Some weeks ago I got one of those reminders from Facebook about a collage I posted back in 2012. Not only did see my old coffee table in my old apartment where I used to make everything, but I saw a terrible composition. I had only been working with tape for a little over a year and only involved in mail art for about three. I was one of those random people starting to mail. One of those people lit by the spark of mail-art, mine coming from the documentary, How to Draw a Bunny.
Using tape was something that I fell into. No one told me how to do it, it was literally an effect I achieved when accidentally pulling scotch tape over an old magazine. Once I saw the image underneath, I did it again and again and a fascination was born. In no way do I claim to be the first to do this, but I might be one of the only idiots playing around with it for ten years. Who knows how many more I have left? Without having any training in art, any background whatsoever, I don’t have a wide vocabulary to draw on. I don’t have a lot of diversions into this technique or that one, because I simply don’t know about them. I just stumble into the next thing and work on that until I abandon it, or find something visually interesting.
My general ignorance is what pushes me forward. Over a period of years, you don’t see that you’ve shifted focus. A minuscule choice five years ago can drastically change the way you make things today. It’s like that picture of Marty McFly’s family in Back to the Future. Stumbling across tape transfers a year or two into my mail-art fascination was a big find. More and more subtle layers came after I started to make transfers. My collages got a lot more complicated and visually arresting once I began soaking tape with old magazine images in water. It took a couple years before I saw things I actually liked. Being able to take away the backing paper to expose the clearer portions of the tape…game changing. I have no idea where that idea came from?
The process of making tape collages now, is very similar to how I used to make tape collages. The process hasn’t changed much but the results have. Basically I take a bunch of reused postcards, or bingo cards (all bought at thrift stores) and then tape them to a hard surface. In 2012 the hard surface was my coffee table in my living room and now it’s my upstairs workspace. I’ve bought a home and squeezed myself into the land-owning class. To start, then as now, I usually add some color tape as the base layer. You can see that at the very bottom with the pink circles…that’s packing tape. You can also see that in the blue on the very edges. Along with the color tape, I’ll add in random pieces I have laying around just to give it all a little more drama. From there I start adding in the ripped pieces directly from magazine images (mostly from the 60s and 70s because the paper is cheap) as well as the tape transfers I have off to the side. I pick lots of images of luring ladies and shady men, logos, and out of context words. I rip from the magazines over and over again until the collage comes together. When it looks, or rather feels done, I rip up the large collage from the table and then cut them based on the postcard or bingo card underneath. Doing this makes things a little more random, since you’re not exactly sure where the images end and the card underneath begins. This basic process hasn’t changed all that much in nine years.
This, here on the coffee table…I do not like.
I see so many mistakes. Here are the most obvious ones to me.
1.The car in the bottom
right is too big. I imagine that car is spread over at least three card and
only one has enough of the car to show the viewer that it’s a car. 2. There’s
too much red, or at least too many different types of red. There’s dark reds
and pinks and cherry reds…too many, not pleasing. 3. The edges of the tape,
where there’s white fuzz, is clearly placed on darker colors. 4. Too linear.
This is my biggest problem and the main thing that I look out for whenever I
create a collage. When the image is too much on a line I start to feel like I’m
making an entry into my scrapbook page. I like when things are a little off, a
little wrong, a little crooked. When I look at my work I always want it to look
like a billboard on the side of the highway that’s been there for forty years,
but no new images have been added in twenty years. 5. The smaller pieces of
tape aren’t “worked in” over the larger pieces of tape. Hell, almost all of the
tape isn’t “worked in,” meaning it looks like pieces of paper that have
randomly fallen on the table without proper incorporation.
Even a mess in monochrome.
I have no idea where these six or seven collages ended up. For a few minutes I flipped through images to see if I could find the final product, I couldn’t. I scan everything now but I didn’t in 2012. These are just a few of the thousands I’ve made over the past decade, most of which are mailed and then tucked away once they reach their destination. Because of this, I don’t worry too much about perfection. I don’t worry if they’re wrong or right, I just mail them. I know when I look in the mailbox and then shuffle through what I’m sent, only a fraction of the items strike my eye. When I can tell who the artist is by just the envelope, I get excited. I can spot a Richard Canard card from at least 200 yards away. Good or great isn’t always important, it’s the trade…the conversation that matters.
To all the bad things I’ve sent to other mail-artists in the past ten years, I promise the next one will be better.
In the spirit of collaboration. I wanted to see what other mail-artists had to say about the great faux-pas from 2012. A work is never done, right? I posted the image on Facebook and asked people to comment on it. A lot of folks commented on the collage like I still had it, which would have been a nice project. Here…you guys tell me what I should do to this. Obviously I just stumbled into something I’m going to do later. Here are the comments from many mail-artists from all over the world.
A lot of red in one area? / The random composition is really stuck. You should burn a part of it. / You know your stuff. But on this one there’s unclean gluing and clumping of colors, vs. placement of colors doesn’t allow your eyes to move in a circular pattern. / The theme is red! Get rid of the blue... / Throw a stencil over it or chop it up and rearrange on a solid background. This feels like a good base for something more. / The composition is too volatile, flies too hard. Try ripping it in four parts! / Do a wash of gesso- white or black- it won’t 'hide' everything just tone down some of the busier sections. Then you can always go back in and add line or color detail. Just my thought. / Lacks center of interest....or just lacks? / Not enough tape? / Too random, about nothing. HOWEVER, it is a nice composition with good color. / Needs more yellow? / Too much tape? / Too much red?