April 26, 2019

Torn Apart

When did I begin making torn paper collages? Years ago, I recall being busy with painting and seeing Toni Yuly’s delightful illustrations on her “Torn Tissue Tuesdays”… yet I didn’t feel a need to dive into the medium at the time.

It wasn’t until 2018, two years after my sweet husband was ripped away from my life, forever, that I attended Jennifer K. Mann’s workshop at the Illustrators Retreat on Bainbridge’s Island’s Islandwood.

Jennifer demonstrated applying gesso layers to “Stonehenge” paper. As it dried, we sorted through Jennifer’s massive paper collection and shared some of our own tissues, wrapping paper—even the security patterns printed on the interior of envelopes! Our goal was to cover our gessoed paper with enough torn bits of paper to create a sense of place. Earlier that day we'd walked through fern-bordered paths, and visited a tree house, so recreating that scene came naturally to me.

It was unusual and freeing to have no particular order to my process, other than selecting the colors and textures I felt drawn to pick up, then tearing off desirable shapes. I ended up tearing apart old sheet music, floral gift wrap, even strips of recycled brown paper towel from the studio sink!

For a while, each day I wanted to tear up different colors, textures, and then re-assemble them. It felt like a new framework for me, and not only for my artistic practice. Like an ever-changing kaleidoscope, no two images, or any two days in a life, are the same.

I had previously been painting illustrations for a story about a young boy’s nighttime adventure. Both of the boys who had inspired my young character were now living far from me, and I couldn’t see them as often as I had before, a disappointing rift.

Collage has been a fun diversion over the past year—perhaps as much a form of therapy for me as a new artistic medium!