Resilient – Torn Paper Collage

As I was creating this collage, the word “resilient” seemed to leap off the page. It’s definitely the theme for this, though I won’t pretend I understand the significance of everything in this mixed media piece. (I work intuitively. If a collage element seems to make visual sense, I use it.)

At the moment, we’re in our sixth week of interrupted sleep.* We live in an apartment, and – overhead – our new neighbors are waking us most nights. We’re still trying to resolve this with the property managers, but my optimism is starting to fade. Moving may be our only option.

So, that’s where the word “perseverance” comes in. (The word is deliberately broken. Because that’s how it can feel when you persist… but you persevere, anyway.)

For others facing challenges right now, this collage may have its own meaning.

Whatever you’re hoping will improve in this new year (2021), I hope that the words resilient and perseverance resonate with you.

You’re not alone. We’ll all get through this, together.

Resilient is approximately 8″ x 10″ on poster board. Materials: torn magazine pages, Yes paste, and lines drawn with a gold metallic marker.


*2022 update: Looking back at some of the collages from that time, I can see that I wasn’t at my best. I’m sharing these collages anyway. After all, this site – started in 1998 – has always been about authenticity and art.

Even when it’s not my best art.


You can see more of my art, and my best collages at my Eibhlin.com website.

(My real name is Eibhlin, pronounced “Eileen.” I’d adopted the “Aisling D’Art” pen name in the 1990s, when few women were online, and it seemed prudent to protect my privacy. Then, when the Aisling name became associated with the art journaling movement, I kept using it.)

 

Disrupted – Torn Paper Mixed Media Collage

A dog in a bow tie, in swimming pool? That’s where this collage began.

I photographed this collage as I finished it, early this morning (low light). The deep teal colors in the photo aren’t as vivid in the real piece.

Mostly, I absolutely LOVE how my collages are moving in a “fine art” direction, and couldn’t wait to share it. The finished piece is 12″ x 12.5″.

This collage started as a jest, responding to Robert Presti’s joke’s about puppies in my art. (Bob is a childhood friend.)

Then, as I collected elements that appealed to me, the collage took on a fresh depth. I decided to make it a comment about disrupting the staid boardrooms and others’ expectations.

But, looking at it later, I realized that – at this time (late 2020) – many of us are living with disruptions.

Some are more convenient that others.

Some disruptions are pushing us to make decisions we’d tried to avoid.

And others are blink-blink confusing… like, “Wow, how did this happen?”

Disrupted is approximately 12″ x 12″ on poster board.

Materials

I’m thrilled with Yes paste as an adhesive, and then smoothing the work with wax paper and a brayer. Some bubbles and texture remain in the work, because I like it to show at least some process. The vertical line is actually gold, applied with a pen that has a felt-like tip, so the line is deliciously smooth.

Note: The cotton swabs (at the left edge of the photo) are on my desk because I use them to roll on really bold, shiny glitter – but there’s no glitter in this collage. (My current favorite “glitter out loud” product is Ceramcoat Glitter Explosion.)

Magazines I use most often, right now: Town & Country (American edition), Vanity Fair, Wired, and – for the puppies – ads in AARP’s magazines and other junk mail.


Peace of Mind – Torn-Paper Collage

What does this collage mean…? I have no idea. My creative process is intuitive.

(And yes, this photo is blurry. I took the picture, hand-held and in low-light conditions. For now, it’s “good enough,” at least until I decide whether to do more with this piece. Then I’ll scan or re-photograph it.)

Here’s how I work on art like this:

I gather pieces. I see which make visual sense, together. I don’t go looking for logic. Not intellectually, anyway.

The process is entirely visual.

Then I assemble the collage elements – loosely and without adhesive – and see if they still work.

This one is still a work in progress.

I have no idea how “peace of mind” relates to kale, some New England gardens and front doors, the colors of the Paris sky, and the cast of The Lion King.

But there it is. And, stepping back from it, I can see a symmetry in the design that echoes the costuming of the Lion King cast.

I’m not 100% pleased with the balance… yet. It needs something… maybe.

Or it might be “creative ennui.” I seem to go through that with some pieces, and – a few days later – decide that the piece is actually fine, as-is.

I’m posting this anyway, because I want to represent the process as I go along.

And, at some point, I may realize what this piece means. Until then, you may see things in it that make sense to you. Or not.

