By Leslie Fandrich // Themes: Artists, Creativity, Collage // Category: Personal Work
At the beginning of March something unusual happened. At the separate recommendations of two different friends, I took a collage workshop with local artist Jonathan Talbot. I had no expectations and thought it would be a fun weekend making some art. It certainly was, but it was also so much more.
Something happened during those two days in Jonathan's studio. It's a little difficult to pin down, but it's like all of a sudden I had everything I needed to make art that was exactly the kind of art I wanted to make. The materials were right, the tools were right, the atmosphere was perfect and I produced six pieces in two days.
Maybe it was the fact that there were no expectations and I was having fun playing around. It was light and easy and it honestly surprised me when JT told me that he thought my work was good. He thought the work I did in the workshop was better than the piece I was about to hang in the upcoming group show.
On the Monday back in my own studio I set aside my paints and jumped head first into making collages. I wanted to see if I could make more work in my own environment, with my own materials. Working with the materials in Jonathan's studio was easy. He had drawers full of prepared paper, already cut into interesting shapes. A lot of it was scrap and remnants from work he had done, but still, it didn't require much thought. Take an interesting piece here and an interesting piece there and put them together and boom, a work of art.
I made six more pieces, these ones on paper. Definitely more work went into them and amazingly, I thought they were also pretty good. Something had clicked for me over the weekend. Actually, it was probably more than one thing. A number of things became more clearly defined because of Jonathan's workshop.
- Process: JT teaches a very specific process about how to make collages. It involves preparing materials with the finished piece in mind. This complete picture of taking a work from start to finish really filled in some of the gaps I had about how to make artwork. The process also involves coating everything with a gloss medium and it seemed to slow me down enough that I was thinking about how to put a piece together differently.
- Materials: I saw how collage can integrate paint, pencils, ephemera, images transfers and literally anything you can imagine, but I also saw how to be selective about combining those materials. It's not a mish-mosh, you really have to use a limited color palette, control the composition and work to make all the elements cohesive.
- Studio Space: I have never seen a studio quite like Jonathan's. It was perfect. You could make a mess, there were drawers and spots for every kind of material, it was huge and had giant paper cutters and other tools. I loved being in there and it reminded me of how I felt when I first went to art school. It was that exhilarating feeling of being in a place where anything is possible.
- Storytelling: Jonathan told a number of personal stories that illustrated some pretty important concepts about art that weren't necessarily new to me, but which told all together formed a lovely philosophy about making art. The main ideas had to do with finding inspiration in other artworks and artists, borrowing from an established visual language and creating your own visual language. I was also reminded of the power of stories when teaching.
- Freedom: One of the last things we did was watch JT make a small collage. He set up his space and then just went at it, throwing things down on the paper and letting his intuition guide him. It was amazing how the piece developed so quickly and I know there was no fear there. There are no mistakes. Just make something. Build on past work and understand that as artists, we are all just making coded signs to communicate with each other.
- I Am An Artist: I don't know why, but it's hard for me to own this simple fact. I've been dancing around it my whole life. But it's the truth. I am many things, but I am an artist at my core and it's time for me to commit to it unabashedly. I want to make art in my studio and then show it in a gallery and sell it to other people who will love it as much as I do.
Since then I have been on fire. I've produced 20 pieces over the last two months. I have ideas for new work and I cannot wait to get into the studio each day. It's all I want to do. I've been studying collage art and learning as much as can about the artists and the eras in which it developed. It's remarkable how much of it, in hindsight, is exactly the kind of art that I like. The collage esthetic, the tearing of paper, the combination of rough and smooth lines, the openness, the ability to reference pop culture and go really deep with messages and meaning, it all appeals to me so much.
I feel like my creativity has been cracked open. I've been given the freedom to make anything I choose but it's within a series of guidelines and processes that help control the outcome. I've encountered a fellow artist who makes art in a way that really resonates with me and who is willing to mentor me and give me access to his knowledge and resources. It's amazing really and I'm so very grateful.
Visit the gallery to see more work and to purchase prints.
- Jonathan Talbot's Workshops
- Book: Collage without Liquid Adhesives
- Book: Contemporary Collage Artists (more than half the artists are women!)
- Collage books at Printed Matter, Inc
- Pavel Zoubok Gallery in NYC is dedicated to collage
- Addie Herder in the NY Times
- Daughters of the Revolution
- Collage at the MoMA
- Collage Artist Ray Johnson
- Feminage: The Logic of Feminist Collage