I Could Start Every Painting This Way

17 Jun 2014

Here's the painting that I have on a postcard by Casper David Friedrich, called The Sea of Ice, 1824, oil on canvas, 38 x 50.
Here's the oil painting by Casper David Friedrich that I have
on a postcard called The Sea of Ice (1824, oil on canvas, 38 x 50).
In college, I created a series of mixed media collages that incorporated several of the same images, but each looked different in its final form and presented a distinctive narrative. It was a marathon of nights filled with cutting and pasting, but I loved the way you could layer different meanings and have multiple ideas in each work. 

Since then, I've found that one of the ways I most like to start a painting is actually with a little collage. It helps me focus on the most important elements I want to incorporate into the work and it makes me think about how to achieve my goal with different methods of mark making, colors, or even different media. I collect images, objects, and scraps of paper, cloth, and photographs and wait until something comes together for me. And usually that happens when I try to work through a collage. It becomes the starting point I use as inspiration for a full-on painting.

For example, for a landscape painting that I want to paint sometime in the future, I have a mixed media painting collage going that features fluid and loose pen and ink lines from a graphic design that I found in a magazine that I'd love to try to imitate; streaks of a silvery gray oil pastel that I've been wanting to use; a postcard of a Casper David Friedrich painting; and a ruby-red scrap of cloth that I can't even remember the origins of.

Mixed media collage by Alisa Burke.
Mixed media collage by Cindy Wunsch.
A collage can contain all the building blocks
for a great painting. (Mixed media collages by
Alisa Burke, top, and Cindy Wunsch, bottom.)
The point being that all of these parts, together in the collage, encompass what I want to have in my painting as touchstones. They are things that will guide me through the work and keep me centered and focused. Some of it is about method and technique; some of it is about narrative and message. I don't know how it will turn out, but the mixed media art collage helps lead me along.

To me that's the lure of collage--and printmaking. The processes inherent in both allow me to think all around an idea or memory in a way that feels fluid and organic. Nothing is forced. And from there I can take my creativity wherever I want it to go. So when I found out about Traci Bautista's Printmaking Unleashed Kit, I couldn't have been more thrilled. It is pure inspiration on painting, printing, stamping, and collaging. It can be a starting point for thinking about a mixed media painting that you want to make as an art piece in and of itself, or one that can inspire works in different media. Either way, I hope you find the Printmaking Unleashed Kit as much of an artistic asset as I do. Enjoy!


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on 21 Sep 2011 6:48 AM

Terrific creativity Courtney!  Thanks for sharing this method.

rasz wrote
on 21 Sep 2011 9:46 AM

I love to start my painting with collage also. Thank you for sharing your techniques. I get so inspired from other artists. The Collage in Color eMag is TERRIFIC! I got it when it first came out and am still going through it over and over...talk about inspiration and techniques! This eMag is full and the great part is it's interactive which helps me as I learn better from seeing than reading.