Four years ago today, I lost a childhood friend to cancer. She was only forty-one years old. To celebrate Jenny and her love of all things purple and fun, I’d like to dedicate this tufted art piece to her memory. I communed with her playful, artistic spirit as I built layers of paper with matte medium and then began a process of décollage.
The photo-chronology below begins with the first layer of collage, builds to the top layer, and then documents the process of tearing away and other alterations.
I miss you very much, Jenny! I’ll never forget your hilarious laugh, astuteness, and loving smile.
Six years ago, I bought Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s The Druid Animal Oracle Deck with the intention of offering collage workshops based on animal teachings. My friend Ellen Jaffe and I gave the deck a trial run at a home yoga studio, each of us selecting a card at random without looking at the illustrated side. I chose Wolf.
Ellen and I took turns reading about the selected animal from a booklet provided with the cards. I learned that wolf’s keywords are “Intuition, Learning, (and) The Shadow” and that wolf can encourage us to not to be afraid of “the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone” (22).
After discussing the meaning of the cards, I pulled out a folder of images I had collected for the animals contained in the deck (each animal had its own transparent sleeve full of pictures). From an assorted set of wolf pictures, I selected a few for my collage.
To follow up our experiment the previous year, Ellen and I facilitated an art workshop in 2011 called “Collage Your Animal Spirit Guide” at Fermata‘s Music Therapy Centre in Hamilton. Each of the participants selected a random card, read from the booklet about their card, and received a set of pictures on which to base a collage. A beautiful silence, palpable with concentration, filled the room, and it was wonderful to share the finished pieces with each other at the end of the session.
My personal animal guide for the day at Fermata was Otter. 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” (32).
Trying to capture the idea of flow and movement, I found some swirling fish and active grasses. For playfulness, I gave the otters and their fish friend some red flower hats.
In addition to art sponsored by Wolf and Otter, six other collages have been inspired by engagement with the Druid Animal Oracle Deck. After a gap of a few years, I got the deck out again when my mother was visiting me in Toronto. This time, Eagle surfaced from the pool of cards laid out on my kitchen table. (Mom selected Hawk).
“Intelligence, Renewal, (and) Courage” are Eagle’s key words. The booklet 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” (24).
My eagle collage ended up depicting a rare species of knitted raptor, a bird who is surprisingly 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.
Several months after my mother’s visit, another friend and I decided to consult the animal spirit guides and make collages in a food court in North York. This time, the card I selected belonged to Raven.
Raven is all about “Healing, Initiation, (and) Protection.” The booklet suggests that the Raven’s message “may also mean that we can come to a resolution of the opposites — experiencing that in darkness there is light, and in light darkness” (20).
In my collage, three ravens consider life among the swirling patterns, discerning mysteries with their keen eyes.
In a subsequent session with the same friend I’d met in North York, I chose Frog, whose key words are “Sensitivity, Medicine, and Hidden Beauty and Power” (19).
We started our collages at a coffee shop with a large wooden table, and I completed mine at home. The resulting piece emerged with the help of paper, stickers, paint pens, and watercolour.
Carr-Gomm’s booklet 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” (19).
Frog also encourages us to “look for the beauty and the magic behind appearances” (19).
Goose followed Frog as the next creature-collage made in response to The Druid Animal Oracle Deck. My friend and I auditioned a different wooden table at a new coffee shop for this session, and it turned out to be a goose-friendly venue.
When I turned to the Carr-Gomm booklet to find out more about Goose, I discovered that its main attributes are “Vigilance, Parenthood, (and) Productive Power” (27).
One possible interpretation of the card’s meaning is that “goose, with its strong attachment to family and the ability to fly extraordinarily high from one continent to another, shows us that it is possible to be both grounded and spiritual in our daily lives” (27).
After Goose, Seal became the next animal spirit mentor to appear during an oracle session that my friend and I conducted at a home retreat.
Symbolizing “Love, Longing, and Dilemma,” Seal can “act as a guide and companion through the watery realm of the emotions and the Otherworld” (40).
Cat followed Seal as the most recent guide of the series, but other animals patiently wait for their turn to advise. As for the eight creatures who arrived over the past six years, I’d like to express my gratitude to Wolf, Otter, Eagle, Raven, Frog, Goose, Seal, and Cat for their energizing insights and creativity!
