Save for later & Share!

Marmalade Mat Board Collagraph print with Watercolor (available in my Etsy Shop)

Who’s Cheering in Your Corner?

Did you catch this blog post about how you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Do you have a squad of encouragers around you? Who do you call when creative block crushes your art-making mojo, or a wave of uncertainty washes over your painting or printmaking adventures? Beginning artists are more susceptible to self-doubt than seasoned, professional, gallery represented artists.

The Terrible Troll of Self Doubt

Self doubt is a universal cycle, so professionals struggle with it too. The difference, perhaps, is that the journeymen artist has plowed a steady, determined trough in his/her painting-path to just keep marching forward.  An experienced artist gets the work done, even if the troll-critic whispers disparaging predictions. If you’re making things with your hands, and you aren’t seasoned yet, and you’re a little squirmy about being a Beginner – at anything – can I urge you to develop a connection to an art cheerleader?

Cut pieces of construction paper getting glued to a sheet of matboard
Building a mat board collagraph plate with an additive method: adhering construction paper to the mat board

Behind the Bullhorn

When I decided – in my fourth decade – to throw myself into art full time, my friends were engineers, scientists and entertainment executives. I knew I had to find an Art Squad to exhibit with, and dive into All the Things related to a life in Art. Before I ever populated my teepee with the wise counsel of seasoned artists and a community of creatives like you? –  I had an art cheerleader in my Step Dad – Tom. Can I tell you a little about him, and why you should have a Tom too? If you’re new to being an artist, and you think you might hike a path towards showing, and maybe even selling your work, it’ll help to have someone behind the bullhorn, cheering for you.

Traveling the intracoastal waterways on Tom’s sailboat in 1989. He’s repairing things, and I’m talking, and that pretty much sums up our relationship. ?
More paper cutouts on construction paper, layered on a piece of mat board in the shape of a reclining woman and a cat in the window
Building layers of kid-grade construction paper on a sheet of matboard with Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish

Family, with Quotation Marks

Tom is not officially my step Dad. He had a brief relationship in the early 80’s with my mother, and my sister and I have adored him ever since. He has no children, and we had absent fathers, so the three of us fell into father/daughter rolls without ever consciously deciding to fill those voids for each other. He’s been a cheerleader from the sidelines –  supporting my sister’s decision to leave a two decade job to go to Radiology School. Tom supported my leap into becoming a full time artist at a juncture in my previous career by encouraging me to paint – a lot. He built me a road case to carry paintings across park lawns at art festivals. Then he drove 3 hours to attend an art festival and help me set up when I first started doing shows. He’s family.

Do you have an art cheerleader yet? They don’t have to be related to you in the traditional sense – but they have to believe in you when you don’t believe in you. Have you found your art cheerleader?

a photo of a man on a sailboat looking at paper charts, and a sheet of mat board with a glue-drawing of the same scene on it
A photo of Tom on his sailboat, looking at charts, and a glue collagraph of him underway
Plotting a Course, Glue Collagraph Print with Colored Pencil (Private Collection)

Oh, to be Awful

Being a beginner – at anything – when you’re an adult is uncomfortable. We’re grown ups, and we’re supposed to know stuff by now, right? Those of us who are risk-averse and older than thirty might not even remember what it was like to be awful at something. Is that you? An art cheerleader who believes in you ardently enough to douse your internal naysayers is like adding a superhero cape to your studio wardrobe.

Tell Me Something Good

When you’re slumped in your chair, over a studio floor strewn with crumbled ‘It’ll-Never-Work’ art, and you’re thinking you just don’t have what it takes to climb the art hill, a short conversation with someone who believes in you enough for ten other people can set your world upright again. This is the truth, and if you’ve never had that gift before, can I ask you to survey your peeps, and find someone? Or a whole group of someones? A single voice hoping, cheering, encouraging and believing in your art journey is a vitamin on an anemic day.

a hand holding an exacto knife, and cutting fine lines and pattern details out of the surface of a sheet of matboard
Building a mat board collagraph plate in a subtractive method: cutting the uppermost layer away with shallow incisions using an exacto knife

From a Father to his Son

You have made tremendous strides in art. Your drawing is strong, your colors are true. You have rid yourself of that limp Flandrinian-Lamothian line work of that gray, leaden color. There is no need to keep tormenting yourself, my dear Edgar; you have set an excellent course. Set your mind at rest, and through calm but steady and unabated work persevere along this path you have chosen. It is yours and nobody else’s. Work in peace, I tell you, stay on track, and rest assured that you will succeed in achieving great things. You have a bright future ahead of you; don’t lose heart, don’t worry yourself so.

~Written to Edgar Degas – from his father Auguste De Gas in the summer of 1858

a pair of latex gloves next to a mat board collagraph and some small jars of ink
The mat board plate, finished with carving, and sealed again with gloss medium and varnish, waiting for ink and the first proof print
inking a mat board collagraph plate
Inking the mat board collagraph plate, wiping the plate, printing the collagraph, and then adding color.
a hand holding a mat board collagraph, with some leftover ink in the grooves, near a cat sleeping curled in a donut bed, exactly like the image on the plate
The plate after 2-3 prints, and the model, who slept through the entire process

An older man, in a merchant marine cap, and a middle aged woman in a pink hoodie, sitting under a blue tarp in the cockpit of a sailboat.
Tom ❤️ on his boat in 2012. In a few months, we will have known each other for 40 years. It still stuns both of us to think about that.

