Creative unblock #8: Collage by Jessie Harlan


Creative unblock #8 supplied by Anthony Zinonos from

Creative Unblock: Get Unstuck. Discover New Ideas. Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists by Danielle Krysa 

Creative challenge:

Visit a thrift store and buy an old magazine and an old book. Take them home, chop them up, and make five new collages.

Initial reaction to project:

“Oh, that’ll be easy.  I did those in grade school.”  Then I realized that the types of collages assigned in 3rd grade art class (cut out pictures you like and randomly glue them onto a piece of paper) was probably quite different than a real, artistic collage, which requires thought, theme, symbolism, and the like.

I spent some time rifling through various magazines I’d pick up here and there, looking at the pictures, at the ads, waiting for something to speak to me and tell me what my creation was going to be about.  Probably my biggest obstacle in this project was materials, as I don’t subscribe to any magazines, and have very few cut-uppable papers in the house.  I had to rely on what I found lying around, because the idea of buying materials just never occurred to me.

When I finally found a photo that spoke to me as something I could work with, the rest of the job went quickly.  As I’m generally involved in very few artistic endeavors, I didn’t have a “creative block” to work out in that sense.  Instead, I had been struggling with that wall that sometimes rises between parents and their pre-teens.  In the spirit of using the project to overcome an obstacle, I invited my daughter in to help me work on it.  Her sister at a sleepover,  we sat and discussed ideas and scissor techniques and layouts which led into talks about school and boys and the things that pre-teens want to discuss, but don’t know where to begin.

 How did you feel when you were done?

When we finished, I took a look at what we’d created and thought to myself those age-old questions:  “But is it art?”  “Does it say anything?” immediately heard Joy’s voice in my head saying “Well, does it say anything to you?”  To which the answer is, “Sure…but nothing I didn’t already know.”

So…is it art?  Maybe.  Was the project a success?  Absolutely.



jessieJessie Harlan is a legal secretary and single mom from Texas with a penchant for tagmemics and a mean left hook.  We assume. She’s never actually punched anyone…but is surely anticipating the experience.  She’s fascinated by interpersonal dynamics, and completely convinced that if she were universally accepted as the Boss of Everything, the world would be a better place.

Jeanette Joy Harris is an artist and writer who lives in Houston, Texas. She has had solo and collaborative photography, installation, and video works shown in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, and San Francisco. She has published work with TribTalk, Glasstire, and Illusion. With a background in philosophy and politics, Joy has also presented academic work on the concepts of public space and action, particularly in the work of Hannah Arendt and Diane Arbus.

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