Amanda Jolley

Reflection on pattern and abstraction of the subconscious

Melinda Tidwell: Dynamic Design in Collage with Books

Guest Instructor: Melinda Tidwell
Dates: Fri, April 22 – Sun, April 24, 2022
Location: Studio Joy, 608 E 30th St, Kansas City MO
Cost: $450
Supply Fee: $50 (due at workshop)
Maximum: 16 students **FULL**

In this 3-day workshop, we seek to unravel the mysteries of great abstract composition using collage processes and the fascinating material of deconstructed old books. Collage is the ideal medium for exploring composition and I am loading our backpack with 3 powerful “technologies” to make your exploration fruitful.

“Perfectly Fine”, book parts on paper

Structures: Abstract composition is such an amorphous thing. I felt very drawn to it but very lost when I began this work, so I really began to look at visual structures that artists were using to organize the space. I needed a direction to head in and I will be offering a variety of these for you to explore in our 3 days together. Structures are illustrated with multiple variations to invite your creativity to use them strictly or loosely, as you prefer.

Design: While there are a handful of principles of design, some are more important than others —- we will start with the most powerful ones. These fundamental principles will strengthen your work and give you a foundation to build on.

Materials: If Structures and Design are the skeleton and muscles of our work, Materials is the beating heart. You will begin with a curated, pre-cut, massive pile of collage elements I have created. These collage elements are culled from hundreds of paperback and hardback covers and shaped with an eye to color, texture, shape and size. Beneath this visual feast is the more subtle context of history and meaning running through these fragments of our human society. You may want to use it or not, but this extra layer of “found materials” is definitely interesting. The idea is to dazzle your eyes and mind immediately, and to create an environment where combining and rearranging is easy and fun.

“Immortality”, paperback covers on paper

Structures and Design will evolve each day, but Materials will be the fun part. The first day I provide them, succeeding days you learn how to make your own as we delve deep into the possibilities of The Book As Material:

Paperback covers, made from printed card stock, supply a lot of color, typography, and words to play with. They are easy to cut, tear, crease and fold, sand, and even sew. For our purposes, old is more interesting than new, but it is particularly so for hardbacks. Old hardbacks are covered completely in fabric and, if they are quite old, can be beautifully printed. You will learn how to disassemble them, what bits to save, and the treasure of texture to be found in the dried adhesives and dangling threads.

Our end product will be a series of 9×12” book collages on paper. Each day includes an end of day critique to really look at what is working and brainstorm ways to make the work even stronger.

Student Work

Student Supply List:

  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife with new blade
  • Small Cutting surface mat
  • Metal edge ruler – for cutting
  • Plastic triangle 6” side – for tearing
  • Paintbrushes – 1/2”, 1” synthetic flats for gluing
  • Acrylic gloss medium, not gel (≈4 oz)
  • Watercolor paper, 9×12” 140lb, 3-5 per day
  • Paperback Books- 5+ covers
  • Hardback books- at least 2 cloth bound hardbacks


  • pen, pencils, erasers
  • Sandpaper -200
  • Sanding mask
  • needles and embroidery thread
Past Workshop

About your “old books” treasure hunt:

This can be one of the funnest parts of book collage. There are library book sales, thrift stores and in larger metropolitan areas recycled book sites or large book sale events. We want books that are old and worn. Stains from liquid, writing, sun bleaching, darkening aged paper—- all these things make for interesting collage elements. The traces of humanity are a thread we love to follow.

This hunt is particularly a historical expedition and you may find there are era’s and styles you are particularly drawn to. For me it was the atomic age and the 50’s. This time had just passed when I was growing up so I was very interested in it as an adult. You might like victorian, art deco, the thirties, cookbooks—- there are lots of ways to slice this huge pie. Pick books that attract you.

But: pay particular attention to color and value. These covers are your painting palette and for starters we want a good selection of darks. We will be working on white paper, so the lights are somewhat built in, but darks are not. Black is your good friend here—- it goes with every color. Pick colors you like, bright and saturated, dull and muted, warm/cool. Variety will give you a lot of latitude. But for me, for instance, I am not very into purple or blues so I skip over that. LOVE reds and red browns, pale greens, etc. Its also very possible to work just in black and white, where white is all the colors of aged papers.

If you already know how to disassemble books, feel free to just bring the covers.

“Age Cage”, book parts, paint, thread on hardcover book board

Lunch: 12:30-1:30
Fabulous restaurants are within walking distance or bring a sack lunch. A refrigerator and microwave are available.

Notice:  Janus, the studio cat, frequents Studio Joy and while she will not be joining our workshop, please bring any allergy medication if you may need it.

About Melinda:
IG: @melindatidwellart
FB: Melinda Tidwell, Artist

Melinda Tidwell is a mixed media artist with an interest in abstract composition, collage processes and discarded books. Melinda was raised in a small town in the Rocky Mountains of northern Utah. She attended university in Salt Lake City and graduated with honors in Mathematics, then went on to work as a Computer Graphics artist on films, commercials and titles in Los Angeles. As her career progressed the animation became less interesting and lighting and design became her specialty. It was a short journey from photoshop to analog collage and after all those years in the digital space, the realm of worn books was particularly enticing. Her lifelong interest in abstraction and visual language now finds expression in her work as a fine artist.

Tidwell’s work is shown in yearly gallery exhibitions, international art fairs, and is included in numerous private and corporate collections in the United States and abroad. Her work is currently represented by galleries in Seattle, Sun Valley, and Santa Fe.

Studio Joy Policies:

Studio Joy strives to be accessible and accommodate the needs of its students. The old building does not allow for ability to accommodate all physical needs, but accommodations can be made for table height, type of seating, and most sensory issues. Please communicate your requested accommodations when you register. Studio Joy is a fragrance free zone.

Do not book travel until confirmation is received that the workshop has reached its minimum required enrollment. Due to COVID, travel insurance is suggested for a worst case scenario cancellation. **Minimum requirement for this workshop has been met. Travel can be booked.**

Refund Requests:
Students will receive a full refund of tuition less related transaction fees if a request to withdraw is received by Amanda Jolley, Studio Joy no later than 30 days prior to the first day of the workshop. At 15 days prior to the workshop, 50% tuition less related transaction fees, and printing costs incurred by the instructor, will be refunded. Request to withdraw from a course less than 15 days prior to the first class session will not be eligible for refunds.

Students will receive a full refund of tuition if at 30 days prior to the workshop if the minimum required enrollment is not met.