• Ruth McCabe Fine Art

October: Collage

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Since Covid began to dominate our lives, I’ve experienced a sequence of uncertainties about my artwork. It’s ongoing. It’s uncomfortable.

Towards the end of 2020 I found myself beginning to gather tiny cropping’s from watercolour paintings and assemble them into collaged miniatures. I don’t know where this urge came from. This was the first work I’d done since the summer that year, and it was fun and comfortingly confined. Meaning I wasn’t thinking of making a painting for a gallery or exhibition, just letting the arranging of tiny shapes calm me.

Examples of these miniatures:

Red, orange and brown contemporary artwork

Green, blue and yellow contemporary artwork
Purple and orange artwork

I could see how these compositions were a natural progression from the abstract watercolours I’d been working on since 2012, especially those made early in the first lockdown like ‘Turbulent times’.

Contemporary artwork in shades of red

From the tentative miniatures beginning in December 2020, by March 2021 I’d moved on into larger collaged pieces, with this 30cm collage on paper being one of the first: “Longing for spring”.

Green and pink contemporary artwork

I began to realise several things…

I enjoyed the collage process. Layering translucent tissue papers much as I layered watercolour washes, brought moments of pleasing discovery in the colours that the overlapping created.

Tissue paper adds texture to the surface. I remembered how much I enjoyed the texture my oils sometimes had when I used palette knives.

I found myself using my fingers to smooth out the glued tissue; another recalled pleasure from when I applied oils with my fingers over dried palette knife marks.

I also enjoy the experience of getting the composition to the point where I like looking at it, altering shapes and colours with more layers or by removing layers.

There was however, one large stumbling block: were these new works ‘art’?

In January I’d begun working with an art coach, to explore a long-standing uncertainty for me: “What is art for me?”

We weren’t looking at what I made but why I made it.

I’m totally clear why I sing or make other kinds of music. But I stumbled accidentally into making art, having never realised that I wanted to or could. And that is where I remain, having accidentally accumulated successes and affirmation along the way. For which I am of course grateful.

Thankfully the coach was able to assure me that collage has of course a clear standing in the arts.

So I’ve continued building this 2021 collaged series. They have helped me back into the studio, a desire I had lost in 2020. That in itself is a great relief. I now paint in acrylic inks onto sheets of acid free tissue, and ‘mess about’ with them before they dry, to create unplanned marks and patterns. I also use my favourite line-maker: water soluble graphite to draw onto the collage while the glue is still wet. And occasionally I will find patterned or textured surfaces to print over the composition.

As has always been the case, whatever the medium, my process remains largely unconscious. My oils and watercolours usually were initiated by my connection to places: the rural landscape of Suffolk, or its coastal bleakness and instability for instance. Occasionally that is how I will start a collaged piece.

Abstract artwork from Ruth McCabe

This piece for instance comes out of my love of Blackshore, Southwold, with its busy clutter and sense of hard work going on.

But the following compositions came about simply because my eye was drawn to a particular colour or form on my hand-painted papers. Once placed on the surface it would ‘speak’ to me and I would then search for other papers to explore the ideas which took shape.

green and blue painting by Ruth McCabe

Blue pillars, abstract artwork

abstract artwork by Ruth McCabe

Unstable coast | Blue forms | Rust and water

Most recently with my coach I’ve begun to consider whether I might add a new strand to my work. My coach had asked me to reflect on pieces I’ve made over the last 20 years, considering what insights they offer.

Having been a psychotherapist and Group Analyst for 30 years before moving to Suffolk, I soon realised I was a dab hand at this. I may decide to offer other artists a chance to reflect on their work in this way: not therapy per se, but searching for information.

Close up image of artwork by Ruth McCabe

This is a recent collage that I chose to use for this study… I wonder what you see in it?

49 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All