I’m pleased with the visual logic of this, and – sometimes – that’s all I’m aiming for.

Play… with Elegance – Torn-Paper Collage

It started with a puppy’s cute face.

Then, because my humor is quirky, I realized the puppy’s face would fit perfectly on an Hermes ad from a British fashion magazine.

With a few added details, this torn-paper collage – the only one I created this past weekend – seemed complete.

Sometimes, the simplest collages are the most effective.

Play, and spread some cheer!

P.S. The support for this collage was painted green, and then applied a slightly sheer layer of iridescent teal blue. I’ll replace this photo with a better one, later, but – for now (on a Monday morning) – it conveys the general idea behind this art.

(And yes, my husband quoted “Ghostbusters,” saying something like, “Okay, so she’s a dog.” Because his humor is quirky, too.)

Things I learned, creating this collage:

Simple can be fun. It’s far to easy for me to keep adding collage elements when the work might be better with a greater sense of space.

Using glue stick as the adhesive prevents more buckling and bubbling than gel medium, but the adhesion isn’t as consistent, especially as glue stick dries so quickly. And, once placed, the glue holds almost immediately, so fewer adjustments are possible.

But, for small collage elements, where I can place the piece lightly (and make minor adjustments) and then press it down, glue stick can be better than gel medium.

Winning Vision – Collage

This morning’s collage is a deliberate enigma. Also, I’ve decided that – after yesterday’s efforts – it may be best to leave the meaning of the collage to the observer. After all, that was my initial plan for this series.

So, is he thinking of her (and perhaps the rustle of her blue dress), of the landscape, or something else?

Is she wondering about him, and is he the one that sent her flowers?

Does the finger point to what they’re both dreaming about?

Do their dreams – their visions – intersect? Or, is this very early in the relationship?

Or, do they even know each other… yet?

It’s definitely an “..in the eye of the beholder” kind of piece.

 

Things I learned, creating this collage:

Most American magazines seem to be printed on cheap, thin, very porous paper. National Geographic is an exception. Town & Country (American magazine) is on better paper than, say, Better Homes & Gardens, Wired, and Vanity Fair.

The British editions of Harper’s Bazaar and Elle are on paper close to the quality of Nat’l Geographic. For collage, it’s worth spending extra for them.

When working with cheap paper, it’s best to apply the gel medium (adhesive) to the support rather than directly on the collage element. This makes element placement far more challenging, but it reduces buckling and bubbling… only slightly. (“Slightly” may be as good as it gets. So, I’m reminding myself that this shows the process in the finished art, and that’s okay.)

Some collages have a vision (no pun intended, with this work) from the start, while others – like yesterday’s piece – are a process.

It’s probably similar to the writing process: Some authors are “plotters” (plan the story, sometimes in great detail, ahead of time) but others are “pantsers” (writing with a vague idea, and making it up – flying “by the seat of one’s pants” – as they go along).

And sometimes, even the most dedicated, focused “plotters” suddenly find their stories going in a weird (but wonderful?) direction, and they go with it.

This collage started with a fairly clear vision, and then went slightly astray, but only slightly.

Torn-Paper Collage – Authenticity in a Time of Challenge

Today’s collage is – like yesterday’s – not quite finished. But, for now, it’s going to sit. I want to look at it for a while, and see what else it says to me. See if anything is missing or needs… something.

That’s a challenge for me, because this isn’t my usual design style.

November 2022 note: I look at this and realize how much it was the product of months of nightly, interrupted sleep during 2020. My art was disjointed during that time. Then, in 2021, I decided that things had to change… and that’s reflected in my later art.

I’m leaving these older pieces online for authenticity. I don’t like this collage, but also know it reflects my struggle in 2020, feeling cut-off from friends and family, as so many of us were, due to Covid concerns.

The foundation

This piece started with the first layer, showing a smiling model in a tangerine/orange satin gown and an almost ostentatious amount of glittery jewelry.

But – for me – the model’s eyes didn’t match her smile.

Years ago, looking at portraits, I learned to ignore (or even cover) the lower half of the person’s face. The eyes showed the person’s real emotions.

So, as I built this collage, the first thing I did was to cover the lower half of the model’s face. The new layer featured seasonal plants and berries. The colors resonated with the background image, but the texture – and the almost-careless untidiness of Nature – was a sharp contrast.

