The intention in January was to draw, paint or sketch each day. Once a week is more realistic and gives me the space to come up with an idea, mentally map out the possibilities and then get down to business. Last week’s project was a collage inspired by a small oil painting my husband and I purchased in Moab (Utah) some years ago during a plein air festival. I love the colors, that entrancing edge where the sky and rock meet, the narrowing of the Colorado River as it meets the distant hills. Soon enough, I gave myself permission to improvise. Torn paper bits behave differently from oil paint applied by brush and palette knife. Novice skills cannot match those honed over years of instruction and practice.
Before I began, I wrote myself a note: “This is a learning collage. A potchkeying painting.” Potchkey is this wonderful Yiddish word that calls to mind a child playing in the sand. Or the mud. To potchkey is to make a mess and have fun in the moment while doing it. So I am learning how to tear paper with a clean (not white) edge, unless I want that edge as part of the overall design. I soaked some of the blue foreground paper in water. With the resulting tint I toned down the bright orange tissue. I learned that closer objects appear darker; lighten them as they edge toward the horizon line.
At first I thought it was a mistake to have left the sky for last —— wouldn’t I mess the whole thing up edging paint against the mountain peaks? I learned something there too. Not everything can, or should, be planned. Serendipity can lend crucial improvements. The blue in my mind’s eye looked awful when I held a sample close. Adding a bit of black to the blue lent some much needed weight. The flat brushstrokes contrasted crisply with the land formations; where my hand wavered, so what?
Yes, this was a learning collage and a great potchkeying experience, too. I really enjoyed all the cutting, tearing, and gluing. I loved the tactile messiness of it. The best thing I learned? I loved what I was doing. And that’s all that really matters.
Alas, the artist’s name is illegible.
My sisters and I “potchkeyed” all the time but thought we were just wasting time, not creating. Now I know “potchkeying” is fun for children and adults alike and can produce amazing results.
I think potchkeying can also have the flavor of messing around and yes, wasting time.
Or kind of spinning in circles. My mom would sometimes say, “Debbi, stop potchkeying. We
have to go!”
Here’s what I looked up:
To fuss or “mess around” inefficiently and inexpertly. 2. To dawdle, to waste time.” (Rosten)
When I began the collage,looking at it as potchkeying (making a mess with my papers) helped
take the pressure off to “produce” something terrific.