top of page
  • sharmondavidson

Write Like No One is Reading: Experimental Collages

JULY 18, 2021

"...So I thought, f*ck it. I'm going to write whatever the hell I want, and once it's out into the world, I let go of the outcome. Criticism, praise, or worse, crickets -- I'll take it all on the chin. As long as I know I've written what I wanted to, that in my mind equals literary success."   ~ Cheryl Muir, Huffpost

surreal collage 3-human-headed cat, eyes, and space imagery

Cosmic Signals, hand-cut collage, 6 x 7.5 in

"Whenever we face our fear and do it anyway, we allow magic to happen. We are changing our neural pathways, shifting our energy, and showing up for life. There is no one quite like you. You have the power to create with words. Now that’s amazing." ~ Michelle Marie Warner

Like No One is Reading

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Dance like no one is watching". I've also heard that we should, "sing like no one is listening" (or, at least, no one but your 3-year-old granddaughter!). Social media abounds with all sorts of quotes and words of wisdom, and I enjoy finding good ones and passing them on.

So it's not surprising that I recently came across this corollary to the first two: "Write like no one is reading it." I had to laugh. I thought, well, that shouldn't be too hard, because it's true! The only ones reading my blog are me and the crickets. I don't want to belabor the point, because I wrote about it before, here.

I always put extensive research and effort into my posts. My inner critic sits beside me the whole time, proof-reading and re-proof-reading. I try to produce the best content I can, and most of the time I'm pretty proud of my articles. The downside is that it takes up so much of my time that I often wonder if it's really worth it.

The idea of just writing whatever I want without regard for the outcome sounds, to be honest, very freeing.  As a recovering dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, I'm not sure that I'm capable of this, but I'm willing to give it a try. 'Vulnerability hangover', be damned! What have I got to lose?

"If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act -- truth is always subversive." ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Experimental Collages

In keeping my my newfound resolution to write what I really want, I'm sharing some of my recent experimental collages. The main focus of my artistic practice right now is a series of collages about the place of women in our society, with the working title "Ordinary Goddesses". I explained how this came about in this post.

Oh, right - what has that got to do with writing what I want to? Well, these small experimental collages are sort of the visual equivalent of that. They're a way of testing new techniques or ideas, cutting loose, not worrying much about the outcome. Sometimes, I'll just mess around with an older collage I'm not satisfied with, to see if I can make it better. And if I destroy it instead, no big deal. Either way, it's a lesson learned, and fun had.

person or buddha in meditation pose with maps and designs

Meditation 2, hand-cut collage, 6 x 4 in

The piece at the top of this post, Cosmic Signals, was originally made for a pollage (poety + collage) challenge. I decided to cover up the poetry part, and allow myself to make it as weird as I wanted, with no limitation on the number of eyes! (I love eyes - you might have noticed.)

Meditation 2, above, was an older collage that just seemed boring. I am NOT a minimalist, but this collage verged on minimalism. I added some things to the background , giving it a bit more structure. The major change, though, was the addition of the right half of the meditating figure. I'm still not sure if this one is successful. I probably shouldn't have added the right half of the figure. Does everyone have these doubts, or is it just me?

paper collage of girl from 100 years ago and modern girl walking together

In the Footsteps of My Ancestors, mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 11 x 8.5 in


This piece was an experiment with scanning and enlarging a 100+ year-old cabinet card. Then I manipulated the color, contrast and saturation, and printed it out on photo paper. I've only done this one or twice; in the past I have usually just cut out the figure from the cabinet card itself. As you can imagine, this strictly limited the size of the figure, since most cabinet cards are about the size of a postcard. I'm pretty satisfied with the way this turned out. 

futuristic collage of girl with gemstone eyes and machine body parts

 I'm Looking Through You  (before)

I'm Looking Through You was loosely based on a science fiction book I'd read. I wasn't expecting it to be much more than an enjoyable experiment. After living with it a while, however, I decided it had the potential to become part of my 'Ordinary Goddesses' series. With a few tweaks to the composition here and there, I felt much better about it.

futuristic collage of girl with gemstone eyes and machine parts in surreal city scene

The Wind-up Girl  (after), mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 14.25 x 9.5 in

Since it was on very thin multi-media board, it didn't fit in with the rest, which are all done on vintage book covers. Also, it seemed to need more room or space around the figures. So I cut a "frame" in a book cover and kind of inlaid it. I'm not sure if it's completely finished, or even if I like it this way. What do you think?

More Experiments

golden goddess statue with 3 faces on abstract background

She Expanded Her Consciousness to Include Everything, analogue collage, 5 x 5 in

The crazy collage above is a result of attempting to answer a question from someone on Facebook. Specifically, they wanted to know, "What would happen if you just kept going?" In the past, what has happened was just a ruined mess. But you can always keep going beyond the ruined mess stage to perhaps a result you can live with. This one has lots of layers!

experimental collagewith city, trees, women's faces and hawk

When I started on The Sight, I really had nothing in mind except to be open to whatever happened, and to try not to use much color. As you can see, little bits of color crept in, but I still like the result. I used a lot of scraps that happened to laying around on my table, and tried to do as little thinking as possible. I'm a champion over-thinker, but this was quite fun in contrast to working with a specific theme.

(left) The Sight, analogue collage, 5 x 5 in

Think Square 4 Invitational

As you may know, the 4th annual Think Square exhibition is currently open. It features work by 63 area artists.  A great variety of styles and media are represented, and all of the work is in a five by five inch format. It's open untill July 26th at the Cincinnati Learning Collaborative, as well as online. See invitation below.

front of think square 4 art exhibit invitation many square artworks

back of think square 4 invitation with dates and artists' names

These are my three pieces in the Think Square 4 exhibition, entitled Storm Front I, II, and III, respectively. As of today, they're still available. I hope you'll get a chance to check out all the wonderful art made by a great group of Cincinnati artists!

storm front I monoprint blue and purple leaves with lightning

monoprint storm front II blue and purple plants with dark clouds

storm front III monoprint purple leaf with pink and gold rain


bottom of page