Suddenly, this collage was about authenticity. The look in the model’s eyes… what is it? Sadness? Distance from everything around her?

That’s when I tore the background image into strips. I chose to apply them randomly, out of order, and with emptiness between them.

Again, that’s a reference to an emerging sense of artifice as I studied the photo.

Next, contrasts and similarities

The next step was to study other magazine photos. I wanted to see if the expression in other models’ eyes were lacking, or at least didn’t match the rest of the face.

When I found the black-and-white image, it seemed perfect. That model’s eyes and mouth, and the tilt of her head, all delivered the same message. I emphasized that by disconnecting them – tearing that image in half. It’s a harsh contrast – in color (b&w), in consistency, and style – against the original layer in this collage.

I began gluing the collage elements in earnest when I found an ad for macaroni and cheese. The colors in that advertisement perfectly matched the orange satin gown. It’s almost difficult to tell what’s macaroni and what’s the gown. And, in contrast with the lifestyle represented by the amount of jewelry in the original image, I also wanted to note the number of people for whom macaroni and cheese – from a box – is considered a luxury meal.

It would be trite to talk about the shallow lives of those driven by status and symbols of wealth, but – as I kept working on this collage – the reference was almost unavoidable.

Final clues

The words “who I am” are almost lost in the busyness of the design. “Personal needs” is slightly tilted, as much of the rest of the images is. And then there’s the crisp statement, “self-deception” in black and white, with a childish scribble leading to it.

The final elements – the heavily made-up “lucky cat” (Maneki-neko) and ragged gold leaf – fit both the color & theme of this piece.

In some ways, this collage lacks drama, deliberately. It’s less visually appealing than what I usually aspire to, with my art.

But, at a time when – wearing masks – we rely so heavily on the emotion expressed with one’s eyes, and we’re witnessing a stunning, rapidly expanding gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” I’m pleased with the statement of this piece.

It’s about authenticity.

In a world where things can feel tumultuous and destabilizing, maybe authenticity is the touchstone… the sense of self that keeps us grounded.

Empowered.

Able to achieve what we’ve always suspected we can do.

And, once again drifting into irony, I’m remembering the song lyrics in “Grease.” Perhaps – more than ever, as we choose our personal paths to the new “normal” – it’s time to believe that we can be who we are.

Dreams / True Story Collage

What kinds of stories can art tell? And can you be part of that process?

I believe most artists want their work to be interactive… emotionally, anyway.

My collages used to be about me. The art was mine. The stories were mine, too.

Now, with this new collage – the first in about a decade – I see myself assembling pieces of a story.

It’s not necessarily my story.

In fact, each viewer is the owner.

The story they see in my collages is theirs alone… unless they share it with others, of course.

The scan of this collage, above, is preliminary. The bottom edge of the torn paper (below her left boot) is actually just as ragged as the rest, but the scanner didn’t include it. (I’ll fix this, later.)  Also, the gold trailing behind her is bright & shiny, but – in the scan – it’s dull. (I’ll make sure it shows when the collage is fully finished. At this point, it’s not actually mounted on a contrasting background.)

So… what is her story?

Here are elements and questions to consider, looking at this collage:

Is she walking – perhaps running – towards something, or away from it, or both? The right side of the collage support (white) is torn and untidy, while the right side was cut with a ruler. Does that mean anything in the context of her story?

“Dreams” and “true story” are separated. Are they still connected? Does her true story support her dreams, or has the truth fallen off and it’s now at odds with her dreams?

Likewise, “a voice”… is it fractured? Or is her inner voice leading the way, a little here and a little there, and how long will her journey be? (As I see it, both “a voice” and “How long” are sort of floating in front of her.)

Perhaps the building (a symbol of tradition, or authority?) supports her. Maybe it’s interrupting her progress, and she’ll soon leave it behind.

There’s a shark at her leading ankle. Has it already passed her, and does she care?

And the figure in the 60s-style fringed jacket, possibly pointing at the male figure in the shadowy background. Is that a warning? If so, is it to her or to the mostly hidden man?

But, of course, the big question is: Is she ready?


This collage also appears at Eibhlin.com – my other art website. (“Aisling D’Art” was a pen name I adopted in the early days of the Internet, when women were in the minority, online, and some of us went to great lengths to protect our privacy and identities.)

