Collage and Memories

Last week I attended an online workshop at the National Gallery Art as part of their Virtual Studio series. You may remember I’ve done several of these sessions. They are offered every couple of weeks and are free. I’m a real fan of these classes and have enjoyed myself in each one.

Here is the email address to put yourself on the list for notifications about future events : .

On this afternoon, the theme was Storytelling with Collage (look here for the description of the program). I was interested to see what we’d be doing because as you know, I have spent a lot of my art career in doing collage and I always want to learn more.

First of all, we selected a memory that we’d like to depict in collage – any memory or experience, a big theme or a small moment. I was not prepared to come up with something and panicked. Then, I thought of the activity that is my lifelong favorite: reading. I am an avid reader and once I learned to read I have gone full speed ahead, often reading one book a day (sometimes more).

We then spent a few minutes writing down phrases or sketching pictures to support this memory theme. During this time, I found a focus: I especially love to read in bed and I have been doing it since childhood. I decided to depict me in bed with a book.

Next, we spent some time looking at a collage by Romare Bearden titled Tomorrow I May Be Far Away. Click here to see it in the museum’s collection.

Then, we started to work on our collages, with the instructor guiding us through the process. Since I was familiar with working in this medium, I listened, but mostly I worked really really fast on my image. I’m usually messy when I work in collage, but on this occasion I outdid myself – I was discarding papers on the floor and cutting and pasting and moving so quickly that I ended up with a storm of paper and materials and tools strewn around me, what a scene!

Take a look.

Here is the work as I finished it in my 12 x 9 sketchbook. I was not satisfied with it but I guess I only worked an hour or so on it, after all.

I thought I looked a bit ghoulish in this picture. I also was not happy with the wall behind my head – I felt it should be more shadowed so that the lamplight would show up more, and so that the nice white bedspread could stand out. I worked things over a tiny bit more the next day.

All right, this is better now. I look a whole lot more friendly in this picture, and I think the atmosphere of being enclosed with a book comes across better.

Well, what do you know? I would not have thought of depicting this scene without this workshop reminding me of this part of my life. Thank you to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for this really nice experience. I’m looking forward to the next workshop!

18 thoughts on “Collage and Memories

  1. humoringthegoddess

    I love collages. They are a wonderful way of blending memories with textures and colors that help tell the story. I have never made one, although there are a few artists that I follow that do them. And really enjoy it!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I was stymied when put on the spot like this, but, I pulled through with this idea and it worked out great. I think I thought of it because I used the topic of reading in an earlier activity (making folded books) with the NGA. As for the mess…I usually do make a mess like this but it also usually takes me a lot longer! This night, I was trying to work fast so…on the floor the clippings went!

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    What a fun work shop and I think your resulting collage is absolutely fabulous. I love the way you have utilized all of the text pages in your collage, given the subject, and the way you have deployed the blues and yellows throughout. They convey just not that sense of night’s darkness creeping around the lamplight by which the figure is reading but also the way the book emits that kind of warming glow.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I think there is something perfect about the end of the day, being in bed, the night closing in and me getting ready to sleep by reading, as I have done for about 55+ years. And it happens every day!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I really like these workshops the Natl Gall of Art does, as I think they get me to look in other directions and do things in a way that I would not normally think of. I guess it’s a nice shake up for my brain. I enjoy the connections between art and writing they emphasize.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I hope you enjoy it. There is a huge library of online art and various activities they run, such as this workshop. I have researched a lot during the pandemic searching for any place that offers online events like this and I have really enjoyed what the NGA has to offer.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I have spent some time researching various programs and as time has progressed I have built up a nice list of locations that do good programs. I like the NGA a lot, their topics are thoughtful and the projects are accessible, and they are offered more than once so there is a selection of times to go.

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