Dreaming a Story – Torn-Paper Collage

It started with the word “Dreaming,” a mixed teal rectangle, an aerial view of a New England town, and a woman’s pensive expression… mostly her eyes. This was my first collage (of three) today.

Next, I found the words “A Story” and then “worth telling, worth finding.”

I feel as if each has an important story – and probably many of them – worth telling. And, in old journals and blog posts, many of more stories are worth finding.

They’re the patchwork of our lives, in a way.

In this collage, I worked with color and some imagery, such as the sailboat. In a way, it reminded me of the boats that take us to Neverland, in Disney’s Peter Pan attraction. But it’s also a reference to lazy sailing days, as well as yacht races and salt spray, with the wind in your sails.

At the lower left, it seemed important to keep the church visible. Spiritual anchors are important in life, and a church can be so very… well, inspiring, calming, and insightful.

To balance the collage, I drew some gold lines with a metallic marker.

And yes, I did reposition some of the images, so you may see a few lichen-like lines, here and there.

Materials: torn magazine pages, Yes paste, Sunshilor metallic gold marker, on 9″ x 12″ acid-free lightweight card stock.

Some related articles you may enjoy:

Torn-Paper Collages – How-to video (a 2010 video – some info outdated)

Adding Collage Layers in Your Artists Journals


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When We’re Ready – Torn Paper Collage

Color, unity, and contrast… those were the elements that attracted me as I created this torn-paper collage. It was my second collage of the day.

Shades of blue – especially leaning towards teal – have always been my color “comfort zone.” And, as someone with auburn hair, I’ve always liked the contrast. Blue and orange/brown, opposite on the color wheel, can bring out the best of each other.

I chose a simple, almost minimalist composition. Many of my collages are far more complex.

The figure represents strength, even as she stands alone and in toe shoes (ballet).

I feel as if she’s poised, surveying what’s in front of her, preparing for her next powerful step forward. It’s that time that many of us experience. Not quite hibernation or as subdued as we may appear, but simply regrouping, internally.

Then – when we’re ready – we emerge. At that point, it’s our game.

And that’s her story in this collage.

Materials: torn magazine pages and Yes paste on 9″ x 12″ acid-free lightweight card stock.

Some related articles you may enjoy:

Torn-Paper Collages – How-to video (a 2010 video – some info outdated)

Adding Collage Layers in Your Artists Journals

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We Are / Enough – Torn Paper Collage

When I saw the magazine photo of the woman walking away, and she was in a fairly empty landscape, it spoke to me about the role of women… and gender issues, in general. The sometimes-solitude of labels and compartmentalization, whether it’s by appearance, gender, age, race, accent, or whatever.

From there, I built out this collage with images that are somber and restrained. They reflect the tidy, muted ideals some aspired to in past generations: There. Decorative. Perhaps useful. Seen-but-not-heard.

I added a brighter, more colorful sky that keeps her moving forward. Things are improving, if just a little at a time.

The text images can be viewed two ways. That’s deliberate.

It could be “We Are Enough.”

Or, it could be “We Are,” and, as an afterthought, “Enough.” (As in: we shouldn’t have to be, do, or say any more than “we are.”)

This was my third collage of the day, and it may be the most cryptic of the three… even to me.

Materials: Torn magazine images and Yes paste on 9″ x 12″ acid-free card stock.

Some related articles you may enjoy:

Torn-Paper Collages – How-to video (a 2010 video – some info outdated)

Adding Collage Layers in Your Artists Journals

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She’s Back – Torn Paper Collage

Sometimes, plans go awry. This collage… Well, it was intended as an 8″ x 10″ work, so the support I started with was 8.5″ x 11″.

But, as I kept working, it grew.

The collage elements include images leftover from yesterday’s piece (Resilient collage), especially the balcony photo at the far left of this piece. I like that nod to elegance and tradition.

The woman at the top of the art is Sharon Stone. Her comment about roles for women – that they’re aren’t any between ages 40 and 60 – resonated with me. Ageism continues to thrive, as do labels, especially for women. That 40-to-60 age can be especially troublesome.

(I see the recent raves about how great/young Selma Hayek looks in a swimsuit, at age 53, and wonder, “Yes, she looks great, but are we defining ‘beauty’ as ‘looks like she’s 30’? and why is her age part of the headline? Why not say ‘Selma Hayek Has Style’ and leave it at that?”)

So, the “you’re READY” phrase and “She’s back” are about rebellion against compartmentalization – by age, race, gender, and so on.

The elevator buttons reference rising up.

The image of the woman at the lower left is deliberately torn, as all of us try to navigate a challenging time. Right now (January 2021), I think so many people are confused and somewhat overwhelmed, compartmentalizing is even easier. It’s a way to put people into categories instead of finding time to understand them as individuals.

What’s resulting is a fractured society, defined by labels that can separate us.

And then there’s how the collage spilled off the lower edge of the support. In a way, that’s part of the artistic message, as well. It was unintended, but… well, many of us are “playing it by ear” right now. If the results aren’t tidy, at least they’re authentic.

Materials: torn images from magazines, Yes paste, and a poster board support.

This photo shows my worktable, with cotton swabs for applying small bits of adhesive, my Speedball brayer for smoothing each piece as its applied, the collage (on a kitchen cutting board I like for collage work), and my reading glasses for seeing details.


Some related articles you may enjoy:

Torn-Paper Collages – How-to video (a 2010 video – some info outdated)

Adding Collage Layers in Your Artists Journals

Share and Enjoy !

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.


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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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.


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.

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