Thrift Store Purchase Inspires Collage Collaboration

Painted canvas purchased at Value Village, December 2021

Last December I bought a painted wooden canvas that an anonymous person had donated to Value Village. After studying it, I decided to follow some of the patterns of the paint swirls, adding tissue paper, thread, dots of acrylic paint, and handmade papers to the canvas.

Colourfish Swimming, 2022

The dark purple shape in the top left quadrant of the substrate suggested the eye of an aquatic creature swimming among waving pink fronds and flowery fragments.

Detail from Colourfish Swimming, 2022

To the artist who gave their inspiring canvas to Value Village, thank you for applying lines of paint that flow in violet, lavender, pink, green, and apricot. Without you, the Colourfish would still be searching for the body of water most suited to its temperament and creative needs.

Ellen’s Sockfish

My friend Ellen made this cloth creature in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s cafeteria one day in 2010. As we talked, she sewed the sweet green eyes and fashioned eclectic ear-gills that poke through the pink mesh.

Thread, needles, fabric, ribbons, and socks spilled from two bags I had brought from home, and our heads bent over our work as we talked.

Before we left the gallery, I took some photos of Ellen’s creation. I love how her hand both protects and presents the sockfish. Animated by playful colours and textures, its energy is bright.

Expressing movement, personality, openness — it seems eager to be on its way, tail swishing in the current.

I treasure the memory of that artistic afternoon with Ellen and all the times we met to write, make collages, or exchange ideas. With character, originality, and grace, she practiced friendship as an art form. I’ll never forget Ellen’s creative and loving heart that continues to bless. I miss my dear friend.

Lathrop, Richmond, Missouri City, and Liberty Missouri

Lathrop Missouri (2022)
Ferris Theater, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Town Square, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Town Square, Richmond Missouri (2022)
Missouri City Snowcowboy (2022)
View from the Odd Fellows Home, Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)
Liberty Missouri (2022)

Animal Spirit Guides Inspire Collage Art!

IMG_8185

I bought Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Animal Oracle Deck  in 2008 in hopes of developing collage workshops based on animal teachings. My friend Ellen Jaffe, a poet and teacher, found the idea interesting, so we gave the deck a trial run at a yoga studio, each of us selecting a card at random without looking at the illustrated side. I chose Wolf.

IMG_8189

Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

After Ellen made her selection, we took turns reading from an interpretive booklet provided with the deck. From the section on Wolf, I learned that its keywords are “Intuition, Learning, (and) The Shadow” and that Wolf encourages us to honour “the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone” (p. 22).

Following a discussion of the teachings, I pulled out a folder of images that I had collected for the animals contained in the deck. Each animal had its own transparent sleeve full of pictures, and from Wolf’s sleeve I selected a few photos for my collage.

Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010
Forest Wolves, Catherine Raine 2010

Having enjoyed our artistic experiment with The Druid Animal Oracle Deck in 2010, Ellen and I decided to offer a workshop called “Collage Your Animal Spirit Guide” at a music therapy facility in 2011. The session took place in Hamilton, Ontario and opened with all six participants selecting a random card. After reading aloud from the booklet about the selected animals, everyone received a set of pictures on which to base a collage in addition to backings, scissors, and a glue stick.

As we settled into our work one by one, minds humming in collective concentration, a silence like a seventh presence filled the room. After an hour of tearing, cutting, shaping, and gluing, we shared our artwork, celebrating each piece in turn.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Otter was my personal animal guide that day in Hamilton. According to Carr-Gomm’s explanatory booklet, Otter “invites us to play, to ‘go with the flow’ of life and experience — to become a child again” (p. 32).

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

To suggest flow and movement, I included swirling fish and active grasses. For playfulness, I gave the otters and their fish friend some red flower hats.

Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011
Flower Hatted Otters, Catherine Raine 2011

In addition to art sponsored by Wolf and Otter, seven other collages have been inspired by engagement with the Druid Animal Oracle Deck. After a gap of two years, I retrieved the deck when my mother was visiting me in Toronto. This time, Eagle rose up from the pool of cards laid out on my kitchen table. (Mom selected Hawk).

Illustrated by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

“Intelligence, Renewal, (and) Courage” are Eagle’s key words, and the booklet further asserts that Eagle “will . . . show you how to renew and rejuvenate yourself, by demonstrating the art of plunging — at the just the right moment — into the lake of the heart” (p. 24).

IMG_0122
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

My eagle collage depicts a rare species of knitted raptor, a bird who is at home in the water as well as the sky. Much less predatory than its non-textile cousins, the knitted eagle enjoys a quiet life of introspection.

