Starting something new
A few weeks ago I stumbled on a post about paint by number kits and it got me thinking. What if I could create a collage by number kit? A collage that could be used for handmade cards, stationery, and journaling.
Would people like the idea?
I posted the image above on Instagram and asked. The positive feedback gave me the boost I needed to move forward with the idea.
It's still a work in progress. Here is how it started and where I am.
November is Pomegranate Month, so I thought a pomegranate (or three) would be a good start. I've always loved a nice botanical illustration and decided to go in that direction.
This is the first illustration. Not one pomegranate, but three.
Figuring it out
You can see by the numbers, it was fairly complicated. I decided to create the template, cut the pieces, and do a test collage. I cut the pieces and used color pencil to add the color, just as a trial. That was my second mistake.
Persistence and testing
It was way, way too complicated. With more than 30 pieces - small pieces - I realized it was just too much. I overwhelmed myself, never mind anyone else trying to figure it out. That was my first mistake.
The second mistake was not using the materials I would normally use to create a collage. I always use painted sheet music. This time I printed the sheet with shapes and added the color with colored pencil. It didn't work. Partly because it doesn't look any of my other collage work.
When I work with the sheet music, what I pick is influenced by the color on the sheet, the music notes that show through, and the textures that come from brush strokes and density. I lost all of that when I tried to use the color pencil.
Back to the drawing board - literally. I decided to simplify the image. I created a new sketch (which is always how I start a collage). Then I cut the shapes from the painted sheet music. It still took a bit of trial and error to figure out the best shapes and sizes, but the process was closer to my usual process, and I think that's why it works.
I still have to figure out a few things, but I'm excited to move forward. Is it a good idea to provide the shapes and instructions rather than let people create their own?
Sharing my collage work is a way to help others start. The idea is to provide the framework. Each person can add or subtract elements and make it their own.
At a letter writing workshop years ago, I provided the template for a birthday cake collage. At the start of the workshop, I wondered if it was a good idea. I thought they'd all look the same when we were done. They didn't! I was remarkable. Everyone started with the same materials, but there were no two alike.
Collage is a forgiving form. It's where I've found my comfortable place. I tried watercolor and other forms, but felt constrained to make things perfect. Collage is perfectly imperfect.
The first kit will be ready soon. I hope you'll give it a try and give me feedback. My test is one thing. How it works for you is what matters most.
Nineteen clues and my first symmetrical crossword puzzle.
I'm patting myself on the back, it feels like such an accomplishment!
What's the big deal? The black squares. If you were to flip the puzzle, the placement and number of the black squares on the top half mirror the placement and number of black squares on the bottom half.
Making the blocks symmetrical makes it more difficult to develop clues. Especially where two or three words run alongside or across one another ... like with clues three down, and four and seven across.
I've made word search puzzles and wanted to try the symmetrical crossword, but always gave up before getting too far. My mum loves a crossword puzzle, so this one's for her.
I hope you'll try it. Let me know if do, and I'll make another one.
You can download and print the puzzle (a one page sheet with the clues and answers(!) by clicking on the crossword image above).
At the end of the block on the corner there's a garden planted on the edge of the road. It's tucked between the street and a stockade fence. It's so small, and jammed into such a small space, it seems more than a garden. It's a declaration. A fertile sign of determination and grit.
Someone wanted a garden and they were not to be deterred.
They wanted to grow peas, and tomatoes, and peppers. We know that's what's growing because they impaled the empty seed packets on sticks to mark what was in the ground. And we've watch them grow for weeks now.
There's a tradition in New England ... peas and salmon on the Fourth of July. Why? The salmon swim upstream this time of year, just when the peas begin to sprout.
I'm not sure the neighbors will pair salmon with their peas, but the garden's bounty is proof there's plenty to be savored when the seed of determination is planted.
Figuring out what works Collage work has become my go-to art form. After trying a bit of watercolor, line drawing, pencil, and more, collage is it.
It's the perfectly imperfect nature of collage that works for me.
It's not that things are sloppy or unfinished. No, I pay attention to detail and form, but its more conceptual than precise.
Finding the rhythm
All of my collage work is done with painted sheet music. No other papers: no book pages, receipts, or found paper. Just sheet music.
That, too, took a while to figure out.
There are no distracting words on the page and I like how the music adds texture to the pieces I cut.
And I've learned it best to keep a supply on hand. A stack of painted sheets. An assortment of reds and yellows, blacks, grays, and greens. Blues, purples, and pinks. Each with varied amounts of paint, rough edges, and dry brush strokes.
Ready when the ideas are
If I have an idea, I like to sit down and start in. If I have to begin from scratch, to paint the colors I want or need, I risk losing some of my enthusiasm, some of the spark that comes with having a new idea.
Having an assortment of colors on hand helps me stay with the idea, to keep my momentum.
I've been running on scraps for a few weeks now and I can feel it holding me back. Little bits of paper cut from larger sheets. Yesterday I ran out of the green I wanted. Lots of scraps, but not enough to finish what I started.
It's time to take stock ... and restock.
Painting the sheets has become part of the process. Part of the preparation.
Be sure you've got what you need to get started. It could make all the difference.
Yesterday I became the reluctant fixer when the hose on the back of the dryer disconnected. I couldn’t get it reconnected and it started a string of lefty-loosey, righty-tighty missteps, YouTube videos, and a trip to the hardware store where a patient and far-more knowledgeable expert put and end to my cycle of frustration.
Are you handy?
Most of the time I would say I am. But truth be told, it depends when you ask.
Yesterday when I was in the middle of trying to attach that hose, I would have answered with a resounding no. Today, basking in the satisfaction of a job well-done (well, done anyway), I’m more likely to say yes.
It’s a truth most of us can relate to. Doing something for the first time comes with unique challenges:
The key of course of course is pushing through.
Though I wanted to give up, and nearly did, I knew it wasn’t an impossible task. Connecting a vent hose requires minimal tools and supplies ... there’s no rewiring of electricity or other element involved that would best be left to a professional. But I couldn't do it alone.
It took seven YouTube videos, two hours of trial and error, and two trips to two different hardware stores before I figured out what was missing and found what I needed:
A missing element and some guidance.
It also meant letting go. Of a quick fix, of all I had planned for the morning, of perfection, and frustration.
Though I won’t been installing dryer vent hoses on a regular basis, it’s a good, and constant, reminder that while there can be a quick fix here and there, it’s not the rule.
We’re better served, it seems, to recognize things will take more time and effort than expected. That frustration is part of the deal, and a little help from an expert goes a long way.
That even though what we’re trying to accomplish may not always be easy or fun, what we’re left is increased confidence, a bit more know-how, and a deep sigh of satisfaction.