LAURA GUENIN

TECHNIQUE (HOW DO I MAKE THE COLLAGES?) :: The collages are made with laser printed color copies, gesso (white paint mixture that is often used for priming canvases), and thread. I also often draw with mechanical pencils and ink on top of the images. I occasionally will use gouache, pastels, oil paints, and watercolors. I work in an old book that I have made into a painted journal. The larger collages are created on stretched canvases. 

Detail image of Psalm.

I upload or scan images and scale them in Photoshop. Then, I use a ‘wallpaper’ method to adhere the images to the surface. I put gesso on the back of the paper that I want to tack down and then smooth it on the gessoed canvas or paper with a wet paper towel. 

Sometimes, I want to fit a block of color or an object in a specific spot. In that case, I use tracing paper to map the shape. I also use plenty of painter’s tape to place objects before I ‘glue’ them down. Occasionally, I’ll use Photoshop to try different things with the composition, but more often than not, I just end up layering the images until it works.

Ghost Rider in progress. I used tracing paper and painter's tape to figure out the diamond composition.

I generally don’t wait to stitch on the images as a last step to the collage. I stitch as I go and sometimes end up covering stitches with more paper. Stitching requires me to first poke holes around the image so I have a guide. Then, I shine a light behind the paper or canvas so I can see where to stitch. To ‘seal’ the final image, I use a spray fixative.

Ghost Rider in progress. Stitching around the diamond in the image.

VISION (DO I SKETCH BEFORE I START?) :: I never have an idea of what the final piece is going to look like, but most of the time, I have a piece of scripture that I am looking at beforehand or specific objects that I want to use. If I sketch beforehand, it's loose and messy. Sometimes, I will use Photoshop to begin looking at objects together.

I reuse some objects in different collages to remember them or to see them in another context (i.e. ‘hummingbirds,’ ‘diamonds,’ ‘treehouses’ all remind me of specific moments in prayer and/or vivid dreams so I have used them more than once). All of the collages serve as a visual journal for me to a specific time in my life. More often than not, I end up fighting through the collage for a long time.

Beginning stages of Ghost Rider.

IMAGES (WHERE DO I GET MY PHOTOGRAPHS?) :: Most recently, I’ve been predominantly using laser color copies of my own photographs. Photography is one of my first loves. My mom taught me how to use a manual 35mm camera when I was young and I still prefer to shoot with similar cameras. For convenience, I try to keep a digital camera near (either my phone or digital SLR) because I often find things that I might want to use as I am driving or walking and digital images can be uploaded more quickly. 

This photo was taken at my grandma's house. I ended up using several patterns and objects that I photographed at her home on Kindling and Hidden Prayer.

Sometimes, I'll need a photograph of a specific object and it becomes a scavenger hunt for me to find it. Occasionally, a friend will message a photograph to me that they think that I might want to use or I will stumble upon one of their photographs online that I want to use.

There are times when I don’t know the source of an image. The recycling box by the color copier at the library where I work is a goldmine! I love the random images that I find in there, but I have no idea from what source they were copied/printed. Whenever possible, I get permission before using an image that was created by someone else.

TIME FRAME (HOW LONG DO THE COLLAGES TAKE ME TO MAKE?) :: Generally, anywhere from one to six months. It doesn’t seem to make a difference whether or not I am working on a small or large scale. It's a tedious process, and in a weird way, I have a high tolerance for working on projects for long periods of time. If I have room and time, I like working on multiple collages simultaneously as well.

The aftermath of a collage. What happens after you've cut out little pieces of paper with hair-cutting scissors for months!

The aftermath of a collage. What happens after you've cut out little pieces of paper with hair-cutting scissors for months!

DISPLAY (WHERE DO I WANT THE COLLAGES TO HANG?) :: Anywhere there's room! Most people are caught off guard by their scale. Most require me to borrow a car to move them around if that gives you an idea of their size! 

The first collages that I made I designed specifically with our church sanctuary in mind. I grew up occasionally helping my mom change the church banners and alter cloths in the Methodist Church that I attended growing up. I didn’t like giving up part of my Saturday night to help nor did I like going in the church sanctuary at night (at all!!) but I have grown to appreciate the care that she has taken with the sanctuary for over 40 years.

In 2011, I had been working in my small, painted sketchbook for close to a year when I began wondering whether or not I could use the same technique on a larger scale. I specifically wanted to rethink church banners. I was thinking out loud about this with a friend after a church service. When I went home for lunch directly after that conversation, I saw a perfect-sized frame that someone had left out for the trash on the curb across the street. The next week, my friend delivered a huge bag of canvas to me. Someone was giving it away in her apartment building. That particular piece became Psalm as shown below. I'm still using the canvas.

Detail of Psalm hanging in the Indy Alliance Church sanctuary.

In the midst of making the first pieces, I was approached about doing a show in a gallery at IUPUI. The first seven pieces I created were shown there alongside my friend Lauren Williams’ work. I then moved the collages into our church sanctuary where they hung for several months. I was also asked to show them at the Methodist Church where my parents still attend.

Since then, I have sold and given away a few. I love seeing them alongside different stained glass windows, but I also appreciate seeing them in homes and am interested in creating one for a hospital space. Last year, I went through a season where I was sick often. Most of the time, it was the art hanging or music playing in the office that got me through the multiple doctor appointments and tests. I like the idea of potentially creating a piece specifically for those spaces.  

I’m also excited about the flexibility that printers now have for artist’s work. I loved finding new compositions within my work to prepare them for print and the opportunity that it provides buyers to print the piece of work that they enjoy and at a size that works for them.

I showed a series of collages and my collage journal at IUPUI in March 2012 alongside Lauren Williams' work. That's Lauren in the window reflection! We spent an evening covering these sheep with snippets of letters that we had written back and forth to one another for close to a year.

The Quilt in Sunnycrest United Methodist Church's sanctuary.