The Knitted Eagle, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine, 2013
IMG_0113
The Knitted Eagle, Catherine Raine 2013

Several months after Mom’s visit, my friend Noreia and I consulted the animal spirit guides and made collages in a North York food court. This time, the card I picked belonged to Raven.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Raven represents “Healing, Initiation, (and) Protection,” and its message “may  . . . mean that we can come to a resolution of the opposites — experiencing that in darkness there is light, and in light darkness” (p. 20).

Ravens Three, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Ravens Three, Catherine Raine 2013

In my collage, three ravens consider life among the swirling patterns, discerning mysteries with their keen eyes.

IMG_1659
Ravens Three, Catherine Raine 2013

A subsequent session with Noreia saw us spreading out collage materials and the deck on a large wooden table at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. I chose Frog, whose key words are “Sensitivity, Medicine, and Hidden Beauty and Power” and who reminds us to “look for the beauty and the magic behind appearances” (p. 19).

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Carr-Gomm’s booklet also states that Frog is “a companion of the rain spirits” who can “help you develop your sensitivity to others, to healing and to sound through your skin and your whole body” (p. 19).

IMG_1378
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Frogs' Mosaic Green Room, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2013
Frogs’ Mosaic Green Room, Catherine Raine 2013

Goose followed Frog as the next creature-collage inspired by The Druid Animal Oracle Deck. At Noreia’s suggestion, we auditioned a different wooden table at a new coffee shop for the session, and it proved to be a goose-friendly venue.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

When I turned to the booklet’s page about Goose, I discovered that its main attributes are “Vigilance, Parenthood, (and) Productive Power” (p. 27). Additionally, Goose’s talent for attentive parenthood and soaring flight “shows us that it is possible to be both grounded and spiritual in our daily lives” (p. 27).

Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014
Geese Like Pink, Catherine Raine 2014

After Goose, Seal surfaced as the next animal spirit mentor during an oracle session that Noreia and I conducted at a home retreat.

Illustration by Bill Worthington
Illustration by Bill Worthington

Symbolizing “Love, Longing, and Dilemma,” Seal can “act as a guide and companion through the watery realm of the emotions and the Otherworld” (p. 40).

Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014
Wistful Seal, Catherine Raine 2014

Cat followed Seal to serve as a guide in the series, and Carr-Gomm’s booklet explains that “Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions” (p. 17). 

Illustration by Bill Worthington "Cat brings us the ability to observe situations quietly, without judgment, before making decisions (Carr-Gomm booklet, p. 17).
Illustration by Bill Worthington

For Flying Flower Cat, a calm and grounded mind provides the ideal springboard for flight.

Flying Flower Cat, Catherine Raine 2014

Finally, Salmon has been the most recent educator chosen from the deck, but other animals patiently wait for their turn to advise. As for the nine creatures who arrived from 2010 to 2016, I’d like to express my gratitude to Wolf, Otter, Eagle, Raven, Frog, Goose, Seal, Cat, and Salmon for their energizing insights and creativity!

2022 Update

Salmon’s collage is dedicated to the memory of Ellen S. Jaffe, who loved consulting The Druid Animal Oracle Deck and making art in community.

Illustrated by Bill Worthington

As the oracle deck’s booklet relates, Salmon responds to upstream challenges with “wisdom and inspiration” (p. 30), and Ellen exemplified this spirit when she wrote poems about living with (but not being defined by) cancer. Like Salmon, she created an arc of beauty in adversity: turning to the sanctuary of art, reciting poems in her head during scans and treatments, and imagining the counsel of her late father, a doctor.

Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016Seized by Loss, Catherine Raine 2016

Ellen died the day after her 77th birthday, cocooned in a cycle of return to her “beginnings . . . and perhaps beyond” (p. 30). While she was here with us, Ellen inspired, encouraged, and connected hearts with her poetry, activism, counseling, teaching, mothering, and friendship. For example, after hearing news of my grandmother’s death in 2008, Ellen introduced me to the phrase, “May her memory be a blessing,” explaining that it is a Jewish prayer to comfort the family of the deceased. Her compassionate words consoled me then and return to me now with a message of solace.

Ellen’s example shows what it means to live a life that blesses others, and in her legacy “lives the dearest freshness deep down things” (G. Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, 1877) that soften the pain of loss. Ellen, thank you for being my friend and mentor. Your memory blesses, has blessed, and will bless us for generations.

