Friday, June 19, 2009


My friend Shelley Klammer emailed to tell me about the free online collage workshop, Deepening Creativity, which she offers on her website, Expressive Art. I have enjoyed several collage courses with Shelley and really benefited from this process but since I'm so busy right now I didn't think I had a moment in my day to spare ..... but a quick peep would do no harm, so I nipped over to the website, just to see what it was all about. Suffice it to say I have since found the time and am now well and truly hooked. The course entails the creating of a daily collage in 10 minutes, using 2 or 3 magazine images and a phrase or word that catches your attention. It is quick, spontaneous and totally addictive.

The object of the exercise is that it helps you to aquaint yourself with subconscious thought patterns or issues that may be blocking your way forward, whether it is creatively or in your day to day life. I'm finding it so relaxing and it's a great way to loosen up for carving. I won't say much more here because you can read all about it at Expressive Art.

I will, however, share my personal process and revelations with you, regarding a spontaneous collage that I completed this morning.

It is necessary to set aside my judging mind while flipping through magazines until an image "steps out". I gravitate towards anything African and arty but I'm trying to be open to a wider spectrum of choice, both positive or negative. The first image I choose is of an african woman dressed in shweshwe cloth. I love shweshwe! On the same page I find the mask. No surprises here..I'm obviously going to choose this image. A few pages further I read a phrase that amuses me. "Water the flowers... or something". My judging mind immediately breaks into chatter. The phrase is not going to fit this collage... it doesn't make sense etc. I ignore the chatter and the next moment the face and hand image loom out at me. Quick, cut it out, shuffle,shuffle ... glue them down in the notebook.

Now to look at the collage and see if it's telling me something. I take a break, make coffee and come back to look again.

Let me give you a quick peek into a white woman's experience in the new South Africa. I, like many other South Africans, am trying to be open to a different way of doing things. A different way of thinking. A different way of seeing. We try to slip into African time which is a way of doing things in one's own time whenever that might be. It's a far more laid back way of life and yet it has some of us pulling our hair out. We are also learning about the different cultures and customs that have always existed albeit in the shadow of the old South Africa, and we really do try to embrace them. Sometimes it's easy but more often than not we flinch. One such custom that comes to mind is the ritual slaughtering of cattle on feast days right there in the back garden on the otherside of the hedge. This is a custom that is totally natural and acceptable to the African way of life, but we white people feel faint at the thought of it (see the white face in the collage brushing the cold sweat off her brow).... and fly to the telephone trying to alert Animal Welfare , the police, the minister at the church down the road or anyone who might listen. Our customs are clashing with one another and the fact is if we all want to live in harmony we have to be more accepting of our differences.

This leads me back to the collage. The sweet face of the African woman in her pretty shweshwe outfit represents the side of Africa that we are willing to embrace. The primitive mask stands for the old customs of Africa that some of us are battling to accept. The point that comes across in this collage is that if we are going to continue living in South Africa we have to get over our sensabilities...and that's where the phrase "Water the flowers....or something" comes in. (Just get over yourself, get on with living, go water your flowers or something.)

"It is the still, small voice that the soul heeds, not the deafening blasts of doom." - William Dean Howells
I found this quote at Sun Pours Down Like Honey. With a name like that you just know this blog will be pure poetry. Susan is a poet and her words are like honey.


  1. Yes! Thankyou for describing 'the process'.

  2. This is so cool. It reminds me .. a couple of years ago, I took a workshop with Seena Frost based on her book Soul Collage. The general idea is to create a personal tarot-like deck of 5-inch x 8-inch cards by collaging magazine images. It is amazing what comes up.

    hmmm, got a big ol' stack o' magazines just sitting over there . . .

    check it at:

  3. This collage thing is very freeing I would think. I am a magazine snipper myself. I save the things I snip out but haven't done much with them. Hmmmmm...

    A funny thing, I thought you were black. ha... I guess because you live in SA and your totems seem so grounded in that area.

    Your collage explanation is very deep.

    I will have to pop over to the site you told us about and see what is going on.

  4. Robyn, thank you for the honest insight into what you see in your collage!
    Truly a wonderful process.
    Yes, lets go out and water the flowers and maybe trim that hedge :)

  5. this sounds like such a freeing creative exercise. i can see why you're hooked. i enjoyed hearing about the new africa and how you saw meaning in your collage once done. art truly does talk if we simply stop to listen, my friend.

  6. Thanks for the post about your experience. Oh, it's all about people of good will, I think.

  7. check out you and your light bulbs going on ... as always, your sincerity and the way you share your insights is refreshing, thoughtful and engages me.

    oh! and thank you for the link.

  8. What a wonderful process! I think I might just have to give it a whirl and see if it works the same for me (it seems like subliminal messages crept out while you were doing yours). Is this an on-going thing or is it just for a limited amount of time?

  9. I like collage but have always found myself overthinking anything art, overprepping, and it makes for a not fun collage experience. Maybe try again (and try not to think about it so much!).

