire to explore or show the world in a certain way.

I am not particularly good at any of them. I can draw a cat that looks like a cat if I have to, but it isn’t my strong point.

And, I’m realizing, that doesn’t preclude me from being an artist. Just like so much of what I enjoy in the world are combinations of things, the way images are arranged or layered, can be a work of art.

This is where collage, mosaic, and assemblage come in. The arrangement and layering of paper, images, and objects as a work of art that explores the way the artist sees the world.

To me, it feels more like playing with tinker-toys. I find bits I can manipulate and put them together to make something pleasing to my eye that says, well, whatever I want it to say. And, for want of a better word, I will call it art.


Grandma Judy

More Collage-a-Person

Dear Liza,

I have not been doing as much art lately, because I have been doing more prep work in the garden allotment. But for my upcoming birthday, Grandpa Nelson got me a nice new jar of Mod Podge , so I felt inspired.

Saint Sweet Sophia of the Golden Pear Salad

I grabbed a few Better Homes and Gardens Magazines and started pulling out pictures. Advertisement photographs joined with plates of food and other bits and pieces got put together to make some unlikely icons.

San Miguel of the Root Vegetables

As I was trimming and gluing the pieces down, my imagination started creating the names of these unlikely Saints.

Saint Stevie, Defender of Social Distancing

Needless to say, I am having way too much fun with this!


Grandma Judy

Another Kind of Art Journal

Dear Liza,

Ruthie Inman has done it again, showing me a new way to make an art journal.

This one starts with an old magazine. Since magazines have really thin, cheap paper, you spread glue (or Mod Podge) and fold each page over on itself to give you a thicker page to work on.

I started with the cover, using a Payne’s Grey craft paint and some silver sparkly paint. Then I slathered craft paint over the pages, making sure to let each one dry before pressing the whole thing flat under a pile of books. This step took a few days.

But what sort of art should be in this journal? At another suggestion from Ruthie, I started using the idea of “The Exquisite Corpse”, a drawing game Cousin Kestrel taught me, to play with a new kind of collage.

Cutting different people, animals and things from magazines, I join them together to make some pretty cool Exquisite Corpse style images.

Is there no end to the nonsense I can get into with art supplies? I sure hope not!


Grandma Judy

Beyond the Exquisite Corpse

Dear Liza,

I wanted to tell you again about a game called “Exquisite Corpse”, which is not as gruesome as it sounds. Cousin Kestrel first showed it to me about three years ago.

It is a drawing game. You fold a piece of paper into three sections, one above the other. The first player draws the head of a creature, with the neck lines going just slightly below the fold. This gives the second player a place to start. Without looking at what the first player drew, the second adds to the creature. This continues with the third player, who adds the legs, or bottom part.

Auntie Bridgett, Cousin Kestrel and I played it last Friday when she was visiting.

This game is based on a word game invented in the early 1900s by Andre Breton, a surrealist artist in France. In the word game, you add to a story without knowing what it is about. Here, you do it with pictures.

As always, it was fun to draw and fun to see what we created together. I love this dancing-angel-god-thing.

Kes and I did a critter with just two parts, as well, and then there was this Soot Sprite (from “My Friend Totoro”) she drew. These critters were too adorable to throw away, so I made a piece of art with them.

I found a page in my art journal that was just sweeps of blue acrylic, trimmed the Exquisite Corpse drawings, and put them in a scene together.

Here is the story, as far as I have it : A tentacled merboy has discovered a lost baby bird at sea, and takes it to his friend, a confused Soot Sprite who lives on a teeny tiny island. The Soot Sprite isn’t sure what to do with it, but a ballerina-angel-sun god flies overhead and everything turns out okay.

I love that I took a picture game based on a story game, made pictures with it, and then made up a story about them. It’s like a spiral of word/art/word/art that just makes me happy!


Grandma Judy

Art Therapy

Dear Liza,

The other day, I woke up grouchy. There wasn’t really any reason for it, I just had a chip in my shoulder. Art projects I had started weren’t working the way I wanted. A story wasn’t as good as it should be. Nothing felt right.


After stomping around the house all morning and irritating my lovely people, I went for a walk and stomped around the park. I watched the dogs, listened to the birds, and smelled the rain in the mud. I am glad I did.

When I got home, I didn’t go near the art or writing projects I had wrestled with. Instead, I opened my box of collage papers and just started gluing pieces down.

I know enough to stick with colors that look good together. The first few I chose were red, so I went with that. Watercolor pencils, tissue paper from Pittman and Davis fruit boxes, and a small envelope filled up the bulk of the space.

The circles on the tissue paper were looking good, so I pulled out some circles that I cut from magazines years ago. A watercolor piece I did online with Ruthie Inman got cut out and added. A little bit of black made it better.

I made a weird little dude to hide in the envelope. And after more than an hour of cutting and gluing, I felt better!

Art therapy. It works!


Grandma Judy