Found Shadows and Reflections

Scarborough Sidewalk, 2016
Lee Lifeson Art Park, Toronto, 2016

Outside Kennedy Station, 2017

Holland Nature Reserve, 2017

Liberty, Missouri, 2017

The Afghan Blanket and the Gift Bag, 2017

Outside Scribbler’s Coffee Shop (Kent, Ohio), 2018

Construction Shoring near Kennedy Station, 2018

Sidewalk by Woodneath Library, Kansas City, 2018

Traffic Island Park, Toronto 2018

Rouge Park, 2018

Rouge Park, 2018

Aga Khan Museum, 2018

Rain on the Parking Lot Outside Adonis Supermarket, Scarborough, 2018
Winter Light Display, Liberty Missouri, 2019
Tractor in Cinema Parking Lot, 2019
Wall Theater, 2019
Puddle on Eglinton Avenue, 2019
Sunrise Shadow Etching on a Fence Post at South Marine Park, 2019
Evening Walk in Scarborough, 2019
Kirkwood Amtrack Station, 2020
Stool in the Upstairs Studio, 2020
Port Union Waterfront Park, 2020
Shadow of a Plant on the Inside of a Garden Waste Bag, 2020
Construction Banner Creates Screen for Shadows, 2020
Weed Art, 2020
Reflection through Opaque Window, 2020
Morningside Park, 2021
Morningside Park, 2021
Rotary Park, Liberty Missouri, 2021
Creek beside Humber River (Near Old Mill Station), 2021
Creek beside Humber River (Near Old Mill Station), 2021
South Marine Park, 2021
Guild Park and Gardens, 2021
Discarded Mirrored Cabinets (Scarborough), 2022
Mill Street Tree Shadow (Liberty, Missouri), 2022

50 Images

Fire-Polished Driftwood at East Point Park, 2019
Teasels of East Point Park, 2019
Plant Shadow in Forest by Guild Park, 2019
Intense Wave at Bluffer’s Beach, 2019
Nearly-Engulfed Picnic Table at Bluffer’s Beach, 2019
Guild Beach Sunrise, 2019
Heart Leaves Beside Crockford Boulevard, 2019
Highland Creekbed, 2020
East Don River at Play, 2020
Organic Ice Designs Beside Betty Sunderland Trail, 2020
Sinking Tire and Branch Reflections of Eglinton Ravine, 2020
Eglinton Avenue East in Sunrise Colours, 2020
Grasses Beside the Parking Lot of Centennial College’s Ashtonbee Campus, 2020
Muted Tree Reflections on West Highland Creek, 2020
The Light in the Culvert, Taylor Massey Creek, 2020
Earth Day at Taylor Creek Park, 2020
Cormorant Watches and Listens at Taylor Creek Park, 2020
Elegant Wetlands of Taylor Massey Park, 2020
Dignified Reeds at Taylor Massey Park, 2020
Morning Walk for Lockdown Blues, Port Union Beach, 2020
Blurred Stone Corona, Port Union Beach, 2020
Wavy Reflections at Thomson Memorial Park, 2020
Regal Visitor at Highland Creek Park, 2020
Rest in Calm at Highland Creek Park, 2020
Daisy in Front Yard, Southwest Scarborough, 2020
Morning Glory on Sunrise Avenue, 2020
Weed Shadow Decorates Southwest Scarborough Home, 2020
Molten Light at Silent Lake Provincial Park, 2020
Day Breaks at Bluffer’s Park, 2020
Invitation to Wade at Bluffer’s Park, 2020
Hold Fast to What Illuminates at Farlinger Ravine, 2020
Sparkle Bath at Farlinger Ravine, 2020
Frozen Vista at Guild Beach, 2020
Dynamic Guild Beach, 2020
Movement Patterns of Water (Silvertone Filter) Guild Beach, 2021
May Your Day Sparkle at Guild Beach, 2021
Golden Ice Torch at Guild Beach, 2021
Ice Chandelier at Guild Beach, 2021
Partly Frozen Turquoise Lake at Guild Beach, 2021
Natural Ice Etchings at East Point Park, 2021
Water Swirls Among Ice Shapes at East Point Park, 2021
Eye of Shark’s Prow at East Point Park, 2021
Cracked Puddle in the Hydro Corridor by the Gatineau Trail, 2021
Playful Leaf in a Hydro Corridor Puddle by the Gatineau Trail, 2021
Illuminated Leaf, Southwest Scarborough Front Garden, 2021
Apartment Buildings Bathing at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Water Portrait at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Gracious Spring Presences at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Lyrical Roots at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Gull Poised on a Rock, East Point Park, 2021