Photo Challenge: COLLAGE

via Photo Challenge: Collage

I work primarily with paper collage and found objects, and have since I was a fine art student at CU in Boulder, Colorado during the 60’s when the process was relatively new in university fine art classrooms. Fortunately for me, U. of Colorado had a handful of cutting edge professors whose experimentation epitomized iconic 60’s art. Picasso, Raushenburg and other prominent artists worked in collage in the 20th century and became our inspiration and our guides; often using wood, scraps of metal, nails and other found objects to create compositions with heavy emphasis on color, pattern and texture. In my college art classes we had no special materials available to us and so we used newspaper, kindergarten glue, old tissue, wrapping paper, string and brown manila paper bags. We used rubbish, basically. We loved the process and we were innovative and excited with it. Among other pieces I completed a 3×4 ft canvas collage with powerful color and deep texture, titled Chicago Fire, which I kept for years and then my brother- in-law asked to have it so I gave it away…. sad.

I have also taught collage, and explained my techniques and my passion for the process to eager and imaginative adult students whose eyes were opened to the magical art of cutting, tearing, painting and layering exotic papers from around the world.

“Abandon your pre-conceived notions about traditional fine art and begin a mixed media journey where improvisation, freedom from boundaries, self-discovery and originality are valued higher than any predictable destination.”  – Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Fine art mixed media collage is not decoupage, is not scrap-booking, will not work well using  Elmer’s glue and does not work well with watercolor or oil paints. Since collage has morphed and changed and re-invented itself through the years, even centuries,  there are now available many new products for the sole purpose of creating collage. Acrylic paints are by far the best media to use. Liquitex Matt Medium is your glue. I work on canvas, not paper, because paper buckles and warps under the wet glue. I get my collage papers from fine art stores that sell gorgeous handmade papers from around the world, but I am also constantly on the hunt for unusual and marvelous handmade papers that I discover in all types of shops – wonderful tissue papers, fancy paper shopping bags and  packaging can be found everywhere but especially so in other countries as you travel.

Collage is a re-cycling art where papers, cards, old jewelry, small stones, shells and items you have saved for years simply because you love them can find homes in a fine art creation that not only gives your favorite things new life and purpose but display a creation that is unique to you and your personal experiences.

My collage creations range from small to gigantic and I have sold them in galleries across many western states. There is currently a mixed media collage market out there that will astound you once you know what to look for and ask for as you visit fine art galleries. Art stores carry many instructional books on the subject. You need not have any artistic experience to learn the technique and begin your collage journey – there are no rules – only techniques to understand and materials to acquaint yourself with that work for you. It is a highly serendipitous art form – happy accidents and new discoveries are common. Improvisation is the key. Freedom from any hard and fast rules is the norm. It is all about letting go. Therapeutic it is.

No two collages are ever alike – they are like snowflakes. If you layer the paper and paint and build texture and repeat, tearing your papers rather than cutting them because a torn edge is so beautiful, then over-lapping them again in some areas, painting on each layer as you build texture  – well you can seldom go wrong. It is fun and rewarding!

Jo Ann Brown-Scott – artist and author

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com      www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Book – The Creative Epiphany, Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations – non-fiction narrative about life-changing epiphanies in creativity

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Highlands Ranch, Colorado

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My Brother Ross Rossiter

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With life as short as a half-taken breath, don’t plant anything but Love. – Rumi

At this very moment in time I am at home with an  unimaginably agonizing afternoon ahead of me. My dear brother Ross, my baby brother who is now in his fifties, is in ICU on life support after an epic and heroic two year battle with a monster Sarcoma that took over his abdomen and gradually attempted to kill him. He is a fighter, a strong and determined adversary for cancer, and yet after many months of suffering and a successful surgery that filled us with hope he is now on life support. Deadly side effects have been the final determination of his ultimate failing. The decision is to end that support for him this evening.

How do you spend an afternoon like this?

My other brother and sister and I did not grow up with Ross in our lives…he was born to my father’s second wife and we knew Ross only as an adorable baby boy who fleetingly came and went for a window of time in our lives. Then when Ross’s mother and my father were divorced we lost track of Ross and nobody ever acknowledged that we three had lost the fourth – it was overlooked and sadly neglected, during a ridiculously stupid set of circumstances when no one realized he was still our brother. I always felt the loss – all three of us did. No one made any attempts to hold us all together; almost as if they really did not want to.

