Friday 7 November 2014

Variations on a *theme*: introducing a focus to your collage adventure. 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' Part 2

 Hello again.

In the first post in this series I shared a list of some of the practical supplies you might need if, like I've done, you were planning to alter an old book and fill its pages with collages. Now today I'd like to add to that by suggesting there's something else you might also need to find before you begin; only this time it's not something as concrete as those items on the list ...
This supply might take a little more pondering, a little more philosophical musing, a little more creative energy than it took to reach out for the glue-stick or scissors. But I would argue that this element is going to be just as useful to your project in the long run:

**You're going to need a theme... and a purpose.**

  • This aspect of the project is all in your mind!
  • It's is the thing that's going to persuade you to get out those supplies, to make the effort, to see the project through.
  • It'll be what will keep at bay the guilt of "why am I sitting here cutting up paper when there's an ironing pile in danger of creating a landslide in the corner?"
  • It's the thing that can give a shape to how you think about the project.
  • For example "I'm making this to ... have a beautiful place to use up my favourite supplies" / "I'm making this to ... document this time in my life" / "I'm making this to ... store all my favourite song lyrics" etc etc - whatever it is that means something to you right now.
  • My own purpose was to create a book to be home to 30 collages documenting my Learn Something New Everyday lessons during September 2014. This was ideal for me as it had both a clear purpose ... and a clear end date [it helps to know the project is going to be completed!]. 
Naturally, like any of the creative tips I offer here, this one's born from my own experience. It's what works for me when I set out to make a very focussed project such as this one. But I'm well aware that this style of working may not work for you. And that's fine! It's not a deal breaker. We can still be friends.

In fact, I only tend to apply such clear boundaries when I 'm working on such a narrow project like this one. It's not how I approach my general messy art-journal and collage fun, the stuff I dip in and out of whenever the mood strikes.

And maybe if you're just going to try out making an altered book, or a collage, for the first time, you might prefer to have no expectations and simply play and experiment at first. But equally ... a bit of structure and purpose might help there too!

And so ...

 The THEME ...
  • This is what will inform the style of papers you choose, your colour-scheme, your imagery etc
  • It's what will help to narrow down your choices from all the papers in the world!  
  • It can be linked to your purpose ... eg. if you're making a book about travel then your papers / ephemera might be travel themed too / maps / tickets etc.
  • Or  .. it might have nothing whatsoever to with your purpose ... it can just be a colour-scheme you choose, a set of papers you want to work with, a method you want to try out.
Does that make sense? The 'purpose' is kind of the 'why bother making this?' ... while the 'theme' is kind of the 'what am I going to make it with? / how am I going to get these ideas out of my head and onto a page?'

** BTW: if you need any help sourcing imagery or text to fit your chosen theme - drop me a line either by email [link in sidebar] or via an Etsy convo - and together we can curate a bespoke pack of Plundered Pages and/or Ephemera bits to suit! [Whatever the theme is ... I like a challenge ... ]

OK, enough explanations ... let me illustrate. My purpose was to create a cohesive book in which to keep my daily lessons meanwhile my theme was inspired by the Wes Anderson film 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'.

Why? Well initially it was because my base book was bright red with gilded lettering ...
... and while the size was ideal, and the pages were nice and thick, the colours and style of the book were not at all the ones I automatically think of when starting a project. Until ...

... until I remembered how much I loved the look of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' which features the same gold and lipstick red that I was struggling with but in a most perfectly striking combination with icing sugar pinks, Imperial purple and snowy white:
[BTW: it's an absolute delight of a film too ... even if you don't want to mine it for artistic inspiration!]

And suddenly, by 'borrowing' from Anderson's greatness I had myself a colour-palette to work from!
And, believe it or not, rather than making extra work for yourself finding things to match ...

... selecting supplies with a clear theme and/or colour-palette from the start can actually save you time later on:
  • Once you have a particular colour combination in mind you can sift and sort through your collection of pages and decorative papers looking purely for colours that matched and even images that fit in.
  • You give yourself a clear guide on what to select and - equally importantly - what to leave out.
  • It removes all the pressure of decision making / paper shuffling that can slow a project down.
  • It releases you from the tyranny of choice! Too much freedom can be harder to deal with than too many restrictions!
  • When you get stuck for what to do, or are tempted to just stop, having some clear parameters in place means you can turn to them for inspiration. [You just make another page using the same colours / imagery / theme ... and your creativity gets flowing again.]
Here's how it worked for me:
  • In basing my scheme on The Grand Budapest Hotel I collected together papers in shades of purple, pink, white, red and neutral.  
  • I painted my pages with a base layer of acrylic paint in various shades of 'icing sugar' pink and cream.
  • I also used envelopes [to store my hidden journaling] in matching shades.
My pages from Day 1 demonstrates this perfectly:
Here I combined all the colours of the palette while illustrating my lesson for that day which was 'A Run Can Be Lovely'. [Who knew? But that's the word that came into my head after a morning run. It was a short run ... hence feeling 'lovely' and not 'close to passing out'].