  10. I love your collage work..I like you shared the story and then it all comes together.. I am going to check out the site.
    Have a good weekend.

  11. amazing Robyn! our subconscious choices obviously can alert us to what we are about in any certain moment.....

  12. How good of you to give such insight into that strange, wonderful,complex being : a white South African.

  13. Lovely post. I love these collages. Thanks for the link. I'll be grabbing back those magazines I put into my recycling bin.

  14. HHMBN, I can see you enjoying this course.

    Melanie, once you start you don't want to stop. Quick grab a glue stick and scissors!

    Lisa,if you're already a snipper you are going to love this!

    Jo, the interesting thing is it is feeding my other me ideas and definitely loosening up the creative process.

    Julie, it's thrilling to uncover the meaning in what we create. Some times it a surprise isn't it?

    ArtSparker, yes goodwill plays a big part.

    Michelle, thank'll enjoy the link and there are other intuitive art processes to read about too.

    Teri, it is a 10 day course but some people journal daily in this way. It's a bit like doing morning pages but without the drudgery....and so much quicker. You can please yourself. There's no pressure.

    Susan, you are discribing my old process...overthinking...trying too hard and then losing interest. With this spontaneous collage process there is no time to over think. I feel it is custom made for me and you can adjust it to suit you. If every day is too much find what you are comfitable with. I thought I would do it every second day but up until now I havn't missed a day.

    Katelen, you will love it! It's very therapeutic and for someone with your responsibilities it takes you away from it all for just a few moments....or longer.

    Jeane, fascinating isn't it?

    Laura, you understand :-)

    Annie, you will find you are writing poetry afterwards. I can really see you benefiting from this. I'm looking forward to seeing what magic you create with collage and words.

  15. robyn, the more I read of your thoughts and problems in your new world the more respect I have for you and your work. It must be very difficult having grown up in one culture to shift your entire life in to the new one. your collage was very much to the point. lyle

  16. A wonderful way to dialogue with ones soul...this is a great process and I appreciate your sharing. I will visit this site, thank you Robyn.

  17. Thanks for the information on that site. I'm looking forward to checking into it. I've been looking for a break from the old lately.

    I enjoyed reading about your country and the different cultures there. Seems more more lively than in the U.S. where the cultural differences are between conservatives and liberals and the overtaking of the country by mega-stores.

  18. I will no longer complain about doggie poop in my yard!

  19. This is fascinating, especially since I've visited the new South Africa (2003). I always said I wanted to go back 10 years later to see how things changed. I remember saying the same time I visited China, and even though I went back only 2 years later, the change was so evident.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

  20. wow robyn i love the collages, your post has really touched me. i so relate with you but as a brown woman living in the western world. there is one thing i have learned keep your mind open and learn to respect each other's cultures and traditions but don't forget your own.
    it has only made my world bigger and i love it.

  21. I love collage Robin and I love your piece! I must admit that I've never done a ten minute collage but I'll have to try!
    Thanks for sharing both your thoughts and your process!

  22. Lyle, thanks to former Prime Minister DeKlerk and President Mandela the change was gradual and relatively smooth. In fact we have a lot to thank President Mandela for. He is a true gentleman with a warm open heart. Further down the line we certainly could feel the shift and have had to learn to adapt.

    Mary Ann, a dialogue yes....and many surprises.

    Kim, I've noticed that creating the spontaneous collages is shifting my stale way of thinking. I'm open to new ideas for my work and it sets the creative mood for my day. make me laugh.

    Heather, you will certainly notice a big change since 2003. I suppose it's inevitable with any new government.

    Megha, I'm so pleased you've put in your 2 cents. Actually it's quite remarkable how so many different cultures are living side by side with relative ease. We do have our clashes but we are learning from them. As ArtSparker mentioned, goodwill plays a big part in keeping the peace. It must be quite hard for you being so far from your country of birth.

    Manon, 10 minutes or even 4 is a different experience. You just don't have time to make pretty pictures and overthink. Sometimes pretty pictures happen but that's not what it's about. Have a look at Shelley's site because she has so many words of wisdom to share. By signing up for the course you receive "Lessons" telling you about different ways of approaching your collage, what to expect in the way of resistance etc. There is absolutely no pressure or deadlines or having to produce collages for anyone but yourself.

  23. It's so exciting when the subconscious speaks through our art. That was fascinating, Robyn and the quote you found hit the spot. Yes!

    That is a beautiful blog name. Thanks, I'll check it out.

  24. This is fantastic Robyn. I started doing art as this kind of collage artist and then I did Collage workshops. At the end of the day of cutting and pasting we would interpret the dreams we had created. People were amazed by the power of the information they would be able to access. Collage also taught me quite a bit about color and composition. I haven't done one in quite a while, it would be good to get back to it.

