The Mystery of My Collage

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Many mysteries plague life. If you are a particularly introspective person, you probably sit down for at least thirty seconds everyday pondering these mysteries. Why is it that someone other than you always eats the last slice of cake at the dinner table, no matter how badly you want it? Where is it that the person in front of you always brings eleven items to the Express 10 check-out line in the supermarket? One question that may also baffle you is how Christine Stoddard makes her collages.

            Let me back up about half a step. Okay, good, I didn’t step into a pothole. Anyway, my collages—from the ridiculously over-used “Las Vegas” to the annoyingly bright “Little Miss Sunshine’s Day Dream”—are relatively well-known in the ‘zine and online communities. (If you don’t know what a ‘zine is, go look it up; if you don’t know what online means, I’m not sure how you function in America.) Now, let me give you an offensively brief history of collage, not my collages but collages in general:

            Collage, traditionally, was an art form where someone took a bunch of paper bits (and possibly other objects, like photographs or feathers or buttons or tinfoil), arranged them into something remotely representational, and glued them to another piece of paper. But trust me, it looked much cooler than the tax forms you tore up in frustration and glued to a flattened muffin pan, unless you took the time to make shapes out of all of those letters and numbers. People first started making collages in Ancient China, with the invention paper but since we don’t even give them credit for inventing the printing press most of the time, I’m moving on.

            During the nineteenth century, collage became a rather popular art form; thanks to the invention of photography, photomontage (gluing stuff to photos to make a new image/cutting out sections of photos and incorporating them into another 2-D piece of art) took off. The artist that really inspired me, however, was Romare Bearden; his collages boomed in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement (I also admire how he was a writer and interdisciplinary artist like me! See? It is possible!)

            All right, history lesson over. I know you probably didn’t care about any of that. In fact, you just skimmed over all of that to learn my secret, didn’t you? Then, the next time you spot one of my collages in a ‘zine or on Flickr or Facebook or MySpace or or anywhere else, you’ll look at it so smugly, thinking you’re privy to everything about it.

            Fine. I’ll satisfy you. You’ve waited long enough. I’ve been teasing you all since 2003 when I first released “Las Vegas,” anyway. I suppose six years is long enough.

            The process is fairly simple; it just takes forever to complete. Usually it’s pretty spontaneous, too. Advanced planning doesn’t work well for them (or much of what I do, truthfully.) I draw a lot, scan many of my drawings, and store them on my computer. I also take faaar too many photos and store those on my computer, as well. Thirdly, I hoard things, especially paper products. I have so many books, newspapers, magazines, gift wrap, and paper scraps in my room that I’m crazy not to either start up a book mobile or a stationary store. (Well, I think I might run a book mobile at some point in my life, anyway. The time will come.)

            Now I usually create a collage after I have written so it’s almost never in the morning. I wake up, write, go to class, act if I have a gig that day, go to the library, run errands if necessary, and write some more. Then I come home. It might be late afternoon, early evening, or later. Vague, I know but it really varies day by day. Chances are I write some more until I finally feel like doing something more visual.

            I start to look through my drawings, photos, and paper junk. Now, I might arrange everything out on a piece of paper first and then take a photograph of the finished piece, but these days I’m more prone to arranging everything on Photoshop, instead. This means that anything that doesn’t already exist on my computer has to get there. So I scan or photograph whatever I need. Then I play around, moving this and that, cutting out this and that, until I have something I like. I might use Photoshop filters and color correction, or I might leave everything alone.

            It might take days for me to complete a collage at this rate, mainly because I want everything to be perfect in my eyes. Nothing more or nothing less than what pleases me. Sometimes adding or removing the tiniest sliver of paper can make all the difference.

            Happy? May the mystery plague you no longer.


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