Mosaic Dream Waves appears two years after my first public art exhibit, Maps of Loss: Rivers, Ruins, and Grief. On display until July 31 at Runnymede Library, Mosaic Dream Waves has a lighter approach than my previous display. Turning from melancholy to playfulness, the artwork pictured here invitesyou to visit an inner landscape where waves perform on stage, a mystical ornament shines, a yogini flies on a crazy quilt, and a dancing bird woman keeps company with a raven and a horse on wheels.
As part of the opening reception on July 13th, I offered a free collage workshop that took place in the program room across the hall from the gallery. My mother, Carlyle Raine, kindly offered to help with the workshop, and the beautiful art that emerged captivated us with its originality, energy, and flair.
Thank you, Runnymede Library, for fostering community art, learning, and creativity under the eaves of your poetic attic!
My friends Dan and Tracy love books, gardens, music, fine food, and wine. This collage is for them! (I’m not sure if Tracy is as crazy about baseball as Dan, but I liked how the curve of the stitching seemed to flow with the grapes).
The boar with the headdress symbolizes Dan and I’s shared roots in Kansas City, Missouri. On 47th Street, there lives a statue of a boar who brings luck to people who rub his brass nose and drop a coin in a box.
Speaking of lucky, it was my good fortune to make soap sculptures and listen to the Chronicles of Narnia with Dan in the 1970’s and then four decades later meet his partner Tracy at their home in Oregon in 2008.
Happy Birthday, Dan! I hope you and Tracy experience a day so joyful that it sings!
Tradition has it that a group of my hometown friends get together every Christmas holiday and exchange small gifts, many of them handmade. For the 2012 gathering, I decided to put together some holiday collages.
To make the collages, I selected Christmas tree ornaments from my childhood, traced them on a piece of paper with colored pencil, and then filled in the outlines with scraps of regular and handmade paper as well as stickers.
“Bling Stocking” for Carol, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2012
“Gothic Elvis Snowman” for Michelle, Collage by Catherine Raine, 2012
I love to make art to give away, but I also like recording the results. My hope for this post is that these photos of the collages make you smile!
Before I took Drawing 1 at the Toronto School of Art, I thought I was hopeless at drawing. Even though I’ve been making collage and textile art for six years, I haven’t felt entitled to call myself a “real” artist because I lacked basic drawing skills.
With very little formal training in art, I wanted to address the gaps in my knowledge that held me back from stretching into three dimensions. It was also time to overcome the limiting “I can’t draw!” belief.
On the first day of my TSA evening class last September, our instructor, Paul Turner, boldly asserted that anyone who could hold a pencil could learn how to draw. I thought to myself, “I hope I don’t prove him wrong!”
As an adult educator myself, I know how important it is convince students to move beyond negative assessments of their abilities. Now, from the perspective of almost twelve weeks of drawing instruction, I can happily report that the only thing I proved wrong was my self-doubt.
To thank Paul and encourage anyone who wants to learn a new skill, I offer this illustrated blog post as evidence that if I can learn to draw at the age of 43, then others most certainly can, too!
In the first two weeks, our class focused on the humble yet crucial box in one-point and two-point perspective in addition to the equally essential ellipse. Paul encouraged us to “get comfortable with non-parallels” such as a box resting at a different angle from the table it’s sitting upon. However, I was remarkably and deeply uncomfortable with non-parallels.
In fact, I was actively alarmed when Paul stacked six books on top of each other and suddenly shifted all of their spines into different angles. How could I possibly draw that pile? I was barely adept at boxes floating in space, and my ellipses looked like squashed peaches discounted for quick sale.
Imagine my discomfiture when a variety of boxes on tables greeted us in week three. I had a drawing board, paper, and a skewer in my hand to gage proportions but little clue how to use it. (There was a reason why I scored low on spatial-relation skills on standardized tests in junior high).
Paul had demonstrated the skewer technique, and he even drew me a picture of a thumb holding a skewer next to a box, but I still felt hopelessly out of my depth. To my horror, I was actually close to tears!
Luckily, our instructor exhorted us not to give up. And a quick comparison of the drawings above and below offers testimony that measuring proportions became much easier for me.
In week four, I loved the opportunity to “respond to the total form with one line” and build a “relationship of trust with (my) eye, hand, and mind” (Paul Turner). The total form was a male model who changed poses frequently, and the rapid shifts encouraged us to draw from “head to toe, boom, one line!”
The looseness and freedom of this gesture exercise lifted my spirits after the previous week’s disappointment with myself. Many of my sketches seem to express this joy.
