La Cañada, California, is a small city at the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, where I have my home studio. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. I was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and lived there until I was four years old. Then we lived for a couple of years in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and then Florida. As an adult I moved to California, and here has always felt the most like “home.”
As far as I can remember, I’ve loved to create. (I could build a wicked bubble bath castle at around age 4!) In high school I used to make Christmas wreaths and sell them at craft fairs. I’ve also done other forms of art in the past, including hand-tinting photos (the old fashioned way), jewelry making, and soldering. But when I landed on torn paper collaging, I was hooked. I find it very invigorating to create, and there is something very satisfying about tearing and destroying the paper, only to piece it together in a creative new way.
My process took me many years to perfect! I can’t remember where I first saw a paper collage, but I remember it was done in a pop art fashion. I tried that, and quickly learned that style wasn’t my forte. But I did love the process of using paper over the process of using paint to create a finished piece.
So after a little trial and error, I decided to create more detailed pieces, especially recreations of Old Masters paintings, but often with a twist. I often sketch out designs and use a custom-made adhesive to create the pieces.
There is a lot that goes into each work of art before the creating has even started, including researching and sourcing many different types of handmade paper from various countries. I tear papers into small pieces as I’m working on the project, then use a custom adherent to apply the paper. Sometimes I try to shape the tear, but most times I tear randomly. It takes on average three to four days to complete each piece (and some even longer), since some of the ripped paper used for details is smaller than the tip of a fingernail. I go over it several times to make the piece more refined, then I add a sealant over the entire piece when it’s complete.
I love the idea of taking beautiful delicate handmade paper and tearing it up, only to recreate it in a fun and equally beautiful way.
I don’t know exactly what makes me passionate about creating, other than that’s just the way it is. I have to create. I’m thankful that I have a platform for selling my art, otherwise I’d have a very large collection of my own art! Instagram has been invaluable to me, not only in building a community of other creatives, but also as an opportunity to sell my art. People who want to pursue their creativity will do it, no matter what advice they are given. But for people who want to sell their art, I would advise them to do the research to find their audience.
I find that creative people often view the world through the eyes of their art. When I’m walking down the street and see a pattern of cracks in the road or sidewalk, I immediately think of the edges of my torn paper collages and the pattern they make. And when I see a pothole, I think, “That’s going to need more paper!” I’m also constantly looking for color combinations that inspire me. Sometimes I’ll snap a picture of a flower garden or even a storefront display that uses color in an interesting way.
At this point, I’ve never felt that I will burn out of creating, but there are definite lulls in the creative process. When I come up with a new design (often in my sleep or just after waking) I’m invigorated all over again!
The most difficult part of the process is coming up with ideas, but I also think as I become more familiar with a subject, I see it differently. I have done a take on Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (blowing bubble gum) and each time I notice something different in the original painting.
One of the most satisfying steps of my process is sourcing papers from all over the world.
My creative style is a mix of classic and whimsy. I’m always drawn to art and design with an unexpected twist. I love recreating Old Masters paintings that people will instantly recognize, but instead of Mona Lisa and her half smile, I’ve created her blowing a bubble with gum. I also love experimenting with mash-ups of paintings. I’ve used a painting by Roseland of a girl with a bird on her shoulder, and recreated it with different faces. It just occurred to me to try one with Mona Lisa’s face!
I love learning about the qualities of different handmade papers, like how they tear and how they layer. I also like gathering information on where the papers are made. Most of the paper I use comes from Nepal, India, Japan, Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico. I often create the same piece a few times and I’m always surprised at how they turn out so differently. No two pieces ever turn out exactly the same since all the papers are handmade, and the papers never rip the same way twice.
MY STUDIO is rather small so I really need it to be functional. I had a custom daybed built along one wall with large deep drawers that house all my paper, and a beautiful old bookcase holds a lot of my supplies. I also added French doors to allow in more natural light and give me a beautiful view of the garden outside. I used to display my art only on the walls, whether hung or leaning. But recently I started displaying pieces on a few of the easels I have, and that appeals to me much more. I’m currently on the hunt for a few more antique easels! The tip I would give to others wanting to create a studio is to find a balance of functionality and aesthetics. It’s easy to find basic storage pieces, but beautiful ones can spark creativity even more.
We are all impacted by our surroundings, and artists quite possibly even more than the average person. My biggest challenge in my studio has been space, and configuring it to allow for both adequate work space and storage. I would love to have an antique drafting table or file cabinet, but those are large pieces and would make the space crowded and heavy. Instead I opted for a smaller bookcase and an old repurposed sewing table. My studio is definitely a wonderful place to work and I’m thankful to have it in my home.
To whom much is given, much will be required.
My favorite things in my studio are not really things at all, but all my pets that keep me company when I’m working. Otherwise it would be quite lonely working many long days!