I don’t remember the year it happened, exactly, but it was probably mid-1995 or so. I was at work sitting at my marketing job desk with internet access and it was a slow day on the computer. I decided to find him if I could. It took just three phone calls and I had his number. So easy. He was emotionally stunned when I called and told him who I was – he said he had always missed us and wanted to have us in his life but had no idea how to find us. He had been about two years old when I had last seen him. WOW! What followed was a reunion of epic proportions that involved Ross flying to Denver to see me and my brother and then another set of circumstances that took Ross and I on a road trip to Scottsdale so that he could meet his long lost other sister. (Ross had a third sister from his mom’s first marriage.) When all this happened it had been a lifetime since I had last seen baby Ross. He was all grown up with three children and a lovely wife, living on the east coast of Florida in the Ft. Lauderdale area.

After that life-changing phone call Ross sent my sister Vicki and I each a dozen roses that said – “For all the birthdays I have missed. Love you, mean it. Ross”

I admire Ross on all fronts. He is a wonderful, adoring husband and father and the most loyal of friends. He is a fine man, one of the best to walk this earth. Of his many noble attributes and his exemplary character traits I choose here and now to celebrate his…..crazy sense of humor…..Ha!

Ross is one of the funniest people I ever met in my life. The Rossiter clan – well – we are story tellers and we have always had enough stories to last a lifetime because we all seem to attract experiences that are outrageous and scary but hysterical in retrospect. It’s that sad/funny thing. You know – the stories where something goes terribly wrong and you are in tears and then the ending turns out to be that sort of spurting, silent-laughing-cannot-make-a-sound-laughing-so-hard-sooo-funny it hurts laughing.  We all have this character trait. Every single one of us. Our dad, the common tree from which all we nuts have fallen, was a funny accident waiting to happen, all the damn time. He flew off of galloping horses and broke bones right before my eyes as I rode alongside him on my pony, he fell out of trees hitting limbs on the way down fracturing his back as he landed in a rocky dry creek bed, he was bounced out of careening horse-drawn buggies, he tripped over logs and rocks with the perfect body-roll or face plant of a circus clown and eventually he fell right out of my mother’s life. Looking back and recalling some of his more hellacious accidents for which I was present, which now flow through my memory in slow motion involving danger and blood, well, they still seem like slapstick comedy. Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello type stuff. Dad could tell all of his stories to perfection, recounting one after another after another on the back terrace over a BBQ fire around dusk and into the wee hours.

Ross however took this humor in a slightly different direction, although he was definitely the showman that his father was. Ross loved a good costume party. He liked pulling jokes on people. All of that combined nicely with being a trained chef and wine connoisseur. That man could COOK. He can cook lamb chops to perfection, like an angel. He works for Strauss Foods (grass fed lamb, mostly) and he often did food demos at big food shows around the midwest and the south. He would keep a running commentary going as he seared the meat and artfully presented it for tasting, entertaining the crowds with funny quips and stories. A true Rock Star Chef, a good-looking, charismatic show biz performer whose kitchen help sets everything up for him and he breezes in at the last minute and commands his stage, wows and fascinates the crowd for an hour or so and then leaves. He was a different kind of performer – he was Mr Fabulous Foodie/Stand Up Comedian with a wicked sense of humor that was seldom censored who would serve you delicious food.

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. That is how I hold your voice. – Rumi

I loved it whenever he called me, because I knew that I was going to hear some brilliant and memorable stuff about something or another that was happening to him, and then he would always want to hear what crazy stuff was happening to me. Ask me what is happening to me and you will get a narration complete with sound effects and details and song as if I am the color commentator at a sporting event of some kind. We talked well together. I felt that he truly “got me” and I certainly got him. I spent some of my most hilarious “moments in time” on Planet Earth with my brother Ross. We had a long and winding 24 hour caper together one time when I just flat ran away from a guy I had been seeing for several years, leaving Denver in the darkness of early morning, to move to Arizona where our sister Vicki and her husband Tom lived, awaiting my arrival with a soft place for me to land. Since Ross had just flown into Denver for Part One of our long awaited reunion with my other brother Fred and me, Ross offered to drive the truck for me, full of all my furniture and most cherished possessions, while I led the way in my red Acura to Arizona. Sounded like a great plan to me, a very generous offer, plus Ross wanted to meet his sister Vicki again and use it as an opportunity to see the scenery of the southwest.