In week five, we considered “how objects behave in space.” I liked the challenge of truly looking at a lantern, a bottle of dish detergent, and a lampshade to determine proportion, shape, and line. I also greatly appreciated Paul’s advice to be in the moment while engaged in drawing: “Don’t focus on where you think you should be (skill-wise) or what your drawing should look like. Be here now!”
The following week, I learned to pay more attention to the spaces between objects. Our task was to “go after” the shapes created in the gaps between items such as a chair, a goblet, and a sled propped up together on a table. We used white charcoal on colored paper to depict the negative space, allowing the objects to take form from the absence of charcoal.
It was the objects’ turn to live in the gaps and let so-called empty space take center stage for a change. Why should positive, filled-up space always get all the attention when so many fascinating patterns are waiting to be noticed in the liminal places, the edges of objects, and the sea of animated air between them? I loved the radical shift in visual and conceptual perspective that the lesson in negative space inspired.
During week seven’s still-life exercise with two objects, I was very aware of the lovely negative-space shape made by the inside of my grandmother’s silver teapot’s handle. As I gazed at the teapot and a green vase from TSA’s closet of diverse objects, Paul suggested, “Let the shape lead you to the line.”
On the eighth class, we had a new model, and Paul instructed us to “build a height and width for the form and then plant a shoulder.” I liked the use of the verb “to plant” in a drawing context because it implied bold, purposeful action, a deliberate sowing of a seed from a burlap bag, a strong line from which something new can grow.
Planting the first shoulder of the form is an act of bravery, a commitment that changes a blank scroll of paper into a potential drawing. The first line transforms an idea into artistic reality, the abstract to the concrete, and fear-paralysis (“Will the line be perfect?”) into definitive action.
Value was week nine’s topic, and I struggled to get my head around the terminology and grapple with the sphere resting in front of me on a draped table. At one point, I sighed, “Vanquished by a styrofoam ball!”
I was disappointed in my value drawing even though I managed to improve it somewhat. However, I did like this artistic and psychologically-applicable advice from Paul: “Deal with the dark side of the form first and then work your way into the light.”
In week ten, we had the opportunity to do sustained drawings of another model and integrate what we’d learned about proportion, shape, gesture, negative space, and line. I also learned some new phrases to describe the long line of the body from shoulder to hip: “the line of action, the bow of the torso, and the C-curve.” I enjoyed thinking in terms of active lines. These lines are alive, humming with tension like an archery bow and curved like fruit in a bowl.
Even though I had trouble visualizing the planes of the body and understanding what Paul meant when he said, “Let the interior shapes guide you the exterior,” by the end of the evening I had two sketches I particularly liked. In addition, I anticipate adding a few more when the class finishes next week.
Reflecting on my experience as a novice student of drawing, I am very grateful for such a stimulating class that taught me to have faith in my learning potential. I especially appreciate the invitation to look at objects, space, form, and light in fresh ways. What a gift to an artist and a writer!
Thank you, Paul, for taking me on a journey from perceived hopelessness to confidence in a developing skill!
I was lucky to attend Emily Tinkler‘s free Altered Books workshop at S. Walter Stewart Library a couple of weeks ago. More than a dozen participants eagerly listened to Emily describe how to fold, cut, and poke pages with an awl to turn an old book with a sewn binding into a work of art.
My husband had given me an out-of-date computer book for my project, and I soon went to work folding the pages to create an accordion shape. I was inspired by the examples that Emily had brought to show us, especially one with wire and ribbon rioting through the pages of a former book.
I took my unfinished piece home, where it sat on a table mutely calling out for something to spring from the folds of paper. Meanwhile, I continued sewing clumps of paper together with saffron and fern green thread.
A trip to the sticker aisle in an art store supplied me with the missing element. Fish! When I saw the fish collection, they just seemed to want to be flying out of a book.
Back home with my stickers, I experimented with enlarged color copies of them, and Stewart kindly offered to print out mirror images on photograph paper to resolve the issue of looking at the back side of the piece and not seeing fish.
With my fish assembled, it was just a matter of cutting and arranging twelve skewers and affixing the energetic yet dignified creatures to them. As a final touch, I tied short lengths of the saffron and green thread around each skewer. I also added stickers to the decorated inside covers of the book. And that’s the story of Flying Bookfish!
I made this collage for a brave and spirited friend who has been fighting a life-threatening illness. When I asked her what colors, images, and themes she might like, she wrote, “I have been enjoying vivid colors lately, and anything that evokes the ocean. We spent two weeks in Hawaii before my surgery, and images of the water and life within helped carry me through . . . . Themes of time, stretched and compressed feel relevant.”