  25. Robyn, Thanks for the collage and process notes. I had been wondering how it was for you as a woman in a changing African country, I guessed that it was transformational one way or the other. I am very
    moved by your honesty and also your willingness to learn, change and grow in what to an outsider is a very challenging environment. Your art shows respect for the traditions, maybe the collages will lead to a new expression of the current emotional and cultural conditions.Best to you. Joan T

  26. terrific work Robyn, I just love how are inner knowing guides us, and when we are open - as you are - our conscious mind will help to concretize our truth through exercises like these, and then further deepen the process by sharing it with others. Thank you so much for revealing all your layers!

  27. Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing your collage and your open and honest (something I love about your blog!).
    After a couple of very "stale" weeks I am going to pull out a magazine (dont want to give myself too much choice as I have a lot in common with Susan), I will do my collage and see where it leads me.

    Thanks for the links.

    Jacky xox

  28. even I tried this... something exciting emerges... :)

    you made me pleased the other day, after reading this, that bloggers are a potent force in the future.


  29. Wow. Must try this. I love the quick aspect too. Not too much thinking. In touch with instinct.

  30. A very thought provoking post Robyn. It goes so much deeper than just the normal collage process of sticking interesting items together to make a harmonious image. It is very interesting that you subconsciously create a collage that is deeply connected with your being a white woman in SA and all that that entails. There is more to this collage business than meets the eye.

  31. Hi Robyn, thanks for blogging about this class. I bookmarked it last year and then lost my bookmarks soon after. This is perfect timing!

  32. Shayla, I'm sure you will find so much of interest at Expressive Art. The collages are so great for jump starting your day especially when you're feeling a bit sluggish.

    Katherine, the revelations are surprising aren't they?

    Joan, thanks so much. I really appreciate your feedback. I wasn't sure I should go through with this post but everyone has been so supportive.

    Karin, Shelley has been so open with her process and sharing snippets of her life to illustrate how intuitive art can heal. In a way it has made it easier for me to share.

    Thanks Jacky. You could be in for a pleasant surprise. In such a short time you can't afford to think too much.

    Thanks Mansuetude. I'm so glad you gave it a try. Wish I could peep over your shoulder.

    Kerri, you will love it!

    Cathy, Several months ago I did the Intuitive Collage course that Shelley offers and most of my collages keep coming back to life in South Africa even when I try to steer it in another direction.
    "The world you live in, lives in you"

    Chris, this collage process is quicker and more spontaneous than the other course. I'm finding it easier to stick to while I'm busy with other commitments....and yet there are days when I feel like spending longer ...playing.

  33. Robyn, it boggles my being what is going on in South Africa. Grief and frustration abound - and I'm just an observer. Your country so beautiful and proud, majestic and inspiring. What a pain in the ass all the other stuff is! I agree, more acceptance all round which is hard when people feel aggrieved (especially those old grievances) but it can be such a positive way forward. A desire to work forward by all parties concerned. We have racial tension here too, not to the same intensity but it's here nonetheless and while I love my cultural identity, it does not overide my responsibility to care for others as well. Easier said than done when other peoples ways smack hard up against our ways (and fencelines). I think that you do your country good. You are positive, you bring glory to her attributes, you are real and honest. Look at the comments and how many people all over the world see Africa through your eyes. You for sure contribute to the solution and my heart is less boggled as we look at South
    Africa one individual at a time rather than her less than attractive politics. A Maori proverb:
    What is the most important thing?
    "He tangata, he tangata, he tangata."
    "It is people, it is people, it is people."

  34. oh, this sounds wonderful... 10 minutes, huh? surely i can add one more thing to my Art ADD. it's just ten minutes....


    (and THANK YOU!!!)

  35. "Make hubby some coffee"????
    I've trained Don for YEARS to believe that the only good coffee was coffee he made. And you've gone and given him ideas!!! Shame on you. Go back and look at your collage - here's what it's telling you: " ... he can make coffee for you... he can make coffee for you... you don't know how to make make coffee...."

  36. I always love your collages, especially the African elements, and that you shared with us what it means to be a white woman in Africa and how you try so hard to embrace the culture. Thank you also for your encouragement on my last post, and I hope this weekend was a beautiful one for you... Roxanne

  37. I enjoyed the explanation of your blog (and the creative process itself). I'm with Laura, "How good of you to give such insight into that strange, wonderful, complex being: a white South African."

  38. Rachel, thanks for the great comment. This blogging world is so amazing! Everyone has responded so positively.

    Lynne, just 10 minutes...and not a second more :-)

    Susan, it was just a temporary won't happen again! :-)

    Roxanne, thanks so much.

    F,Monique Pitre, I appreciate your comment, thank you.

  39. Wow... that is truly brilliant! It is almost like interpreting dreams. Now I really want to try this!
    Also, thank you for giving me a glimpse of something that I will probably never experience in my lifetime, even if I were to visit South Africa. I found it beautiful even though I understand the difficulties of two cultures learning to coexist.

  40. Thank you, from my heart, for this <3