Collage and sausages

In the Studio (A4 ink 2021)

How easy, do you think, would it be for me to loosen up my art practice when I’m the sort of person who arrives at airports two hours ahead of my flight, cooks sausages in a neat row, and arranges his CDs by genre, artist/composer, and then date of release (with compilations, of course, at the end)?

If the sight of a wayward sausage in a frying pan is going to cause me mild anxiety, how am I going to be at ease with wobbly lines and the threat of the non-figurative? Yet the little drawing above, drawn in a matter of minutes with a stick dipped in ink, is one of my most popular images on Instagram.

Well, one way is to allow someone to take you by the hand and lead you into the wild woods. For me, that person was abstract painter Jenny Nelson, and specifically a wonderful free tutorial she has compiled on greyscale collage. Nelson is a superb artist and has the skills to teach some of the tricks of her trade. Her own work is bold and expressive as you can see if you spend a few minutes wandering around her website.

In the tutorial she demonstrates a simple exercise that enables the most uptight person to loosen up. I won’t describe it in any detail because you should really take a look at it yourself. I’d even go so far as to say that even if you’re not a visual artist, but a musician or a writer, the cleansing nature of this 50 minute exercise would help you too.

I produced about four collages after the tutorial, which again received a warm reception on Instagram. One of the four, I think, works well as a composition in its own right, not just an exercise in loosening up:

Composition (collaged painted papers 135mm x 220mm 2021)

I’ve gone back to producing drawings using sticks and discarded feathers as drawing tools, but have also continued to work with collage using painted paper as my basic materials. It’s a practice which I’ll probably continue to develop alongside my other work, simply because it shakes around one’s preconceptions in a rather satisfying way, like lottery tickets in a hat.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop lining up sausages in a frying pan any time soon. One of my closest and most enduring friendships is with someone who does exactly the same thing, so both of us cannot be wrong.

30 thoughts on “Collage and sausages

  1. I love both of these, and will definitely check out the tutorial. I’m generally disorganized in my living, but I too need help (like drawing without looking at the page) to loosen up when drawing. But collage I find to always be freeing, which is why I like it so much. (K)

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  2. I love this post, Michael. I hope Instagram isn’t pulling you away from WP. I love the collages. I will certainly check out this free tutorial you linked to. I have surprisingly just gotten into collage and I was intrigued by you saying that you collaged with colored paper. I did one collage recently of autumn trees that I made by tearing magazine pages of autumn colors to make the leaves. I never thought about actually painting my paper for collage in the color(s) I want. Thanks for the hint.

    Good to see you again. Good luck with keeping your sausages in a row! 🙂

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    • Thank you as always for your support and kind remarks, LuAnne. It is sometimes a stretch to keep up with social media commitments, I find.

      I’m pleased that you’ve been experimenting with collage. I think you’ll find the tutorial a revelation. Using painted papers gives one complete control over colours and textures and allows for more abstract images without recognisable things in the raw materials. There are, dare I say it, some remarkable collagists on Instagram!


      • Hi Michael
        I watched the tutorial while working in my studio. I really enjoyed it. Although I do not work in abstract I found it quite useful and interesting. Two things she said about collage stood out for me…”Collage lets your brain go right to arranging”; and ” less is more”. I spend so much time on arranging, turning the papers and images this way and that. I try hard to leave things out, I always want to add more and always end up removing most elements because it is stronger without them, no matter how much I adore them. Her lesson on tone is so important. I draw out all my map portraits in tones of gray, white and black…usually 7 tones. This helps so much in defining the features and adding drama. I struggle to match those tones with the vintage maps and papers I use. It is much trickier to find the right tone on a old map than it is to create it with paint. As to the mark making…I use old text, handwriting, fonts, graphics in old papers to create the mark-making element in my work. I sometimes add to those marks with ink, charcoal and stamping. I am motivated to try more mark making after watching the video.
        Finally, a word on gluing. She was using collage as a practice tool for learning about all sorts of interesting painting techniques not as a finished collage art piece. The glues and actual techniques she uses for gluing are fine for her exercises and practice but are not the right ones if you want to create a collage as a finished piece of art. You probably already know that.
        Thanks for sharing the tutorial. She is quite fabulous. As a professional teacher, I found her to be engaging and she explains things very well indeed.


      • Dear Wilma, thank you so much for your response to the tutorial. It was interesting that it ‘spoke’ to you despite the fact that your work is very different. It was also fascinating to read your comments on your own pieces.

        What glue would you use for finished artworks, may I ask? I hadn’t considered that before but if I do start creating more collages, rather than just sticking something on the side as a design element, I should probably use the right materials. Many thanks again, Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Michael
        You are most welcome
        ..I was geeking out a bit. I love talking to other artists about what we do. I use Golden Brand Soft Gel Semi Gloss Medium. I apply it to the surface I am collaging on (usually wood) and carefully cover the entire back surface of the papers, especially the edges and corners. I use a brayer to press the papers down and go back and forth to remove any excess medium and avoid air bubbles. The whole piece gets a top coat of the medium before several coats of matte archival varnish by Golden. That ensures a quality finish that protect your work from dust and fading.
        I would only do that on Collage art for keeping or selling…not for practice…in which case glue sticks and modge podge is just fine. 😁😁 Enjoy.

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  3. You write beautifully – and great organization is probably responsible for part of that reaction. These are interesting observations and I like the drawing a lot – plus, I agree about your collage – it works! You always inspire me. I should come back later….

    Liked by 1 person

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