Combing All the Lands

Search for an art cheerleader in local artist associations, so you can be someone’s art cheerleader too. You know – in expert terms – what sort of encouragement another artist needs. Reach out to artist friends interested in once a month art-days so you can share methods and cheer each other on. Attend exhibitions, and be chatty with other attendees. Read art magazines and blogs to search for artists who’s tone and meter sound encouraging so you can follow them, and absorb that Go-Gettum message. Take a weekend workshop and mingle with other attendees.

This is On You

Making art on a regular basis requires a certain amount of “driving”. You have to drive yourself to your table and grab your art supplies, and drive yourself to practice art often enough to get better at it. You have to drive yourself to finish that piece you started last summer. You have to show up for yourself with the same conviction you’d show for a friend. And drive yourself to find your version of my Tom.  Do you have someone in your corner, chanting You’ve Got This! and rooting for you?

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. If you’re new around here, sign up to get these posts as soon as they’re published in your inbox.

P.P.S. This is a great article, with some directives for Finding your Creative Muse by Leslie Owen Wilson.

Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

Save for later & Share!

14 thoughts on “Mat Board Collagraphs – and finding your Art Cheerleaders”

  1. This is a wonderful post and moving story. Thank you for sharing! Cheerleaders are essential 🙂

    Would you mind letting me know if the narrow purple tip on your bottle of glue is original to the bottle or an adaptation? It would really help move a project idea of mine along.

    All the best.

    1. Hi Maryellen, Thanks for your kind feedback. I hope your cheerleaders are waving creative pom poms in your direction this season. The product I use for glue collagraphs is this great glue from 3M: It has a tiny tip, and dries fast. It’s fun to experiment with too. 🙂

  2. Cristiane Marino

    Hi Belinda, what a wonderful story! Wow! What a treasure a person like him is in our life! Thank you for sharing it with us, so inspiring! And the tips about driving ourselves to the table to make art are great! I need them!

  3. Belinda, how lucky you are to have Tom in your life! Love this post and its message. You are an inspiration and I appreciate how much you share about your process. Now, I’ve got to make myself get back to it!

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Marie, and yes, please do Get Back to It! You just have to start, so you can remind yourself how much fun and peacefulness there is in the process. Make something soon!

  4. Too too cool! Can’t wait to see something printed….intrigued by your cat mat cut out…just ordinary mat board? Having a blast with prints (first timer) and love fine detail – that is magic. Shall rush off and see what sort of a mess i can make! Yes and yes re building collage prints or whatever. Have cutouts galore of my father as a kid/young man – they make smashing phrases or single subject matter in prints or (my final aim) a sort of life story…love the process too. New to you – thank YOU!

    1. Hi Liz! Welcome! Yes, just ordinary matboard. Here’s a more comprehensive post with a video tutorial: Feel free to share it with anyone you’re building collagraphs with. And life stories and portraits from old family photos sounds DIVINE! Carry on, my dear, and have so much fun!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story about Tom, Belinda! I have cheerleaders in my art teacher, fellow students, husband, children, and a few friends. I am learning to offer myself only healthy criticism–what did I do that I like and what would I do differently next time. Affirmations also help.

    1. Ahh, Susan, it’s so good that you have an entire squad of art cheerleaders! Good, good, good! And bravo on your affirmations, and your conviction for only healthy criticism. I hope that by now, you can already see your progress when you line up the work you’ve done over the last year. When we practice, the growth is phenomenal, and as long as we’re only comparing this week’s work to our own art from last week (and not anyone else’s), we’ll be duly encouraged. Great job!

  6. A corollary to finding that cheerleader is to completely separate oneself the naysayer/critic. Aside from my husband and children, I have only one person in my extended family with whom I now share art. The last time I showed my mother a piece, her criticism derailed me for weeks. Sometimes, sadly, trolls are not merely in our heads.

    1. That’s such a good point, my friend. I’m sorry you had that experience, and I applaud the necessary shield you’ve installed to carry on with your incredible work. I think we are – individually – the stewards of our own creative yearnings, and that may require shoring up, protecting and feeding all paths towards expression. Nicely done. I’ve admired your work for years. Keep making. It’s good to hear from you.

  7. Great topic for a post Brenda! My daughter & I are each other’s cheerleaders, as well as the kind friends and strangers who take time to comment when I post to Facebook or Instagram.
    And the troll of doubt…! That troll was on my shoulder on Saturday morning when I painted in oils for the first time in decades. All I heard was “you can’t do this” & “a waste of time and money on new paints”. I persevered and listened to an audio book instead. The result was a lovely English robin that I am very proud of.

    1. Carol! You tossed the troll of doubt off the bridge! Yayyyy! That’s SUCH a great story! And you’re working in a new medium! Bravo to your bravery, young lady! Thanks very much for your wonderful story, and rah-rah to you and your art cheerleader! Paint on!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *