Collage Tip #3: Use Literature to Breathe Life into Your Collages


This journal page "Taboo Subjects in Our Home" (December 8 2009) was inspired by my Mary Shelley collage explorations

This journal page "Taboo Subjects in Our Home" (December 8 2009) was inspired by my Mary Shelley collage explorations

In October I wrote of how music can be a great tool to inspire your collaging.  Similarly, I feel literature can add vibrancy to your collage/mixed media work.  As with music, not any old piece of writing will do.  It must be something that thrills and excites you – something that touches the heart of who you are.  Often, the briefest passage or chapter from a favourite book gives light to images within me.  While many of these stay nestled within my head, others feel an urgent need to manifest themselves; collaging never fails to awaken the story-teller in me!

My first story-inspired collage was based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  That Dr. Frankenstein literally cut up body parts and reassembled them into a new human form made it a compelling subject matter for my collages.  As I researched the history behind this gruesome tale, I learned how Shelley’s role as a woman, her parents, social life, odd marriage, miscarriages and a nightmare contributed to spinning this fascinating tale of scientific creation gone awry.  In putting together the novel, as any great collage artist might, Mary Shelley used many fragments of her real life: her secrets, joys, sorrows and fears as well as her imagination to give birth to Frankenstein.  Every time I dwell on this, I think the role of writer, collage artist and even mad scientist to be such kindred spirits!  My Shelley-inspired collages are replete with hybrid, Gothic and Victorian imagery as well as references to the science of anatomy.  I discovered I really liked juxtaposing materials that seemed sweet and innocent with ones that were macabre and sinister – it’s a technique I love using in my current collages.

My second project was spurred by Wayson Choy’s novel The Jade Peony which relayed the tale of mid-twentieth century west coast Chinese-Canadian immigrants struggling to understand their place in Canadian society; this struck a chord with my own plight as a South Asian-Canadian.  I was surprised and delighted to find that the little girl, Liang in the story, idolized Shirley Temple and tap dancing as much as I did as a kid – watching too many Saturday morning kiddie matinees will do that to you!  After reading the book, as with most great stories, I never wanted it to end.  I wished to live within its pages forever!  So it wasn’t long before I uncovered some of the sources (through an article or interview) that Choy had researched for the book.  As my fingers scanned the same historical texts and images the writer may have used to give life to his characters, my spine tingled… I would use these same images in my collages.  It was stimulating and enjoyable to re-imagine Choy’s Liang through my own eyes and imagination and bring out the little details in her character that I loved.

Recently I just completed a piece for the Nick Bantock collage contest/tribute inspired by his Griffin and Sabine trilogy.  I came up with my own design based on studying his collages as well as reading Urgent 2nd Class, his book of collage methods.  I was so into the spirit of it, I made up my own story on the back of the postcard based on real and fictitious events in my life.  I even designed an envelope!  Best of all – the card was actually submitted well before the deadline!  I urge you to check out the wonderful blog set up by Socrates which features nearly a hundred Bantock-inspired cards (including mine!).  I hope these ideas will inspire you to add that magical literary element to your own collage-based work.  If you have been inspired to do the same, I’d love to hear about your story-based pieces or ideas for future ones.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>