A couple of years ago I gave a talk at a Meetup for coders and artists. During the day I work as a software engineer, while I work on my art in my free time, so I was excited to speak at an event that involved the merging of my two interests.
Over the years, as I’ve learned more about technology and marketing, I’ve made adjustments to my artist website. Take a look at my talk to learn more:
I get a lot of my inspiration from everyday life. My portraits are inspired by people I know or familiar figures, while my landscape/cityscape collages are usually based on the sights I see when traveling around a new city or exploring a place that I’m familiar with. My still life pieces are influenced by common, everyday objects, while my animal portraits are usually inspired by my visits to the zoo or whenever I encounter wildlife on my travels.
Aside from finding inspiration from the world around me, I also like to get inspired by seeing what other artists are making. I draw inspiration from art museum/gallery exhibits, as well as by connecting with fellow artists online. Seeing what other creatives are making is a great way to tap into your own creativity.
Other times the materials I work with prove to be very inspiring. Sometimes when I’m paging through a magazine, I’ll find a pattern or fragment within a photograph that sparks interest in using a specific color palette or tackling a specific subject. Usually when I’m working on a work in progress, I find paging through magazines to be especially inspiring, since I never know what colors and patterns I’ll find. There’s always an element of surprise that makes the entire process exciting.
I’m often asked why I’m drawn to making collages entirely from magazine cutouts. Why not paint my own paper or use different types of paper? Why not make paintings instead? There are so many different mediums out there, and I do enjoy experimenting with different materials. However, for my main body of work, I like making art from repurposing magazine strips.
Here are a few reasons why I’m drawn to this medium time and time again:
I really enjoy working on a work in progress with an acid-free glue stick, so that I have the flexibility to peel off previous layers if I’m not crazy about the way certain sections of a piece are turning out. And that’s the type of flexibility that I don’t have when I paint with acrylic or oil paint.
2. So many colorful options
I prefer using fashion magazines because they usually have a lot of colorful ads and patterns. Often times I’ll find interesting or unusual patterns and textures that I wouldn’t have been able to think of on my own.
3. It’s a creative challenge
One of the struggles of working with colors from magazine pages is that my color palette is limited to what I can find. However, I enjoy the challenge of searching for ways to incorporate the colors I find within a given composition. It forces me to hone the way I view images and think about how I can repurpose them to construct entirely new images.
4. It’s always a surprise
I never really know how one of my collages will turn out and I really enjoy that about the process. Sometimes I’ll find colors and patterns and work really well together. Other times it’s more of a struggle, and I’ll work on adding layers only to peel them back up and start over again. I like how I never really know how things will turn out, and whenever the layers flow together nicely, it’s such a satisfying and rewarding feeling. I enjoy the art of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
5. The possibilities
One of the things I really enjoy about my process is manipulating paper in such a way that it mimics a painting. I like creating the illusion that my work is made from one medium when it’s actually made from something entirely different. I enjoy the possibilities involved with manipulating paper. At the moment I enjoy mimicking the brushstrokes in a painting, but who knows what’s next? Perhaps I’ll start mimicking drawn lines in sketches.
Art always had a big role in my life when I was growing up. It was just something that I did and I didn’t think twice about it. I took art classes at local art galleries and took an art class every year at school. I don’t think I actively thought that I was an artist or thought about becoming an artist until I was in high school.
High school was when I started becoming more serious about art. I was mentored by a local artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and had a couple of my first-ever group exhibits. I found myself spending hours of my free time painting at an easel and experimenting with mixed media. But again, I don’t ever think I thought “I’m an artist” or “I’m going to become an artist.” At that point in time I was wrapped up with becoming a writer, which is what I initially went to college for.
At Elon University I studied creative writing, but quickly realized that I felt lost without having some sort of visual art outlet. I picked up painting as a second major. After graduating from college, I finally realized I was an artist. I had this drive to make new work and exhibit my art. And I realized how important art had been in my life all along.
