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tiny little pieces

by | Feb 20, 2022 | Uncategorized

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Early collage by Dawn Chandler made with early 20th-century bookbinding, dried teabag paper, 19th-century print, 19th-century signature, magazine clippings.

What amuses me about my little travel art kit quandary mentioned previously is that it was nearly identical to the quandary that kept me awake for nights on end a year ago. That’s when I was trying to figure out how to create an art experience focused on color for the guests of Bishop’s Lodge. What I sought then was a transportable, non-messy medium with an enticing array colors, that is easy-to use, and requires minimal prep and clean-up. Yet none of my “usual” art mediums — oils, acrylics, watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, pastels — met the criteria. Hence my insomnia: What to use? Mind you “insomnia” isn’t hyperbole here; I really was losing sleep over this.

Until I remembered collage.

Collage — the cutting, arranging and gluing of papers and other materials — has been around for centuries (think 17th-century herbariums and 19th-century scrapbooks). Yet it wasn’t recognized as a “real” art form (at least not by the “art establishment”) until the early 20th century. That’s when George Braques and Pablo Picasso began cutting and gluing cubists compositions with miscellaneous papers lying around their homes.

Below, collage through the ages:

Seventy years later, collage was the means through which I began to really learn about color. It was also my gateway into abstraction. Like those early Cubists, my first collages were made with papers I found lying around my environs. What artistic fodder I found in art school trash bins, secondhand stores, and sidewalks! Newspapers, magazines, old letters and used books, calendars, fabric swatches, wall paper, old photos, wine bottle labels, dried teabag papers and more were my medium. If I could glue it I could use it. My studio overflowed with baskets of found papers as I filled tiny books with my collage creations. My final graduate thesis project was the month of February in collage: Twenty-eight collages presented in 24” x 24” frames in a huge calendar grid on the wall.

Below, among my early explorations in collage, c. 1992 – 94. All of these are just a few inches in scale. From top: Evoking landscape with magazine clippings; collage of brown paper, fabric, 19th-century envelope, etching; collage made with early 20th-century bookbinding, dried teabag paper, 19th-century print, 19th-century signature, clippings from fine art calendars. Also, the image at the top of this post is one of mine made with found papers, including floral wrapping paper and a teabag.

One of Dawn Chandler's early collages evoking landscape, made with magazine clippings, 1992.
Early collage by artist Dawn Chandler made with brown paper, fabric, 19th-century envelope, etching.
Early collage by Dawn Chandler made with found papers including wallpaper and a teabag.

Even now as I paint I approach my canvases (the semi-abstract ones, at least) with a collagist’s eye, as I merge dissimilar elements into a cohesive, lyric composition.

But collaging found papers (papier-trouvé to use the lyrical French term) remains a foundational and much loved form of artistic expression for me.

Yet I knew that for teaching a class in color, using papier-trouvé would not work well; there’s just no continuity to them. I considered pre-packaged bundles of “Collage Papers” sold in art stores, but they, too, lack continuity and consistency. I needed papers of identical texture and sheen, easy to handle without being too fragile, that can take glue well. AND they have to come in a wide range of rich colors.
I couldn’t find anything that matched my criteria.


Then I hit upon an idea:

Make my own.

This is the third installment of a four-part series on my creation of the Enchanted Color Art Experience for Bishop’s Lodge Resort in Santa Fe.
Read the earlier installments:
I: how to teach your passion?
II: have art, will travel
iv: enchanted color and a small bit of wondrous truth

Thank you for being here and reading my musings. If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, I invite you to subscribe to this, my blog.

Meanwhile, find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, Shop my art via my Etsy shop. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. You can find other ways to keep tabs on me here.

Stay safe. Be kind.

~ Dawn Chandler

Santa Fe , New Mexico
Free from social media since 2020

Pictured left: One of my favorite of my early collages made entirely of magazine cut-outs.