Our couple nights in Denver before we left was spent with Fred and his wife Susan mostly in the kitchen watching Ross cook as we all told, and compared, stories of our illustrious family. Ross had arrived lugging a large cooler of all varieties of exotic meats packed in dry ice. As I recall we tasted alligator, lamb, beef, pork and it was all beautifully prepared by our personal chef. We bonded in the stories of our lives and our laughter and our tears. Nothing was sacred – we covered it all. We were all well aware that it was inexcusable to have been apart all the years since Ross was so young. We had been given little information about each other that might have led us to any kind of reunion.

We left under cover of darkness the next morning with a 14+ hour trip ahead of us. Directly south to Albuquerque, hang a right and take it straight into Scottsdale. If you see anything weird, swerve to avoid it. I had made the drive dozens of times. So we set out with me in the lead, but we switched off sometimes so that my new baby brother could be ahead. OH! I forget to mention one detail. Ross had only one good eye – his other eye had been shot out by a kid with a pop gun when he was two years old or less. The other three of us were informed when that accident happened and we could not believe it and were extremely upset by it. Ross grew up with a beautiful convincing glass eye and no one would ever have know if he had chosen not to tell them.

We had no cell phones of course so we had to resort to hand signals out the window or flashing headlights to communicate with each other. That was how we rolled as we leap-frogged our way south and west. By the time we were in New Mexico my snack jar of M&M’s (what was I thinking?) were melted in to a colorful gooey blob of fondue chocolate. Ross was sunburned and and unshaven, hair stiff and spiked straight up from the strong dusty wind coming in the truck window. Ross was a riot – screaming and pointing for me to notice certain bluffs and rock formations – wanting to stop at every roadside stand that displayed coyotes baying at the moon, rubber snakes and lizards for the kids, silver jewelry for Pam and strings of bright red chili peppers. I would see him in my rearview mirror gesturing wildly at me and mouthing “pull over!” “pull over!” “pull over!” as we barreled along at 85 miles per hour. Sometimes I could and sometimes I could not…and if I could not he would go rogue on me and pull over anyway, swerving impulsively off road in this big tilting truck, at the  last possible minute into some Indian souvenir stand so I had to make a fast u-turn and head back to him. We laughed so hard at each other. When we stopped at some greasy dump for lunch we talked frankly and long, and I told him my life history with men in a not-so-brief salty and sarcastic nutshell. He told me that he thought the guy – the reason for my escape from Denver – was crazy to let me get away and did not deserve me. I agreed. And I was so gone. A little sad, but funny.

I asked him at one stop how his one good eye was doing, cause both of mine were tired and crusted with red dirt dust, with still a long stretch to go.

“Need a siesta?” I asked.

“Hell no. I’m great! I love this shit! I may only have one eye honey but it’s a muthah fuckah of an eye! It never gets tired! I do better than most two-eyed people do!” And so we continued racing along like bats out of hell.

We arrived in Scottsdale well after dark, not even resembling our former selves. We were red-faced, wind-whipped and sweaty, beat from the incessant heat, stiff and sore but Vicki and Tom revived us and my daughter Kelly was there too. Of course we partied most of the night away as Ross became acquainted with his sister again. That 14-16 hour roadtrip was a great crash course in knowing Ross.

********

Fast forward to one particular day about a year and a half ago when Ross was in the hospital on one of his 3-day mega doses of chemo, passing time there as it dripped into his system. He called me. We would talk about many things, cabbages and kings, as the walrus said. There was nothing we would shy away from discussing if the mood took us. His illness gave him a burning need, an urgency to discuss life, death, religion, sex, our kids, art, food, jokes, our mom and dad, spirituality and of course the event of dying.

He told me that he would be so fucking bored, with the drip drip dripping and he was supposed to get some exercise every day so he would walk down the hallway, dragging his medical paraphernalia along with him, to the sunny waiting room that looked down on a highway. He would then proceed to press his entire body, nose to ankles, arms widespread and legs apart, a tangle of tubes hanging off of him, against the huge window looking down on the speeding traffic and mouth the words, “HELP ME!” He did it frequently, daily I do believe, and no one ever acknowledged him by honking or altering their direction in even one small waiver from their lane. He thought that was sad. He also thought it was extremely funny. Sad/funny….

And so now we are here. There is nothing to do with a day like this, waiting for the end. It is the most profoundly sad experience I have ever had.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, Artist and Author

In my second book titled THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, published in 2008, Ross and I wrote Chapter 14 together titled “Harleys and Old Lace” which touched upon the experience of all of us finding each other again.

