Lexicon of Collage: Daily Project for 2023

I love having a daily art project, something quick and easy and not too complicated. Having this type of project gets me into my studio, even on days when I only have a little bit of time or when I’m not feeling like painting or doing something big. Last year I kept a daily journal where I filled the pages with words, collages, and small paintings. One year I did a painting a day in a series of spiral bound journals. For this year, I am creating a collage each day and I have titled my project Lexicon of Collage. For my substrate, I am using matboard cut into 4×6 inch pieces (I ordered the matboard in a size of my choosing from Matboard and More, a company I have used for a lot of projects over the years).

For most of the collages I make, I use pieces of my hand painted papers, which I create using acrylic paint on various papers, i.e., drawing, deli, tissue, and paper bags. I divide these papers by color, making it easy to find just what I need.

Stacks of my painted papers.
Stacks of freshly painted papers.
Painted paper for collage work.

When I’m ready to create a collage, I reach for my painted papers, text and typography, bits of ephemera, scraps from old books, and random pieces of collected papers. I audition the papers and when I have a composition I like, I start gluing using Golden semi-gloss soft gel medium.

Laying out a grid collage and preparing to glue.

Once I have glued down my collage material, I place a piece of wax paper over the collage and then a stack of heavy books on top (or a bag of rice), and let it dry for several hours (or overnight). Once the glue is set, I often have raggedy edges that I like to trim using an Xacto knife. Once the collages are trimmed, I apply a thin coat of Golden’s semi-gloss soft gel medium, the same medium I use for gluing the papers.

Collages ready to be trimmed.
More trimming.
Trimming edges off of collages.
A beautiful pile of paper trimmings.

There are several benefits to having a daily project. As I mentioned above, this type of project gets me into my studio. But even more than propelling me to make art daily, it pushes me to experiment and play with a variety of compositions, unusual color combinations, and ways to create little pieces of art that hopefully take my breath away, that cause a gasp of delight, all the things that I want to happen in my bigger paintings. A bonus: I have already used some of my collages as inspirations for my paintings.

Completed collages.

Another fun addition to this project is how I share my completed collages. About once a week, give or take, I share a grouping of collages I have created. I started inviting friends (and family) to be my guest collage flippers. I videotape my invited collage flipper and share the videos on Instagram. Here are some of my invited flippers.

Guest collage flipper: daughter Melissa.
Guest collage flipper: granddaughter Gabriella
Guest collage flipper: Elise Wagner.
Guest collage flipper: Stephanie Brockway
Guest collage flippers: son Scott and grandson Harrison.
Guest collage flipper: grandson Luke.

For more regular updates on this project, follow on me on Instagram where I regularly post videos of my guest collage flippers and/or sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I do periodic updates about my Lexicon of Collage project.

My stack of collages as of the end of February.

Teaching at Sitka: Part 2

After my first oil and cold wax class at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology concluded on July 3, the staff at Sitka lugged all of my stuff from Smith Studio up to the larger Boyden Studio. I spent the evening getting set up for my second class. I love preparing the studio for teaching.

Evening of July 3: all set up for class to begin on July 5.

I spent July 4th enjoying the quiet of the Sitka campus. The office was closed, and no one was around, so I wandered, rested, and puttered in the studio. On July 5th, I was ready for the artists to arrive.

Distance view. I have three big tables to work on.
My working and demo space.

Like my last post, Teaching at Sitka – Part I, I feel that photos tell the story better than any words that I cobble together. I’ve made comments on each of the photos, so it tells a bit more about the week than just sharing the photos. But I will say, this group was hardworking, productive, energetic, talented, and supportive of each other. All the ingredients for a fantastic workshop.

Side view of my space.
So many techniques to share.
Demo using solvent to scrape off paint.
Getting paint on the boards.
Everyone deep into the process.
Tissue for blotting.
Mixing up paint.
Words matter.
A table of work in progress.
Work in progress.
From above.
Love the swaths of color, interrupted by marks.
An active scene.
A glorious pile of paint.
Work in progress.
Spreading swaths of thick, juicy paint.
Work in progress. Done? Perhaps.
Pink! Work in progress.
More pink! Yes, please.
Early layers.
Work in progress.
Hard-working class.
A lovely, abstracted landscape.
Scraping a grid composition.
Using wonky chunks of driftwood to make wonky marks.
Lunch in the courtyard.
Painting. Layering. Scraping. Contemplating.
More dots and such a great example of complementary colors.
We all thought this piece would make a fantastic album cover!
Framing discussion.
Margaret and her beautiful series using a limited palette.
I’m crazy for stripes and swaths of color – Carol nailed it.
I wanted to call this a “Carnival of Color,” but that’s just me.
More bands of color and marks.
An active workspace.
So many ways to apply paint and make marks.
Sharing work.
A thematic series of work.
Such crazy and unique marks.
Work in progress.
I love the collegial nature of a class.
Applying paint to a very textural and three-dimensional piece.
A vibrant series of work.
I’m always crazy for dots.
An excellent example of a strata composition. And then there’s the color . . .
A successful and colorful grid.
Work in progress. Done? Hope so.
An energetic work in progress.
A beautiful series of lines, marks, and colors.
Such sexy curves.
A lovely and simple abstracted landscape.
A thematic series of work.
Pulling tape and revealing nine little paintings.
I love the solitude at the end of the day.
The peace at the end of the day.
All but one in this class photo!