As well as taking inspiration from the colours of the film I was also drawn to using imagery of impressive buildings too as seen here on Day 3:
That's a very Grand Budapest style building isn't it? How could I not use it?! 

The lesson from this page notes that: 'There are people who will sell you a rainbow' after I passed an Estate Agent's window and noticed they were selling one house using a photo - not of the house itself - but of the view from its windows: the view of a beautiful rainbow over the beach!! As if the rainbow was part of the deal!
Day 5 saw more imposing buildings and more candy pink:
While Day 15 borrows dusty whites and pale pink [with a mountainside chalet thrown in!]:
But despite being guided by a large over-arching scheme ... I did manage to make my pages personal and relevant to each day's lesson too as this one all about my Facebook page sale illustrates:
And my final example for today is another which gives a nod to the soft pastel shades and vintage European style of the film:
Day 10 'I'm not quite the full clematis':
That day I'd been inspired by the tenacity of the plant as I tried to prune it.

Now then ... I'm not trying to suggest that anyone who didn't know that I'd based my book on the Grand Budapest scheme could have guessed at the fact simply by looking at the finished pieces ... but that wasn't the point.

Having my theme / colour-scheme:
  • set me up at the start
  • helped me select my supplies
  • inspired my page designs
  • and kept me on track while I made 30 of them!
And it's given the finished book a nicely cohesive style too with each page remaining individual yet contributing to a harmonious whole.

So, once you've collected together those practical supplies take a little time to pull together the creative essentials too.
  • decide your purpose for making the book ['to enjoy the process' / 'to cut up nice paper' is reason enough!]
  • then set about curating your supplies based around a theme or colour-scheme
... and see where it leads you. Remember the mantra of this series ... fortune, and geese, favour the bold!

[For the record: I've got no idea if geese actually do appreciate your inner confidence; it would be nice to think they do appreciate creative boldness... but let's not take any chances people. I won't be held responsible ... ].


What to do once you've chosen your supplies:

  • Keep them all together in a bag or box of their own. 
  • Then, each time you come to work on the project, you know you're only going to be using what's inside.
  • This cuts down on your pondering and new supply-seeking time ... which can totally distract you from simply getting on with the 'doing'! [Ask me how I know ...]
  • A simple thing like restricting your supplies to those you set out at the start both gives you more time to create but also more focus on using them creatively.
[For lots more examples / tips on how to organise yourself for a self-contained project, similar to this one, then visit this 'behind-the-scenes post of mine].

And to keep track of all the posts in the 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' series then you can follow [or simply visit] the Pinterest board I've made for the series here.

In the next post of the series we'll start the making part and you can start getting your hands dirty / painty / gluey. We'll be dismantling/altering that book to make a home for all those scrappy collages but, before then ...

... you need to find a purpose, a theme/colour-scheme and a bag to throw them all into! So I'll leave you to it.

See you soon.

Julie :-)


  1. Hello Julie, I thought I might make the book/journal to use for my version of JYC or December days. Collecting the bits should be easy as i keep everything...but the cover is blue! More thinking required...

    1. Depending on the shade of blue ... how about a Frosty Christmas with blue, silver and white? Or a clean lined Scandinavian style - with red + natural? Or a cosy 'Gentleman's Club' type feel - with tweeds, checks, gold, and burgundy?

      Looking forward to seeing your project!

  2. This is so inspirational! Thanks. I think I'll take a novel too as my theme. Michel Faber's The crimson petal and the white. I loved that book and recently saw the BBC series. London is one of my favorite cities. So now off collecting materials.

  3. Your method of working is very helpful and interesting Julie,thankyou. I have a beautiful little book that has been sat on a shelf quite a while waiting to be "altered", I think that time is now! just need to think on my theme and colours a bit more then I can start gathering!!

  4. For a change I am one step ahead - I had already decided that I was doing this for my JYC this year and yay I already have two of your Christmas packs already sat there waiting to be used - of course I will have a little rummage through my Christmas supplies to add in other stuff that I think will come in handy. And I have just ordered a large rotary alphabet stamp to keep all the wording consistent through the album. I will just go off and polish my halo now before it slips and chokes me LOL!!

    1. Very organised! And I love my rotary stamp - if it's anything like mine watch out for spelling out and then stamping the word backwards!! Sometimes I get it entirely back to front and upside down! [But, of course, that could just be me .... ] ;-)

  5. Ready and waiting for the papery "feast" to begin.... Think I have oodles of supplies gathered..... no shortage of paper here LOL Thank you in advance for this project

  6. This is such a useful post - I like the definitions of the why and the how. Brain cells churning ... Greens and reds leave me visually exhausted so I might go all faded and sepia this year. Or even black and white. That'll make the photo-to-paper matching easier :).


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