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com, www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. – Rumi

 

 

Cuba -The Beauty and the Beast

By the time we left Cuba we were in love with the country and its people. We had many discussions, political and otherwise with our various hosts in the Casa Particulars where we stayed, inside the privacy of their homes and in cars whenever the driver could speak a bit of English. No one would dare to speak about the dictatorship freely in the plazas or the restaurants for fear of being overheard; the police were ever-present. We spoke, sometimes in whispers, about the inevitable change of power when Castro died, having no idea how eminent that was at the time of our conversations.

Since that trip to Cuba in early November Castro has died and the country has mourned. There was no dancing in the streets – that would have been foolish. The next shoe might already be dropping. The beast of communism is very much alive as I write this and the uncertainty of Cuba’s future looms large. The industrious, inventive, energetic, constantly musical and delightfully humorous people of Cuba wait and wonder what is to come next. There is a high degree of melancholy underneath the bustle of Cuba but hope is very much alive; I hope that their powerful hope is rewarded in the months to come. The contrasts are sharp between the arrival of the cell phone and the women lowering their baskets on ropes from 4th story windows in the early morning light to buy bread from a kid on a bike yelling “Panooooo.”

Change is a constantly grinding wheel and it will not be denied. But at what cost?

Attached are some photos; for more please visit my recent Archives about this enlightening journey to another exotic world just 100 miles from our shores where dictators deny their people freedoms and basic staples of daily life. The beauty is evident, the evidence of brutality is everywhere. More blogs to come, including the Ernest Hemingway experience…

Author & Artist Jo Ann Brown-Scott – http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com

New novel – http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

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Snapshots of Cuba

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Some random snapshots of images that grabbed me along our way around the city of Havana, where the people are gracious and eager to be of help, the colors intensely beautiful (whether shiny and bright or well-worn by Father Time), the food is always interesting and often gourmet, the energy is high and the hustlers are hilarious. I found fascinating views in every direction, often unable to capture the action fast enough on my camera. Later on this day we took a bus to Trinidad, Cuba, a village along the southern coast, where all the colors, patterns and textures of Havana morphed into a more casual, beachy vibe that we found delightful. Let me say this again – the best thing we did for this trip, as we researched and planned it on the computer back in Colorado, was the decision we made to stay at Casa Particulars (Air B&B) rather than in hotels – the knowledge we gained from long conversations with the residents, living under the same roof with authentic Cuban families in their charming, tiny but tidy, immaculate homes – watching breakfast being prepared in the kitchen, seeing what the kids do for fun and what they are learning, being offered a tour of every room – were and will always be invaluable to us. There is nothing like the special experience of that, and the people of Cuba could not have been more hospitable and open with us. They love Americans. It is a sobering experience, at times, hearing about life under the dictatorship of R. Castro. The ways in which families cope, how they improvise, how they make the monthly food rations stretch, what their lives are lacking in, all reveal how hard it is to maintain faith and hope that things will ever change for the better. They would like a better life for their children, but they do not want to lose the soul of Cuba in the process.

More on Trinidad, Cuba in my next blog!

 

Sustaining Your Creativity

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When it comes to creativity, many complicated layers are worthy of discussion, and at this moment in time it is a hot topic. In my book titled THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, available on Amazon and Kindle, I explored, with a select 18 highly creative individuals, the process of choosing and defining your creative direction. The subject common to all of their chapters was the event of experiencing a creative epiphany. I have written many blog posts about such an experience, (see my Archives) how I define it and how to encourage and recognize the epiphany event that will change the course of your life for the better, if you remain open to hearing it.

When a person is super creative, it oozes out in many directions, seeking the most fulfilling path that will bring the best results (not usually the path of least resistance). I do not believe that a person must confine her creative work to one lasting lifetime lane that moves forward like a turnpike and allows only one facet of creativity to get anywhere, with no exit ramps and no room for further adventures. What I do believe is that selecting one or two dominant and slightly meandering creative avenues will bring the best enlightenment and satisfaction in your journey. Certainly not at the dictatorial extinction of everything else – but to allow adequate concentration of time and energy in the primary pursuits that offer you the most potential for a life of moral and career enrichment. If you dilute yourself too much, you water down all your creative  endeavors to a thin, weak soup that never tastes very good.

Many creative people re-define themselves over a lifetime, using chunks of time to do one thing very well, then switching to some other choice and doing that quite well for another period of time. That is a wonderful way to keep things fresh, avoid boredom and follow the money trends to a creative work that will bring in some bucks. I love that. That is a fun way to live.