Art Journaling Ideas – Complex and Detailed (Video)

Looking for some fresh ideas to add depth to your art journaling projects?

This video – by another artist, not me – will inspire you. It includes lots… and lots… and LOTS of ideas!

Color. Texture. Paper, tapes, ribbons, and more. Wheeee!

Yes, this kind of mixed-media art can seem overwhelming to a beginner.

Even for an experienced artist, this can feel like too much.

My advice…?

Don’t try to do everything.

Watch and see what appeals to you the most.

Maybe just one or two things.

And then do that. But – of course – with your own creative “voice” and style.

After all, visual journaling is about your creative expression.

Video URL: https://youtu.be/5PlbplSnuoQ

Yes, Facebook, I’m actually Aisling D’Art.

Word Art, Fonts, and Resources

Words + art = Word art. I love it!

CreateLifeWakeUp
Click to download a printable ATC version, at 300 dpi. (You can print it larger at 150 dpi.)

Next to my bed, I keep a three-ring binder for articles that inspire me, plus notes and ideas I jot on paper, and so on.

The cover of that notebook features word art, “Create the Life You Can’t Wait to Wake Up To.”

My illustration (above) features one of my early morning sunrise sketches – an oil painting – as the background.

Even after several years of seeing it every day, I still smile as I read those words. (In a Google Image Search, you can see many more examples of that phrase, accenting art & photos, or used as word art.)

I like the term “word art” because it describes art-with-words. That includes digital and printed art, calligraphy, mailart, art journaling, coloring books, and scrapbooking… plus many other creative projects.

And I love word art because – even if you can’t draw a stick figure – you can still create lovely (even magnificent) word art.

Three parts of successful word art

Successful word art includes letters (usually as words, phrases, or longer text), so the style of the letters – the font (or fonts) – matter. So do the proportions of the letters and the layout of the text.

Of course, the message is important, too.  It should be something with an emotional impact. I like words and phrases that are uplifting and inspiring, and sometimes funny as well.

And finally, the background – if you use one – can enhance the message.

It’s ideal for all three elements to work together. But, if you’re a perfectionist, avoid tweaking more than you need to. Know when to say “good enough.”

Where to begin

Every artist has their own system for creating word art.

  • It might start with an idea they want to express.
  • They might find a quote that makes their heart sing.
  • The spark may come from a sketch, a painting, or a photo. Or a photo of art.

This morning, I started with an idea, then found a quote I liked, selected a font, and then located a background photo.

I assembled the pieces in Photoshop, but Canva, Gimp, and other free tools can produce gorgeous results, too.

Here’s what I created in about 10 minutes.

GoodLifeHappyMoments

Tomorrow, I might start with some art and then build out, adding a quote I like.

In other words, no approach is “best” and – in art – I try to avoid by-the-numbers formulas, anyway.

Next, here are some tips so you can create and enjoy word art, too.

Quote resources

Most of my word art starts with an idea. Then I look for a quote that fits it.  In case I decide to use the finished art commercially, I try to locate quotes that are in the public domain. That prevents copyright disputes.

Here are a few sites I’ve bookmarked.

You’ll also find public domain quotes at Goodreads, on pages related to individual authors’ works from before 1923, and so on.

Also, you may want to review Quick & Easy: Public Domain Quotations (legal opinions)

Once I have a quote, I look for a font (or two or three) that suits it.

Fonts for commercial use

Like other artwork, fonts can be copyrighted… as software. (It’s complex. You may want to read this article at Lawyers.com.)

Keep that in mind if you’re planning to use a font in something like a coloring book, blank journal, poster, or print-on-demand product.

Free fonts

My favorite free resources include FontSquirrel and GoogleFonts. They specialize in open source fonts, and fonts you can use (free) in commercial products.

I also use sites like DaFont, but it’s essential to check each font’s terms of use. If it’s “personal use only,” there may be a fee to use the font commercially. DaFont (and others like it) usually provide links to contact the font designer about this.

Some huge sites – like FontSpace – offer great, free fonts for personal use. However, when I searched FontSpace today, looking for commercially licensed free fonts, none of their 71,000 fonts met that one search criterion.