I have received such wonderful feedback from the artists in my class and I want to share two of the comments. Reading these inspiring and positive words make my heart swell and it is why I love teaching.

The first one from Carol:

I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a student in this class. It was amazing to meet Dayna in person, and to be present in her instruction. She provided a manual, many supplies, demos, readings, and many examples of her work in various stages. She was very engaged and provided such positive suggestions and constant energy. It was truly a great pleasure in an incredible setting. . . . I am still processing all that I learned and felt, and continue to feel so grateful. Thank you, Dayna.            Terri

Now What?

Painting should call out to the viewer . . . and the surprised viewer should go to it, as if entering a conversation.  

                                                                                                                                                                                             Roger de Piles, 1676

The dust has hardly settled and I’m already looking ahead to 2021, although I’ve got a jump start on a couple of projects while it is still 2020. But first, my show at RiverSea, Emotional Alignments, gets hung next week and the opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 9, from 12-8 pm during the Astoria Art Walk. I’ll be at the gallery that evening from 5-8 pm if you happen to be out and about.

Nine of 20 pieces in the Emotional Alignments show, opening January 9, 2021, at RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, Oregon

Most people would probably wait until after a show has opened before starting work on another show, but I’m not most people. So forward I go, taking full advantage of making art during a pandemic. Early preparations have begun for a May, 2021 show at Salem on the Edge. Very preliminary preparations, lining up which boards I want to use, getting them painted, plaster applied, sanding them outside (weather permitting), and then getting them sealed and ready for applying oil and cold wax. As of this writing, I  have no idea what my theme or composition will be – that will come in the new year.


In my next post, I’ll share about another project I’m currently working on . . . . .

Emotional Alignments: On the Home Stretch

So many tasks to attend to once the art has been made. First up, is removing the tape from the backs of the cradled wood panels, sanding the backs of the boards to clean up painty messes (I got a little hand sander for an early Christmas gift!), titling and signing the pieces, getting them all wired, and then photographed and inventoried. Whew.

And in between all these tasks, I needed to write my Artist Statement, something I have been laboring over for the past few weeks.

In the midst of this frenzy of activity, I realized that all 20 boards wouldn’t fit in either of our small, economical cars, so on Saturday we loaded up Howard’s car with 16 of the boards (amazing we crammed in 16), and headed to Astoria, where I planned to apply the final coat of cold wax to seal the paintings.

We got the paintings unloaded and I took over the funky upstairs space at our Astoria Beach House. I covered the table and floors and got set up to give my right arm a workout: slathering on a thin layer of cold wax with a putty knife, setting up extra heaters to warm up the upstairs, and then letting the wax dry and set on the pieces in preparation for a final buff and polish the next day.

The paintings are now buffed and polished, nestled downstairs in the extra bedroom, and I even managed to finish my Artist’s Statement this morning while it stormed and rained outside.

The details for my upcoming show:

Emotional Alignments: an emotional response to 2020

RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, located on the northern Oregon coast

January 9-February 9, 2021

Opening Reception: Astoria Art Walk, Saturday January 9, from 12-8:00 pm (to allow social distancing all day); I’ll be there from 5:00-8:00 pm.

When a Deadline Looms

If you read my last post, I shared about my upcoming show at RiverSea Gallery in Astoria and how my initial idea was the theme of waterlines, but somewhere along the way I realized it was no longer a theme I wanted to explore. Instead, I started thinking in bands and swaths of color, a design element I have been smitten with for years. My thoughts went to how I have always been attracted to color field art, so as I painted and worked on my boards, the idea of working in fields of color filled my consciousness. The words Emotional Alignments became the title of my show, and propelled me forward. I knew where I was going and I was excited to get into my studio every day; I had an enthusiasm I hadn’t had in a long time.

After getting all of my boards prepped, I kicked into full time painting, spending several hours a day in my studio adding layers of oil and cold wax. In my last post, I shared the process of how I prepare my boards with acrylic paint, plaster, and more acrylic paint, and now I’m showing and sharing the process of adding layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax.

The first order of business is to mix up cold wax with Galkyd (which helps speed the drying time), then mix oil paints with the wax mixture, making it the consistency of whipped butter (or shortening if you are old enough to remember that cooking staple).

I use the early layers to just get color down so I have something to respond to. I’ve been working on 20 pieces simultaneously, so drying space is at a premium, necessitating spreading out into our bathroom and the upstairs hallway.

Once I have one or two initial layers of oil and cold wax, often alternating between warm and cool colors so when I’m scratching through the wet paint, the earlier layer is revealed, it is time to begin thinking about a composition. I knew I would be focusing on bands of color, so I just started painting swaths, giving some thought to color, but not too much advance planning at this stage.

Eventually, I had another layer on the boards and it was time to begin making more informed choices to add variety within the swaths: warm against cool, texture against smooth, bright against dull, light against dark, busy against calm. I had the idea of using paint chips (from the hardware store) to play with color combinations.

I also gave a great deal of attention to the intersections between the bands of color, the interstices. I have long been fascinated with intersections: drawing into the layers to reveal earlier layers, what colors show through, adding lines of color with the edge of a squeegee, how to create bold interest, how to create quiet interest that invites a viewer to step closer to see the details.


And so it goes. Back and forth, adding, subtracting, standing back, scraping, excavating, laying down more paint. Mental and physical gymnastics.

Between painting sessions, is the inbetween, the drying time. I set up a fan and a heater to blow warm, dry air around my studio, a time for the paintings to rest, a time for me to rest. It all seems to help.

Paintings are being completed and I’m excited about them. They reflect how I have moved through the pandemic, politics, wildfires, and personal traumas this past year. Titling the pieces has been as therapeutic as painting them. I think I might just be okay.

In my next post, I’ll share the completed pieces. The show, Emotional Alignments, opens Saturday, January 9, 2021, at RiverSea Gallery as part of the Astoria monthly Art Walk.


The Arduous Task of Preparing for a Show

For the past couple of months I have put my nose to the grindstone. Being in the middle of a pandemic, life outside my house has been meager, so in many ways this has been the ideal time to put myself into a self-imposed studio timeout. I had the opportunity for a show at RiverSea Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Astoria on the Oregon Coast. I have had art there for several years, I’ve been in group shows, and two years ago I had a show with my friend Stephanie Brockway. I had been thinking about asking for a solo show, but had never approached the gallery owner, Jeannine. Until October. I met with Jeannine and because of the pandemic, she was juggling the rescheduling of shows from 2020 into 2021; then she said that an artist had just cancelled for January 2021 and I could have that slot. In the big gallery. Gulp. Yes, please. Let the madness begin.

I work in layers. Many layers. It goes something like this. Gathering boards and painting them with a layer of acrylic or house paint. Once dry, I slather on a layer of plaster, which needs to dry overnight. The plastered boards are then schlepped outside to be lightly sanded, brought back into the studio, and sealed with a layer of acrylic stain. I like to baptize my boards with words, so I usually scribble a quote or something about how I’m feeling. Then I’m ready to begin actually painting. Because words don’t quite capture the physicality of this process, here is my photo essay depicting the first round of layers.


Now the boards are ready for painting.

When I originally pitched my show to Jeannine, my idea was for a show about waterlines, something I have been passionate about exploring for years. But as I began applying the initial layers of oil and cold wax, I realized the show was no longer about waterlines. When I needed to send an image to Jeannine for her November newsletter, I sent her this message:

I have been consistently working since we met in October, moving forward with the theme of Waterlines. I prepped 15 boards (20×20 inches up to 40×40 inches) with acrylic, plaster, acrylic, and then one to two layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. As I began the process of reconciling the under layers with a finished composition, it became apparent that my heart wasn’t in a strict interpretation of waterlines. My original vision for the show was bold swaths of color representing waterlines, but as I began applying paint in bright bands of color, I realized what I was experiencing was more than waterlines; it was an emotional response to 2020: the pandemic, politics, and wildfires (as well as a series of personal family hardships). Waterlines always find their way into my pieces as inspiration, but this show isn’t about waterlines, but my emotional response to 2020. So things have changed a bit. I have titled the show: EMOTIONAL ALIGNMENTS. Once I started making this shift last week, my painting took off. I start my days enthusiastic and excited to get into the studio.

In my next post, I’ll share about the evolution of my paintings (now at 20 works in various stages of completion) using oil paint mixed with cold wax medium . . . . and the many hours I spend in my studio.