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Susan Goodby: Paintings in Paper
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About Torn Paper Collage

When I remember my favorite activities as a child, I realize that I was always interested in creating things and I loved activity books that had pictures to cut out and paste. When I first tried paper collage in a class on creativity, I was immediately attracted to it. The night after that class a friend came to dinner and brought me a flowering plant. I woke up in the middle of the night planning how I would do a collage of it. The collage was underway before breakfast.

I started seeing design possibilities everywhere. As the flowers in my garden came into bloom, I began making pictures of them in torn paper. The Geisha collage resulted from my reading Memoirs of a Geisha. I became a serious collector of interesting paper.

Before I found this medium, I had been painting in oils. I had planned to paint a portrait of a friend and neighbor, but decided instead to see if I could do it in torn paper. David is the result. For this collage I used only papers that had some relevance to my subject, so it is a very personal portrait. I like to incorporate papers that have significance to the subject, for example Japanese papers in The Geisha and the portrait Jack Maki, or that create a hidden visual pun, for instance a small flock of birds on one of the birds of paradise in Ikebana I. I am happy and surprised to see how enthusiastic other people have been about my collages. When I brought slides of my work to Italy to share with my painting teacher and classmates, the collages got a wonderful response and the artist-teacher told me I was clearly in my element.

I am excited by the possibilities for what can be done in paper and there are so many more effects in torn paper collage that I want to explore. I find so many beautiful bits of paper that keep me inspired. I have sketches of ideas that I hope to work on sometime, plus I store images in my head, but some of the excitement comes from spontaneous choices and serendipitous things that happen in the creation of a collage. There is no such thing as an accident when I’m tearing the paper I want to use. If my tear goes awry, it is an opportunity to find some more interesting alternative. Sometimes the smallest fragment of paper can be important so I keep it all. I guess this makes me a consummate recycler. For me, the fascinating thing in torn paper collage is to find the ways bits of paper which had one meaning can be torn apart and combined to form beautiful new images.