It’s funny how something can be in your life for so long, and it can take you a while to realize how much it truly means to you. I’m glad that what I once thought of as a hobby or creative outlet, is something I now know I need in my life. I’m glad that I eventually found my way to calling myself an artist. And these days I’m continuing to hone my craft and share my technique with others.
When you see one of my collages in-person, it’s difficult to tell what they’re made of. I think when it comes to art in general, it’s hard to imagine how a work of art was completed from start to finish. I like to post time lapse videos of my process every now and then, but I also thought I’d share more information about the tools I use to make my artwork:
These are the main ingredient of my art. I like using fashion magazines since they’re full of patterns and bright colors. I also like using magazines like National Geographic when I work on landscapes.
These are my tool of choice when I cut paper for my collages. I don’t ever use things like X-Acto knives, although I’ve heard of some collage artists who enjoy using them for cutting intricate pieces of paper.
3. Watercolor paper
I like using this as my support or the material I make my collages on. It’s lightweight enough that I can cut out pieces of a collage I’m working on – if it isn’t quite working out – and glue them down on another sheet of watercolor paper. It’s also durable enough that it can last for years.
4. Acid-free glue stickes
This is my adhesive of choice. I like using glue sticks when I’m working on a work in progress, since the glue isn’t completely permanent, and I can pull up previous pieces to undo any details that aren’t quite working.
5. Graphite pencils and erasers
Every collage I make begins as a sketch. It helps me map out my compositions so I can get a sense of how well a given idea will work. And erasers are necessary for when I need to redo parts of a sketch.
6. UV-protective varnish
When one of my pieces is finished, I’ll varnish it with a UV-protective varnish. Varnish helps seal the magazine strips in place, and gives them a more permanent adhesive than the glue sticks I use when the artwork isn’t quite complete. It also helps protect the paper from sunlight over time.
7. Archival frames
Whenever I frame my artwork, I like to use UV-protective glass and acid-free mats to help protect my artwork over time.
I’ve been making collages ever since I was a kid. My first collage was made back when I was in middle school. Then for a few years, I continued to experiment with the medium. I had a tendency of working in a number of mediums and collage was simply another area I explored.
By the time I was a senior in high school, I started exploring the process of cutting magazine strips while focusing on color and texture. Before then, my collages looked a lot more like what you think of when you think of traditional collage – where it’s obvious that the work of art was made from fragments of photographs.
My last year in high school was when I started painting with paper, where I manipulated paper in such a way that it mimicked the brushstrokes of a painting. I also had a habit of incorporating oil pastel with my collages, until a peer asked me why I was covering up all my hard work by drawing on top of it. When I realized I didn’t have a good answer for her, I decided I should focus on making collages entirely from paper.
My senior thesis exhibition was my first cohesive body of work that was made entirely from paper. And since then, I’ve continued to hone and explore my craft. I have no idea how my art will evolve in the next ten years, and to me, that’s pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to my future artistic adventures.
Back when I was a senior in college, I created my first cohesive body of collage work where I made collages entirely from magazine strips. My senior thesis exhibition included a series of portraits, with several inspired by my family. At that time, I wasn’t interested in making portraits of famous or well-known figures, but figures that were well-known to me.
The image above is a collage, “Bill,” that was inspired by my father. I had taken a series of photographs of him and ended up working from a few reference images in order to complete his portrait. I wanted to make a portrait of my father because I’ve really appreciated how he’s influenced my interest in art. When I was a kid, I remember that he used to paint landscapes and still life scenes when we went on vacation. And over the years, he’s been an avid photographer.
“Jean” is a portrait of my mother that was also part of my senior thesis exhibit. I remember that my mother’s portrait was a bit of a challenge because of all the details involved with the background – the windows, the bookshelf, the faint hint of color variation for the blinds, and of course, the detail of her shirt. Over the years, she’s worn many hats, one of which I’d like to think of as her counselor hat, being helpful in giving me advice in life. She seems a bit serious in this portrait, almost as though she’s about to impart some advice.
