I am so happy to introduce to our site the vibrant art of Trudi Murray. What I particularly love about her work is that each individual element within her collages is steeped with meaning and care. As Trudi explains in this Art Diary, her work reflects how the intricate, fleeting ‘tiny moments’ of life build to a greater whole – I find her artworks life-affirming and joyful to behold. -Beck
At University, I studied English Literature. I spent a great deal of the second year racking my brains, trying to come up with a Big Idea for a dissertation. Something groundbreaking, maybe. Something new! Something life changing! Something brilliant! I had such high hopes, and impossible daydreams of academic glory. The truth was, my mind was a blank. I couldn’t come up with anything. I had no big ideas at all.
I was saved somewhat by discovering that I was unexpectedly good at writing poems – poems full of small impressions: tiny moments that caught on my mind and demanded attention. I started to write them all down, collecting feelings and longings and emotions in tall spindly forms. These poems became the backbone of my degree. It was stupidly simple, totally obvious and it felt awesome. Most of all, it felt like me.
I’ve always painted, doodled and made stuff, as well as writing. Our house has always been full of crumpled envelopes with half finished sketches on the back. I loved doing creative things with my kids when they were small, and I’ve spent several happy years up to my eyeballs in PVA glue, tissue paper and poster paint, making kites, and robots, and backdrops for the latest LEGO spaceship. But proper painting pulled me so hard. Until a few years ago, I’d never really ventured further than hobbying around its edges.
When I began – when I really started to paint and illustrate, exploring the whole thing as a potential career, alongside writing, things got quite tricky. Brimming with ambition and burning with, yes, you’ve guessed it, impossible daydreams, my mind defaulted to the inevitable blank. I roared, I raged, I swore a bit. I couldn’t think of how to start. I had no ideas. I had so much to say, and yet, nothing at all.
It took me ages to realise it, but the solution (of course!) was to forget the big ideas, and to focus on those ordinary miracles of everyday life. Slowly, and as before, with the poems, the real me started to emerge, and relax, and become creative. When I’m thinking of everything as a possible source of inspiration, things get exciting. Colours from somebody’s jumper on the Tube can start a painting. The vegetable patch. A patterned sock left abandoned on the floor. A sparkle on a raindrop, on a leaf. Or the beautiful shine in the cat’s eye. The sun coming up over the rooftops when we’re back from a run. Small impressions. Tiny moments that catch on my mind.
When I first made a collage picture, a method that involves bringing together small details to make a bigger design, I decided that working in this way had to be one of the reasons I was born. A bold claim! But starting a collage from scratch, creating by hand all the original detail and interesting marks, all seemingly at random, and working it up into something more ambitious, resonates so much. It’s a fabulous discovery.
First of all, I think of a direction, and keep it in mind. My recent series of collage pictures were about the natural world. Starting off, I hand print most of the elements of the final picture – using lino printing or mono printing – but not knowing whether the resulting prints will be useful or not. I make textures in paint with bits of stick or an old toothbrush, or whatever I can find. When I’ve got lots of small ideas, and maybe a few key elements drawn in ink and coloured with gouache, watercolour or acrylic, I start cutting. It’s quite liberating to chop it all up, sacrificing what’s quite good already, to (hopefully) make something better.
The result is a large pile of cut up bits of this and that. Colour, texture, detail. The endless task of sifting through it all, picking out the best bits, and jigsawing them all together to make a larger, coherent whole, is exactly like writing a poem. I’m back where I started, then, doing what I know best. Sometimes it all just comes good, and a picture is made in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I wrestle and flail and thrash about, trying too hard with one piece of detail that won’t fit. That’s not fun! But it is all part of it. The best solution is to go outside, or stroke the cat. Eventually, all gets glued together, and I put the whole picture in my press overnight to make sure that bits don’t fall off!
I love making pictures like this. I absolutely love it. It’s interesting and intelligent and creative. It’s fun! And in a way, it’s stupidly simple. It’s totally obvious and it feels awesome. Most of all, it feels like me!
It’s a small miracle, and a big idea, all at once.
Words and Art: Trudi Murray
Layout and Editing: Beck @artistscribbles
Categories: Art Diaries