Timeout for Art: Generating, Appropriating and Revisiting Ideas


touch point

This is an old xerox color copy of an early collagraph of mine.

It was late winter. I was in East Lansing, Michigan, working on a graduate degree at Michigan State University. “Topper” McDonough had sent me a Valentine card, with a nice letter including all the news and gossip from Beaver Island. I had it hanging in my ceramics studio. On a whim one day, I dismantled the card and – combined with a photograph and some torn bits of sandpaper – put together a collagraph plate that resulted in this image.

The heart is one of those universal symbols that comes wrapped up with all of its own meanings. Often I avoid things like that, as it seems to define the piece beyond my interpretation. Other times it works as a means of shorthand.

In this case, I felt it had power beyond the symbol, and beyond my take on it. It had energy derived from the sweet note from a friend, that had brightened a dark and lonesome time.

I like the heart surrounded by other bits, as if it’s on stage. It was one of my most popular original prints, and I literally wore out the plate from printing it. Unlike intaglio plates of copper or zinc, the collagraph plate is generally made of softer materials, and has a short life. This particular plate was on a piece of cardboard gleaned from the back of a sketchbook. It’s pretty surprising that it lasted through printing almost fifty images.

I used a different palette for each image, and loved showing them side-by-side with all the different colors. Sometimes the background would pop, other times the heart shape would stand out. Though the image was the same, every one was unique.

I am using the heart symbol again, in a couple new projects.

This time, it was inspired by the image of a small heart – a pendant to be worn as a necklace – that was built out of the inner workings of a wristwatch.

That image sparked ideas for one hundred different variations in my mind.

I’ve been making handmade papers, cutting fabric and felt, pulling out scraps of painted papers, rick-rack and foil and “going to town” with this idea. My plan is a series of collagraph prints, and also a series of low relief collages set into shadow boxes. The static, predictable imagery will allow me to explore colors, textures and combinations with abandon.

I worry, as most artists do, where influence becomes appropriation, and where appropriation is stealing. We all want our ideas to be our own.

To pay attention to the inspiration…then delve into the process…is the best way, in my humble opinion, to remain true to your work.


About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

5 responses »

  1. isn’t it wonderful when we have runaway ideas that dart off in many directions? but… it’s also wonderful when we learn to harness those ideas so we’re not spending our days dashing in all directions and losing focus! i’m itching to do a ‘bone’ series, sparked by the one cow skull painting, and now i keep finding little bones, especially delicate bones of the water birds/beaks/skulls…

    maybe soon?


  2. I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t understand half of what you were talking about because I understand very little about your artistic process. What I got out of this post, though, is that you are an artist indeed. You have inspiration in your heart and technique in your hands. Continue on, my friend. Dare to be the artist you are.

    • I’m sorry, and a little embarrassed myself, to learn that I was talking in jargon not commonly understood. I hate that! I remember sitting in beginning art classes with my eyes glazing over, because I didn’t have a clue what was being explained. Thanks for your kind and generous comments, Sara!

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