Today I decided to practice collage. I like practice days because I take the pressure off myself to make something “good”. I imagine pulling out a big bullhorn: "Just practice, that's all we're doing here folks. You! Standards bearer there in the back? Relax. Lay down the flag. Take the day off!"
Yippee! (Do standards bearers skip off gleefully? Well, mine just did.)
I thumbed through my new copy of The Collage Workbook by Randel Plowman and I decided to try his "Five Minute Collage" exercise.
It’s a great idea and I highly recommend that you try it. Simply sift through magazines and/or other stash and without thinking, pull out a bunch of images, colors, lines, textures—anything that appeals. No reasons why allowed. If something catches your eye, pull it. Then he suggests timing yourself for five minutes each. Quick: make five collages on 3X5 sheets paper.
As always happens with collage, I had so much fun. I think the value of doing any exercise is to work with artificial constraints to push us past what we think we can do. The Five Minute Collage limits time, materials and the frame size (3X5” is pretty small). It's an open challenge. Come on! I dare you to overcome these obstacles! Creativity loves challenges, I think.
No need to make (rational) sense, I’d remind myself—just make."
All that being said, I immediately negotiated new constraints. I decided to create tags instead of 3X5 cards so if I liked any of them I could add them to my Project Tag collection. I know, that kind of worked around the “this is only practice” thing. But I had an out. If I didn’t like them, I could just chalk it up to practice.
And I threw out the five-minute time clock. I still forced myself to complete the tags as quickly as possible, but I just couldn’t slap them together so fast. This of course changed the quick-see-what-happens exercise into a much longer session.
Oh well! Who notices time anyway after falling down the image making rabbit hole? And that’s the real purpose of the exercise anyway, right?
How I worked
It was such fun to just let my intuition run ahead a bit. I spent about 15 minutes pulling a set of images out of magazines. I ripped out any page whenever something caught my attention. Then, I cut out the pieces that interested me and laid them all out on the table. That was the easy part.
Next, one collage at a time, I tried to work fast. I appreciated the constraints of pulling from just what I had on the tabletop and fitting the pieces in such small spaces. I followed the images when any form called to mix with another.
Like Plowman says about the creative process, “Collage is really the art of ‘listening' to your materials” and that is what it felt like.
I did consciously work for cohesion and unity. I’m not sure I was supposed to do that—perhaps that’s why Plowman suggested only five minutes per card so there wouldn’t be time to think about those elements. But I’m learning to follow my intuition in this whole art-making thing and that's what I needed to do.
I did not strive for sense making, though. At any time while I worked that I’d begin to ask, ‘so what does this mean?’ I’d quickly (but gently) push that thought aside. No need to make (rational) sense, I’d remind myself—just make.
I finished four tags (not five) before I ran out of both time and images. I just have to break all the rules, I guess! All in all I left the session feeling good. I’d had a great time and while I thought the collages were kind of interesting—I especially liked the last one—I was completely unsure about what I had created.
Oh well again. It’s important to walk away from the work for a while.
Note: When I came back to my tags, it occurred to me that I haven’t worked with SoulCollage© for a while so I thought I’d take this exercise to the next level. There’s that intuition thing again. Check back tomorrow and I'll let you know what happened when I cast a little SoulCollage© into the process.
If you're in need of letting your standards bearer off for the day, I encourage you to try this exercise. And maybe even do it in its original form because then, well, it's only five 3X5 cards, just five minutes each!
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