While my love of paper as an art medium started when I was a child, I was an adult when I started to use it regularly in my artwork. In Tucson, Arizona, an artist friend of mine invited me and two other women to her house for a project. The friend gave us a few notebooks intended for an upcoming church service and proceeded to demonstrate how to decoupage the covers using Mod Podge and magazine paper.
The process of tearing different colors from the magazines and smearing the glue was meditative. I had so much fun creating a design with that method, from then on, I continued to create collages regularly. I experimented with doing collage on different kinds of paper, 3-D objects, hardboards, even cotton cloth. At first, I mostly used torn bits of color from the pages of magazines and built my images with the colors as my palette. Once in a while, I carefully cut out a particular shape or plant to use in the scene. If I cut out the image of a person from the magazine photos, I enjoyed painting an animal head on top to disguise the person. When I moved to St. Louis, I started to incorporate tissue paper into my pieces, particularly if I were collaging on cotton cloth, or muslin.
My first solo art shows were in St. Louis, Missouri- paintings and one collage in La Mancha Coffeehouse and one art show which featured all of my early paper collages at a gallery called The Chapel. I had a few pieces in other local shows in St. Louis, before moving to Houston. It was here that I discovered the method which inspired a completely new vision for my artwork. After a family trip to Galveston beach, I sat down at my art table with the desire to depict the beautiful seaside day that we experienced. Tissue paper allows for more control over the color gradient than magazine paper, because it can be layered to create more depth. I wanted to depict the color in the deep sea and the translucent aspect of the waves on the beach.
Once I painted the octopus waving at his pelican friend, a new love was born. After that, I couldn’t stop creating new collages using this method. I had made tissue paper/acrylic paint collage years before, one koi piece on muslin cloth and a seahorse piece on thin paper. The octopus collage was made on Ampersand hardboard which made the work more durable and easier to build with the tissue paper. That simple change made the process click with me in a new way. The ideas continue to rush into my brain, and sometimes I work on three collages at once. The process of tearing the thin tissue paper, layering each new color, building my image each glue brushstroke at a time, is extremely therapeutic. I am working on building children’s books, a line of décor for children’s rooms, and pieces for household décor in general. The vision for this path did not hit me until I saw my completed octopus collage/painting. Sometimes being an artist is a lot of experimentation until you find a medium and method which awakens your imagination in a new way.
Photo: Following the Leader. 2011. by Laelia Watt- tissue paper on cotton cloth, ModPodge, acrylic paint.