“Bren” is a portrait of my brother. I’m realizing that he’s appeared in several of my figurative collages over the years. What can I say? My brother has always had a tendency of being great at making expressive faces. He is also pretty artistic, and growing up, I was inspired by the artwork he made. He studied animation back in college, and currently works as an animator/3d artist.
“Ali” is a portrait of my cousin, who I like to say seems more like a sister to me than a cousin, simply because we spent so much time together when we were growing up. Like my brother, I feel like she can be pretty expressive, and she’s appeared in a couple of my portraits.
“Scott” is a portrait of my cousin who passed away back when I was in high school. When I was in college, I really wanted to create a work of art in memory of him. I remember that I struggled with this portrait, since I really wanted to make sure I could capture his likeness. This portrait was also part of my senior thesis exhibition.
After college, I started exploring different ways of tackling portraiture. “Boy with Dog” was one of my first pieces that looked at portraiture involving a person and a pet. This piece was also inspired by one of my younger cousins, Drew.
Later, I started creating images where figures were interacting more with their surroundings. “Sightseers” is a piece that was inspired by my mother and brother when we were on the rooftop of a building in New York City, admiring the view.
For several years, my family went to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. We’d rent a cabin, and it usually snowed at some point during our stay. “The Hikers” is inspired by the walks I’d occasionally take with my family in the snow. For this piece, I explored using more abstract shapes, as well as fragments from photographs of nature.
Growing up, my family spent a few summers in Maine. Sometimes my brother and I would go snorkeling in the ocean, and since the water was always so cold, we’d wear wetsuits. “Snorkeling” was inspired by those summers spent snorkeling and exploring tide pools.
I have my family to thank for inspiring a lot of my earlier portraiture work. I actually haven’t explored figurative collages in a while, and I suppose you could say I’m well overdue for that. Perhaps I should turn to my family and friends again, and see how they can help inspire future works of art.
The first version of my portfolio site looked pretty terrible, but I was so proud that I figured out how to make it all on my own. I also liked how building the website was an art of its own. Above you can see that I made the header and navigational links collaged images. I later learned that using images for navigation isn’t very user-friendly, so I converted the navigation to text.
Aside from teaching myself to code, and continuing to read articles on the subject, I also started taking classes in graphic design. I was hungry to make my website better, but I also wanted to make it look better too. I ended up creating a logo for my site, which you can see above. I suppose I was pretty proud that I designed the logo all on my own, that initially it was rather large in the header.
For the next version of my site, I realized I needed to shrink the logo down more, and I started featuring more images of my work on the homepage. Once I had a better handle on the basic look and feel, I started building it out more.
In 2010, I put together an educational section with online lesson plans, since I noticed that students and teachers were contacting me every year with questions about my work. I wanted to make it easier for others to learn about my process and technique.
I continued to play around with the overall look and feel, as well as making improvements to the user experience, like making the website responsive.
Earlier this year, I worked on redesigning my site once more. I even added an online store for purchasing my work directly from the site, to make things easier for users. I also redesigned the logo so it wouldn’t emphasize my collage work as much, which would open my work up to other mediums.
My site has come a long way. I’m proud that I’ve taught myself a number of things while going through the process of building it – such as learning about coding, web design, user experience design, and content creation. I’m so thankful that it’s easy to share artwork online – and by having a web presence, I’m able to reach people I never thought I’d be able to reach before.
I’ve found a lot of inspiration from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Over the years, I’ve visited the zoo numerous times, and have taken lots of pictures of the animals in their different exhibits. I thought I’d share some images of the work I’ve made that was specifically inspired by some of the animals found at the National Zoo.
I’m fascinated by lemurs, and think that the red ruffed lemur is a beautiful creature with colorful fur and bright eyes. When I was walking by the exhibit where this particular lemur lives, I just had to take a few pictures which later inspired this piece.