Fonts to purchase

When shopping for fonts, you’ll find many affordable options. Some are better than others. Frankly, many of them confirm the adage, “you get what you pay for,” but some stand out with great products, great prices, or great customer service.. or all three.

Check sites like TheHungryJPEG CreativeMarket, and Artixty. They regularly offer packages of fonts at low prices.

Generally, if I find one or two attractive fonts in a package, I’ll buy the entire package. That’s usually less expensive than buying the ones I like, individually.

(Also, I’ve had great, fast response from TheHungryJPEG’s customer support as well as CreativeMarket’s.)

However, it’s smart to double-check by searching (at Google, Qwant, etc.) for the font you like, by name. If you can’t find it, search for the name of the artist or font foundry. Sometimes, their individual fonts are very affordable.

For years, I recommended FontBundles.net and their sister site, DesignBundles.  Now, after a shockingly bad experience with their customer support – as others have, too – I will never shop there again.

In a class of its own

My all-time favorite source of paid fonts is Design Cuts. (Obviously, they offer a lot more than fonts.) They offer bundles – often themed – for around $30. They’re dazzling, and the values – sometimes in thousands of dollars – are not exaggerated.

You can also purchase individual products; the more you buy, the bigger the discounts.

For fonts, Design Cuts earns my highest praise. Their fonts are stylish and high-quality.  You won’t find anything “plain vanilla” in their bundles or their individual products.

Their customer service has been flawless, as well.

A sneaky way to get the look you want, free

There are times when you want a great, stylish font, but you can’t afford it.

Here’s are two ways to work around that:

Sneaky tactic #1: Use a screenshot of several letters in the font you want. Then, use a free font-matching service like WhatTheFont!, WhatFontIs, or FontSquirrel’s Matcherator.

See if they recommend a free or really inexpensive font that’s “close enough” to what you wanted.

Sneaky tactic #2: Search at free font sites (like DaFont) using the name of the font you like. Then try slight misspellings. If the price-y font is popular, there may be a pretty good (and free) clone of it.

Note: Be sure it’s not an outright ripoff of any commercial font.

Of course, no free or inexpensive (and legal) font is going to match the style and elegance of the original, high-priced font. But, until you can afford to buy that font, the lookalike might be all you need.

Learn the fine art of combining fonts

No matter what look you aspire to, font combinations can make a huge difference. The way fonts interact often highlights the best features of each font. In a way, it elevates the lettering into the “fine art” realm.

Search for “font combining” and you’ll find lots of advice. Add the current year (right now, that’d be “2020 font combining”) for edgy and trending combinations.

Here are a few sites to start:

Note: My header graphic on this site combines Black Diamond font (from Design Cuts) and Lato (a free font from Google Fonts).

Background art & photos

If you paint or take photos or otherwise create images you’ll use in your word art, you probably don’t need additional resources.

For everyone else, my favorite free resource is Pexels.com. The garden walk photo (in my meme-ish image, above) came from them.

If you’re planning to post your word art or memes at social media, here are the best sizes for a variety of sites: 2020 Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet.

Now, go play!

I hope this article has inspired you to try some word art of your own. Whether you use it to decorate your home or office, in an Etsy product, or you share it free in memes, word art is a way to convey a powerful message.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, leave a message in the comments section below. (I read and manually approve all comments at all of my sites, and I’d love to hear from you.)


Links in this article are (deliberately) not affiliate links. I earn nothing for recommending those resources.

2020 – The Year We Decided: The Future is Art!

During 2020, many of us have had time to pause, reflect on what we’re doing (and not doing), and make different choices.

Like me, you may find your deepest self-expression in art, whether or not you’re ready to describe yourself as an “artist.”

Suddenly, creativity is emerging from our hearts and our souls. That artistic voice is announcing to ourselves – and perhaps the world – who we are.

Unique.

Valuable.

With something to say.

We’re saying that in our art journaling, scrapbooking, drawing and painting, decorating, and more.

We’re using pencils, paint, paper, canvas and cloth, digital resources, and “found art” items.

We’re coloring, reorganizing, and redecorating.

We’re simplifying. Focusing on what brings us joy.

We’re creating journals, wearables, objects d’art, and… well, lots of things we don’t have words for. Not yet, anyway.

This is about US… who we are, inside. The things we want (or need) to say.

And this is tremendously healthy.

Our future is ART!

Celebrate it!