Through the years I have been advised to produce greeting cards, write children’s books, become an interior designer, run my own B&B, be a painter of faux finishes on walls, design clothing, manage art galleries and decorator fabric shops and the list goes on. Some of those things I did, some I wish I had done and some I may still do…. Underneath it all, however and sometimes on top of it all, I was an artist. In spite of being an artist I have spent embarrassing  amounts of time diluting myself to such a degree that I was crazy with juggling it all, and yet what ultimately happened was that I learned from it so that now I can write confidently about it with a high degree of credibility. In retrospect, perhaps in doing this writing that time spent has become worthwhile…even valuable and necessary. Phew – because I hate wasted time. Now I am an artist and an author and you can be sure that any advise I offer to you was gathered through my time in the trenches.

I am now beginning a sequel to The CREATIVE EPIPHANY,  title to be determined. I have more to say – I would like to assume that you have chosen a creative direction; you are immersed in it, devoured by it, and perhaps being driven crazy by it. I have some observations about all that…. I would like to get them all gathered up, organized and put them between the covers of a new book. I do not want you to smother the flames of your creative fire. Help is on the way! Stay tuned!

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

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Overload

 

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This painting was inspired by the Chatuchak Market visited in Bangkok, Thailand 2014, by Jo Ann Brown-Scott 24×36

I was on intense sensory overload for about 10 hours straight as we took in the sights, sounds, smells and color stimulation during this crash course in the cultural abundance of Bangkok, Thailand at the world famous Chatuchak Market. I will never forget it. It left an indelible imprint on my artistic soul, of action, energy, variety of music and people  and clothing and food , not to mention the merchandise in row upon row of cubicles. When I showed this painting to my instructor at the Denver Art Students League he smiled and approved. He had only two minor tweeks that he recommended and then he considered it finished.

You see Homare Ikeda loves paintings that tell a story, and he saw many abstract  stories here. If you divide this painting into squares, you will find a half dozen or more individual paintings that each work alone as complete compositions. The lower portion of the painting has a glow that comes from deep behind and is more blurred that the upper portions – an impressionistic painting or two unto itself.

This is also, in addition to the color and paint application, a mixed media collage – meaning that I have used various printed papers glued and layered and painted over to achieve a deep, almost sculptural texture in certain areas.

For me, it is just about as complicated a piece as I have ever done and that I am happy with. And since I am on overload today, with creative energy and ideas, it seemed the right time to post it.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, author and artist

New 5 star Novel – A Canary Flies the Canyon, available on Kindle and Amazon

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

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Have You Found Your Place?

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Not to get all philosophical or anything heavy like that, but I would like to ask you one simple question.

Have you found your place? A place that fits you as securely and tightly and perfectly as that small round stone in the larger lava rock pictured above.

Not necessarily your place in life….you might call it your place in the universe; a place where you can go to feel whole. The place that feeds your soul, yes, with healthy soul food. The place that feeds your imagination, your sense of wonder, your artistic visions, your comfort, your need for adventure, your peaceful spiritual wanderings and your core beliefs about wanting what the good life here on Planet Earth has to offer.

If you have discovered the place or places that can do this for you then you are indeed fortunate to be blessed with a sanctuary. A priceless place of renewal and safety where you can go for spiritual reward. Hopefully you can visit it often – and maybe it is a place in your own backyard….I hope it is close enough so that you can be there as often as you might like. Perhaps you have a selection of places; a handful would be awesome.

Here are mine:

  • The Big Sur coastline of California, ending with a visit to NEPENTHE, perched at the top of the world, where you know. You just know things… For new awakenings.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii, on a selection of beaches along the Kona coast of my Specific Ocean. The vastness of it all. The sanctuary of the waves.
  • The Rocky Mountains, and a particular weekend retreat of renewal and refuge from the hectic life, located in the Conifer-Evergreen woods and canyons, elevation about 8300 ft. for the height and breadth and depth of it all.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for the enormous sense of time and faith it offers. Dust particles dancing in the sunlight, high up; having been there for centuries.
  • Santa Croce in Rome, housing the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and other remarkable men, for respect of those who knew so much about life.
  • Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia for its sense of wonder and mystery. How could it have been undiscovered for so long? What was life there like?
  • The Buddha Tooth Temple in Singapore because it is one of the most fascinating peaceful places I have ever been.

I love to talk to people who have found their places. They are usually people anchored in knowing. They see things differently; more deeply. They are not necessarily religious, but they are wise in the ways of the universe. They know their way around and they know how to find serenity when they need it.

I hope you are one of those who knows.

New Novel – http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Google Chrome – http://joannbrownscottauthor.com

Art – http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

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