Home Collage Susan Carlson Cloth Collage—”Layer by Layer”: How I Use Drafts to Make Progress

Susan Carlson Cloth Collage—”Layer by Layer”: How I Use Drafts to Make Progress


I don’t learn about you, however I can overwhelm myself fairly shortly with all of the instructions I’d wish to go—and never simply in my cloth collage work—there’s different artistic concepts, family tasks, backyard plantings—it might go on and on. And as everyone knows, there’s these life occasions that step in and put a halt to every part.

For the world, the halt got here with Covid—lot’s of slowing down and re-directing for all of us. It bought us to consider the bottom layer of our lives—what’s necessary to us, what’s our imaginative and prescient, how will we need to spend our time? In a manner, it’s kinda like, “what’s our first draft?”

A primary draft is about setting a basis, getting concepts down—inserting the primary layer of cloth. The second draft is fixing up what you’ve put down—taking a look at what’s working (or not) and including (or subtracting) layers to the imaginative and prescient. The third draft is about fine-tuning what works—making it the most effective it may be. Possibly even including some sparkle.

I see working in drafts as breaking down a venture into phases or steps. At every draft you evaluation, regroup, and edit, making regular progress alongside the best way.

In her ebook, Hen by Hen: Some Directions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott talks all about drafts and the artistic course of, but in addition concerning the overwhelm—”You don’t must see the place you’re going, you don’t must see your vacation spot or every part that you’ll move alongside the best way. You simply must see two or three toes forward of you. That is proper up there with the most effective recommendation about writing, or life, I’ve ever heard.”

Lamott quoted one other author, E.L. Doctorow, “Writing a novel is like driving a automotive at night time. You possibly can solely see so far as your headlights, however you can also make the entire journey that manner.” And Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It’s the not the Vacation spot, It’s the journey.”

Once I began enjoying with cloth within the early 1980’s (the portrait of my mother and father above, is from 1983), I’d definitely by no means heard of Anne Lamott, and I actually didn’t know the place I used to be going. However my mother’s dressmaking, upholstery, and quilt-making materials and scraps had been proper there in entrance of me. So I took these first two or three steps in utilizing cloth as an inventive medium, not even interested by a vacation spot.

These cloth collage headlights have led me alongside for many years, with my model and approach taking a number of turns alongside the best way. Within the photograph under, my mother and father loved getting an in-progress peek at their grandchildrens’ portrait (although not completed till 2019).

Lots of you, my associates and readers, know that my mother not too long ago handed away. That was my halt. Now I’ve needed to regroup and get again to my basis—again to my artwork. Once I felt I might begin respiratory once more, I sat in my studio staring on the first draft of “Winfrieda” my lace polar bear. I believed that getting again to her could possibly be my subsequent step to progress ahead. However for the primary time I might keep in mind, I felt completely empty. Her eight-foot mass was too large a step.

However I saved displaying up in my studio. That’s one other factor that Lamott and different authors I’ve learn, speak about of their books concerning the artistic technique of writing—to point out up. Of their case, it’s to sit down in entrance of their clean paper, be it actual paper or a pc display—to be current if or when the Muse got here. For me, I wanted to sit down in entrance of my pinning wall—simply in case she confirmed up.

And there, a number of toes down the wall was the solar portrait of my mother that I had not too long ago moved again from her room. My mother had given me some feed-back on the collage in her final weeks: she appreciated her eyes—their colour and the very fact they weren’t precisely the identical (which they weren’t in actual life both); however not her nostril—particularly the material “hairs” she noticed below her nostril—honest sufficient.  And she or he appreciated her smile. The portrait was nonetheless a primary draft and on my second draft record was, “give enamel variation in worth—darken corners of mouth,” however I’m glad they bought her approval from the start. Now, as I checked out her face once more, I knew it was time to start out fixing her up in a second draft.

And that’s when the headlights turned again on.

I took a pair days to immerse myself into my mother’s portrait—including the following layers of cloth to her nostril and enamel. Within the images above, first draft are the images on the left, second draft is on the fitting. Edits that occur from one draft to a different are sometimes delicate, however they do make a distinction within the total picture. It was simply these two options that I labored on, and nonetheless loads extra to do for the second draft, nevertheless it was progress. Watching my mama’s face and displaying as much as do the work, broke the artistic ice and I felt I might face the polar bear.

Since I had already accomplished the primary draft of Winfrieda the polar bear, I knew what was subsequent—make a listing of issues to “repair up” within the second draft. Within the element images under is the primary draft on left and the second draft on proper. Is she finished? Nope. I’m nonetheless checking off factors on that second draft record, although I have already got a 3rd draft record begun in my thoughts. So there may be progress.

Once I assume in drafts—breaking a venture into manageable elements of the method—it helps to calm the overwhelm. Once I saved in thoughts that I simply needed to start transferring from draft 1 to draft 2, in each my mother’s portrait and the polar bear’s, I might do it. I didn’t must know the vacation spot, I simply wanted to get again on the highway.

In fact, mourning can also be a step-by-step course of, a journey that progresses with good days and unhealthy days. However my candy mama gave me a basis with layers upon layers of reminiscences, to assist me transfer ahead one step at a time.


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