Journey to the Soul

I had a wonderful experience recently, deep in the Los Gatos mountains, surrounded by redwood trees. I met with two of my writing group members for a writer’s retreat for the soul, to super-charge my creative energy, relax my mind and body, generally help get myself out of my own way. We read from our works in progress, did an amazing past life regression, and spent a few hours creating collages.

For those of you who are new to the art of collage, it is an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. I have some fear that collages are becoming a lost art. You can now create automatic shape collages on the internet with a mere click of the mouse. The “old fashioned,” and I believe much more therapeutic, way of creating a collage is as follows:

Prepare in advance – a stack of magazines that you won’t mind “disassembling.” If you’re attached to an article on the flip side of an image you want to use, read the article first; a glue stick, or some form of easy to work with adhesive; a pair of scissors; paper or card stock on which you will mount your images; music for background inspiration if you wish, or silence if you prefer; a bag or box to throw your scraps in; pens, colored markers, sparkling adhesive ink, etc. to add emphasis as needed.

To start – make sure you have an abundance of time. As with many art forms, time distorts when you’re deep in the process. Sit comfortably with the magazines in front of you. Begin turning pages. When something catches your eye, you may not even know why—it doesn’t matter, rip either the whole page or the image out, and set it aside. Move on to the next page. Don’t dwell, just keep turning the pages and removing images as they call to you. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this part, except I believe your subconscious is in full charge. Let it have its way with you.

When you have a pile that intuitively feels like “enough” to begin with, set the magazines aside, spread the images out in front of you, and let your eyes wander over them, keeping a soft focus. You may find that some images seem to have a connection, “go together” in a way you hadn’t anticipated, suggest something as a group. Set these aside together. Consider the size of backing you’ll be working with. One of my writer friends likes to work on poster board, with lots of room to write words or thoughts, or add images by pen or colored marker. Another uses pages in her journal. I like a more compact index card, 5×7, that requires fewer images and more concentration of space.

When you’ve chosen the pictures for your first mounting, trim them in whatever way suits you. You can leave the background on, overlap images, be creative with the shapes, or trim them close to the image itself—it’s up to you.

Next, arrange them on your mounting surface in a way that makes sense to you. Sometimes a story will appear, or a thought will show itself in visual form. Occasionally, something you’ve been working on consciously or subconsciously, will reveal itself through the collection of images. When the arrangement and placement feels right, glue them in place. If you want to add words, thoughts, drawings, now is the time. If you’re making more than one collage, set the first aside and go on to the rest of them following the same steps.

When you’ve finished your collage(s), spend some time reflecting on the imagery in front of you. Clear your mind, and be willing to receive any thoughts, notice any feelings that may come up. Is there something the images individually or collectively might say to you if they could be in conversation with you? Is there something you might say to them? Whatever comes to you, turn the collage over, and write it on the back, or if you prefer, on a separate piece of paper, or in your journal.

The images I’ve chosen (above) to share, come from the writer’s retreat. Separately, the images meant nothing in particular as I tore them from the magazines. The image on the left, I call “All the time in the world.” It helps me remember that when I live life at a frantic pace, I reduce the quality. Time is eternal; there’s enough of it.

The middle picture deals with some self-expectations I wasn’t aware I was carrying. My writing for this one is, “My child, you will have mighty big shoes to fill this time around. Be not afraid.” I had no idea how the skeleton and the tennis shoes could come together, but now it sort of makes sense.

The last card is a gentle reminder to myself. I also hear myself saying this to clients from time to time. “You are safe, you are loved, you are not alone.” I think of it as my “higher self” card, a reminder of my own special fit in the universe.

I hope this posting inspires you to try a collage, or take out one you’ve made in the past and reflect on it. The images are symbolic, metaphoric, timeless—sort of like doing a sandtray without the mess. Enjoy your journey.