Pandas are a lot of fun to collage. This collage was inspired by feeding time for the pandas, where one of the pandas was so engrossed with eating bamboo.
This collage was inspired by a day when one of the red pandas was pretty active, climbing around his or her home.
Meerkats are one of my favorite animals. During one of my zoo visits, several of the meerkats were clumped together and looked like they were all cuddling with each other. I just had to take several pictures of them and use those images as references for this collage.
It’s eerie how much orangutans look like people to me. They’re so expressive, and it seems like half the time I see them at the zoo, it’s difficult to tell who is really watching who.
During another zoo visit, I noticed a turtle that had an unusually long neck, and it reminded me of giraffes. From the turtle’s unusual appearance, I was inspired to make a piece modeled after that species.
I love how colorful flamingos are, and I always enjoy taking pictures of them to use as references for future works of art. I suppose I’m really drawn to their vivid pink feathers.
I think otters are adorable and I always get excited when I see them at the zoo.
Animals are definitely one of my favorite subjects to collage. I love how they come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors. And I really appreciate that Washington, D.C. has a zoo that is so easily accessible to the public. Being able to visit the zoo frequently, makes it a lot easier for me to tackle my animal compositions.
I grew up in Northern Virginia, so I’ve become pretty familiar with the Washington, D.C. area over the years. And as I’ve grown to love different buildings and places, I’ve also found a lot of inspiration from my surroundings.
The Torpedo Factory is an art center in Old Town, Alexandria. As a kid, I used to take a number of art classes there. In high school, I was mentored by a painter that had a studio there. And after college, I became a visiting artist for a couple of months over the summer. So over the years, the Torpedo Factory has had a big role in my development as an artist – it’s no wonder that I was inspired to make a collage of it.
“Downtown Shopping” was inspired by the townhouses in Old Town, Alexandria. Growing up, I used to wander around Old Town, and I became really familiar with the bright and colorful townhouses that line the streets.
Whenever I walk by the Tidal Basin, the paddle boaters remind me of the days when I was a kid and went on field trips around the city, or visited museums with my family.
“The U.S. Capitol by Night” was inspired by one of the iconic buildings in the D.C. area. It reminds me of the times I’ve lived in the city, or walked along the National Mall.
The “Air Force Memorial” is a collage of one of my favorite memorials in the city. I love how the Air Force Memorial is abstract and sculptural. The fact that it doesn’t look like so many of the other more traditional memorials or sculptures, is what really draws me to it. I’ve made a couple of pieces inspired by this distinct landmark.
The colorful glass sculptures outside the Botanic Garden have always caught my eye when walking past that building over the years. I like how they give the landscape a pop of color in an otherwise gray environment.
I spent a lot of time at the Air and Space Museum back when I was in elementary school. I actually spent a summer going to space camp there, and always had somewhat of a fascination with space. It seemed only fitting to make a collage inspired by a place where I went on many school field trips and summertime outings.
One of my favorite memories of art when I was a kid, was when I got to see a Vincent van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery. I’ve been inspired by van Gogh’s work ever since I was in the second grade and did a school project on him. Over the years, I’ve continued to stop by this gallery to admire their permanent collection or check out the latest exhibit. I’m pretty grateful that I live in an area where museums like the National Gallery are free to the public. It makes it a lot easier to frequent the museum, and to continue to gather inspiration from artists throughout history.
When it comes the Washington, D.C. architecture, the National Museum of the American Indian is by far my favorite building. I love how different it is when compared to the more traditional buildings in the surrounding area.
Over the years, I’ve made a number of collages of the Washington Monument. And I’ve also taken numerous photos of it whenever I’ve strolled by.
The landscape of the Washington, D.C. area reminds me of a number of experiences I’ve had while living here. With my collages, I enjoy focusing on these familiar places, and showing a them in a different way – in paper form.