How do my pieces all connect?

Looking at my body of work I found a few themes that crop up over and over. How do all my pieces connect? Media, imagery, and techniques.

This is a reader submitted question from the January survey. And I think it’s a great one! Chris asked “How do all my pieces connect?” I’ve been thinking about this question for awhile now and my impulse answer was that my work doesn’t connect. But as I thought about what I like and which pieces bring me a lot of joy, I realized there were some pretty strong through lines.

There are some broad categories that I can sort my work into. Some are bigger and have more wide ranging implications in my work because they are the very media I choose. Some of them are smaller, maybe more subtle categories. They seem to skip around in my body of work. Maybe it’s better to call these things recurring themes because I return to them again and again.

Books and journals

I love working in handmade journals and repurposed books, I’ve always been obsessed with books and paper. My first job as a teenager was working at the public library. And then I worked in my college library for work study. The librarian I worked for became my father-in-law after college. That means I’m partnered with a human who loves books as much or more than I do. Our house has a bit of a book theme to it. We once donated 500 books to the public library here in town and I couldn’t tell that we’d even made a dent in the house collection. When I say I love books, I’m for serious.

Looking back, it seems obvious I’d work with books. Creating them, arting in them, tearing them up to use as collage materials. Once I found art journaling, I never looked back. If there’s a thread that holds my work together, it could easily be books.


I like yellow. And pink. Sometimes magenta. Anything neon. Is there such a thing as too much black? I love the color of the sea water where we go to the beach. So if I can add the colors of that water, I get really excited. If I can just make it a whole rainbow, then it’s perfect.

I’ve always loved a lot of color and with maximum intensity. Usually if people comment on my work, it’s about the bright colors. I’d love to say I have a recognizable color palette. I’d love it even more if that color palette were a whole bunch of muted greens and ochers and mauves. While those colors are super soothing for me to look at, they bore the crap outta me to work with.

Much of my art making is about novelty seeking and color is a huge part of that novelty seeking behavior. Seeing different colors beside each other gives me a jolt of energy. Figuring out which colors paired together make that energy never loses it’s charm. I love all the colors. All of them. Asking me choose a subset is like asking me to pick only one of my kids. Never gonna happen.

Mixed media

It all started with collage. I’ve been cutting things out and gluing them together since I was little. I can look down at my hands and remember very keenly the green plastic encased handles on my lefty scissors. The metal blades with L E F T Y emgraved on them. It might as well have said M I S T Y because I was often the only kid in class with lefty scissors. And I adored them. Those scissors along with Elmer’s glue were my first tools. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t glue things together. Even when I didn’t have much of an art practice, I was still doing craft projects involving cutting things up and gluing them together.

When I embarked 10 years ago on my Make Something Every Day project, I started buying all kinds of tools and materials. I loved the variety I had access to and I loved how pulling all of it together gave me a lovely chaotic swirl. I was looking at Julie Balzer’s website the other day and she explains her art as “skating along the boundaries of aesthetic cacophony” and I felt that description in my bones. Mixed media allows me to explore that cacophony. It allows for so much texture and visual interest.

This piece called “A safe place” was auctioned off to benefit the National Children’s Advocacy Center in 2019.

So my work is probably never going to be only paint, or only collage, or only anything. It will be as many media and tools as I need to tell the story I’m trying to tell. Do I wish I had the patience to work in one media and master it? Yes, of course I do. But that isn’t interesting to me so I’m guessing it will never happen.

Insects and Birds

I love things that fly. Birds symbolize beauty and freedom to me. They are a reminder that the open sky is out there and that singing your song is always an option. Watching birds was a hobby my family developed during the pandemic. We’ve spent a lot of time watching from our kitchen window and working to identify our backyard visitors. I love to crochet birds but birds also show up in my art. (If you are a crocheter or knitter, find me on as mgranade.)

I love insects too. Beetles and butterflies. For many of the same reasons I love birds. I love how much detail can exist on something so small. Ladybugs congregate on my tulip poplar trees to eat the aphids that feast on the blooms and I can’t wait to see them every spring. I love the circle of life that insects remind me to pay attention to. I am in awe of the changes a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly.

Asemic writing

Asemic writing is writing without words or content. I talk about it a lot in my Art Av Club: Cy Twombly post because he was so well known for it. It’s another thing that really energizes me in my work, much in the same way playing with color does. I love creating things that look like words as a way to invite the viewer in for a closer look.

So these are the connectors for my work. These threads weave in and out daily, weekly, seasonally. So once you know them, they are easy to spot and follow through my work. What are your recurring themes or media? Which of those themes do you want to work on and develop? What have you been noodling on that you want to add to your personal themes? Share with me on social media or email me here.

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