Februllage is, of course, a portmanteau of the words February and collage. It’s a gentle form of challenge, helping participants to develop a daily creative habit by making a collage a day using prompts from the Februllage calendar.
There is a daily prompt collage project on Instagram called Februllage happening at the moment, as it does annually, going on beyond February if you wish. It’s hosted by the Scandinavian Collage Museum and Edinburgh Collage Collective.
The year 2020 wasn’t really a good one for anyone, was it? Mine started spectacularly badly. By the beginning of March I’d already lost both parents 18 days apart, then three friends in quick succession. And that was before the pandemic even really got going. Because I followed epidemiologists and Italian ER doctors on Twitter, and had friends in South Korea, I could see what was coming. I was locked down with groceries by the second to third week of February.
Februllage may have saved my sanity. Art is armour.
I had only really shared photography on Instagram until then, though I’d started making collages the previous year after a friend asked me to make a theatre poster and programme for him.
In that first lockdown, amidst so much loss and grief, I was housesitting with just two cats for company in a rural village in Provence where I knew no one. I stumbled across Februllage, and making a daily collage became a lifeline.
I met other people online including collage artists by sharing what I made, and was inspired by them, encouraged by supportive comments. So collage became an unexpected comfort and route for connection, as well as a reason to get up each morning.
When I ran out of Februllage prompts I started Marchollage in a kind of panic. Then an artist approached me, and we did Aprillage together that year. (She clearly needs a daily prompt collage project even more than I do, as she now runs Annuallage every day of the year).
That first year my prompts were single words I liked, as is standard. Never one to follow the rules, I made the prompts for 2021 using sentence fragments from poems. Last year I was short of inspiration, and crowdsourced the prompts on a week by week basis. This year, as Marchollage is launching on the same day as Bylines Cymru, the prompts are words and phrases purloined entirely from Welsh composers, poets, writers, artists, and singers.
The rule is that there are no rules
Of the many wonderful things about collage, one of the best is that you need not be an artist, or consider yourself to be creative [ed.: you are], or have done it before. Anyone can find some interesting scraps of paper in flea markets, charity shops, lying around the house, or even discarded on the pavement.
No one is so far from childhood that they’ve forgotten how to use glue and scissors. It’s playing, just playing. But can be a gateway to other art-making. That’s not to suggest that it can’t be highly skilled.
Along with many other collagists, I don’t usually even make ‘analog’ collages; mine are mostly digital. All I need is a handful of free apps and I can layer different images together, add text or frames or textures if I wish. Nothing so complicated as Photoshop.
There are a great many websites offering public domain images you can use digitally, or print and use for analog collages. I use the Graphics Fairy, the Public Domain Review, Wikimedia Commons, RawPixel’s public domain gallery, and the digital collections of museums and libraries (where images are marked creative commons/public domain) a great deal. I no longer have the store of French flea market scraps I could so easily access and delightedly explore pre-Brexit. Another loss for the Davis Downside Dossier.
The trickiest bit can be the inspiration. Sometimes a prompt will speak to you, sometimes it won’t. You could ‘do it backwards’ and look through the scraps you have to see if anything gets you moving in a direction. But there’s no rule that you have to follow a prompt on the day it’s for, or ever. Jump ahead to the next prompt. Close your eyes and point to a word or phrase in a book. Look at the work of other collage artists for inspiration. They’ve been around a long time.
If you look around Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll find yourself loving certain kinds of images more than others. These are road signs to your own style. I’m not very drawn to collages using glossy magazine pictures, but am obsessed with ephemera.
Art is life, life is art
The things that work, or don’t, in art are often the same things that work, or don’t, in life. In my view, this is more true of collage than any other art form. After all, is personal experience not a collage of all the possibly experiences you could have had? Is memory not a collage of what’s left to you after what’s lost? Just as your days are the grapes you will turn into wine, so too are your scraps, for collage.
For this reason, perhaps, collage can be tremendously therapeutic. It can allow you to express what you can’t in words. The materials you select tell you things about yourself, your tastes, your memories and dreams. And having a prompt immediately removes the tyranny of the blank page: it gives you somewhere to start. The freedom of creation, paradoxically, is only really possible if there are limits to begin with.
I hope that, this year, #Marchollage not only provides ongoing daily practice and connects artists to other artists [ed.: that’s you, that is], but is also a refuge from the worries of the world for others as it was for me in that terrible year, and since. What started as therapy made me into a true artist and illustrator instead of a dabbler, commissioned by a famous actress and other fine people after they saw my work on Twitter. You never know where creation will lead. Just pick up some scissors or open an app and begin.
Share on Instagram, tag me @fivebyfivetimes and/or use the #Marchollage so I can see, share, and showcase your work. I’ll note the source of the prompt each day in March. Your first daily prompt collage project word is …
Dip your toes in.