I begin my collages by creating paper. I use any paint that I have available - acrylic, liquid watercolor, tempera - and occasionally add other materials - tissue paper, newspaper, etc. When I create paper, I like to use a sturdy watercolor paper as the base. I find that this surface holds up the best to the mess of liquid used during the process. I use many colors on each sheet of paper, but try to focus on creating a full page of a "color" that incorporates a variety of texture.
Once I have created paper, I find an image to work with. I generally work from photographic reference, however I also enjoy working from observation and memory. I do a rough pencil sketch of the subject before beginning the collage itself. None of the collages are smaller than 16X20 inches.
Dependent on the nature of the image, I will either start with the focal point or the background. I have found with many of the flowers, it is easier to fill in the background before building the flower. The paper I created previously is now torn or cut freehand to build the image. I do not use tracing paper or any other method to get the "right" shape for each added piece. I use my eye and my gut to gauge the size and shape needed for each area. Most of the pieces are the result of many layers of paper that come together to create the final image.
Initially, I saw the final works as pretty and simple, but when I think about the process - creating color (often in a chaotic manner), ripping, tearing and cutting that apart, and then reassembling it into a final image - I see that there is a great deal of my own inner struggle in each piece. I fight to make something beautiful out of the mess that I have created - both in my art and in my life. The physical process is rather child-like and free, but the emotional aspect of the process is far darker than what you may see.