Anderson Artists Guild member Diana Walter will talk about using mixed media collages to tell a story at the next guild meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, at the Anderson Arts Center.
Art as a form of storytelling is what drives Walter. As a child, she took art lessons and tried drawing, painting, and ceramics. But it wasn’t until nine years ago, when she began taking lessons from Julia Peters in Greenville, that Walter feels she came alive as an artist. “That was the beginning for me,” she said. “I’m so interested in history and research, and mixed media collage is a way to combine a lot of the things I love. Many of my pieces will involve some sort of history that’s part of the story.”
Sometimes the spark is a photo, such as an old picture of a great aunt whose county birth record, discovered online, became part of the piece. Another blossomed from a compelling photo of a young girl who worked in a textile mill in the late 1800s; the artwork also included a piece of clothing manufactured around that time period. “Not all parts of the collage are authentic, but all are related in color or texture or time,” said Walter.
Typically, Walter draws from a big stash of items she collects. “I’m always looking for stuff,” she said. “I buy most of what I have on Etsy. This week I bought beechwood for an assemblage piece with a mermaid. I also look for rusty can lids and other pieces. I’m always after rusty stuff!” Other finds include vintage lace and ribbon, watch faces, an old pair of eyeglasses, and a stack of letters from the early 1900s still in their envelopes and tied with old string.
The greatest challenge in building a piece of art from such diverse items is getting the initial placement down. After that, creativity takes over. “I have a general idea, but I don’t plan them all out before I start,” she said. “It’s what I imagine someone who writes a novel would go through. You know the general theme, but the story writes itself as you get into it. You know when it’s done. I rarely go back and tweak stuff.”
Writing is actually also a part of her process since Walter includes the story of each piece on the back. “If someone buys it, they can know a little of what I was thinking,” she said.
While she has sold a good number of her pieces, Walter remains most touched by one particular sale several years ago at a Clemson art festival. “A little kid, maybe eight years old, came up to me and wanted to buy a 5 x 7 abstract,” she said. “It was $10. I looked at his mother and she said, ‘He collects.’ It was his allowance. I about teared up. It was the greatest sale I ever made.”