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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Not What They Used to Be

I was looking through my art journal the other day, and as I reflected on how wonderful it is to create art around images from magazines, it brought an observation to mind – magazines just aren’t what they used to be!

Older magazines were a treasure trove of images‒garden scenes, animals, beautifully textured fabrics or wallpapers, landscapes, floral arrangements, garden gates, doorways, and on and on.

I especially remember the older Martha Stewart magazines with their articles about collecting. There were beautiful photographs of milk glass pieces, or old enamelware, and just about anything else one could imagine. And also, the spreads of different varieties of camellias, or roses, or hostas, and so on. The paper was such good quality‒coated and a nice, heavy weight. perfect for collage.

Even the everyday magazines had much to offer. The ads for dog and cat food in magazines like “Better Homes and Gardens” yielded photo after photo of appealing animals. And they had their florals and garden scenes to offer as well.

A friend gave me boxes of old magazines she’d been collecting over the years, and what a treasure those magazines were. Over many months, I went through each one of them, tearing out any image that I thought I might use for collage. I had so many, I eventually had to organizes them in some way. I bought 12” x 12” x 3” plastic boxes meant for storing scrapbook paper and organized my clippings into them. I have 7 of those boxes, labelled “background images,” “images,” “florals,” colors and textures-warm,” “colors and textures-cool,” “colors and textures-neutral,” and “animals.”

Going through those old magazines felt like a treasure hunt. Image after image would tickle my imagination. Where could I do with this one? Where would that one lead? What story could I build around this old castle? Magic! And I’m missing it.

With few exceptions, over the years magazines have gotten skinnier and skinnier and the paper quality has gone downhill. But also, the variety of images has narrowed dramatically. The magazines I used to find so rich in material for collage, now seem to focus almost entirely on interiors and food. Very disappointing, at least for me.

But, after all, I have a huge stash of wonderful images which, in themselves, could very well keep me busy for a lifetime. Still, once in a while, I poke around for old magazines. (Brief pause) In fact, I just went on Etsy and ordered five vintage Martha Stewart magazines.

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