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You should live your life as if it were a collage

August 26, 2011

A collage is an abstract form of art filled with photographs, pieces of paper, string, and/or matchsticks which are placed in juxtaposition and glued to a surface. A collage is a jumbled collection of impressions, events, and styles. A collage could be a collection of our happy memories that we have lived every day of our lives, too.
A puzzle is much like all of the experiences we have in life. Have you ever put a puzzle that comes inside a big cardboard box with thousands of pieces and a colored picture of that puzzle on the top together? At first, it seems like an impossible task. Each piece is supposed to fit together perfectly, and it tests our ingenuity and knowledge. There are Chinese puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and crossword puzzles. There is something mysterious and baffling about a puzzle. Everyday life is mysterious, too.
A kaleidoscope has mirrors and pieces of colored glass on paper which produce a constant changing pattern of colored reflection as one looks into a tube and rotates the optical toy.
This is usually a child’s favorite toy, but are we not like a child our whole lives? Why in the world do we ever want to grow up, anyway? While playing with a kaleidoscope you see a group of bright colors as they shift and change. Our life then becomes very colorful.
Living life to its fullest today is filled with our past memories and is like making a collage. Living life is a mysterious puzzlement every day. Living life can be so very colorful, and it is a kaleidoscope. With every breath we take, we ask ourselves, “What do I really want to do today? What did I really do today? Will I be proud someday of what I accomplished today?”
We are puzzled and suddenly realize that we may have pressing things that we have to do, should do, and ought to do. Things are laid out on a table for us to do. We have choices to make, like pieces of puzzles to choose. Each piece fits perfectly next to the other piece to make the puzzle complete, whole, and together in the end.
Living life every day is never perfect. We all “make a stab” at perfection, and to be honest perfection would be sort of boring. It’s the imperfect decisions and events that happen every day that make life exciting, fun, and funny.
Sometimes, when I am outside painting, a person I do not even know might just come up behind me and quietly say, “Hi.” I shall turn around to see who he is, and suddenly that human being becomes a part of my painting as I quickly sketch him into my landscape. All of sudden there is a real life on my canvas, which makes this painting sparkle, dazzle, and live. Looking for the unexpected imperfections makes life exciting.
A camera is a mechanical instrument sometimes placed on a tripod. A camera does not lie. A pencil and a brush are both handheld instruments. We are depending on our eyes to see, our hearts to feel, and our emotions and inspiration to become our artistic instruments. We become the creator along with a higher being--God--to let our emotions guide us to the completion of our painting.
I am a realistic artist. I work hard to let what I have painted look just like I saw it at that moment. My brushes are not mechanically perfect, but they give a painting a touch of freedom and then throw in a pinch of spontaneity to add jazz, action, and movement to my piece of artistic work. If a painting is too perfect, it looks too mechanically sketched and painted. It looks stiff and dead. A painting needs to look very active and alive, yet very realistic.
Let’s look at the collage of four paintings and one photograph. We’ll read this collage just like a book starting at the top of the page, reading to the left side of the painting. The canvas begins with “Carole’s Self Portrait” in watercolor painted in 1953 when I had just turned 13 years old. I had just entered a brand new world of becoming a teenager.
Wow. I had arrived. Two years from now I would be driving a car. My dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail with a few strands of hair falling down over my ears and out of my rubber band and red ribbons. See my green eyes, which are Scot/Irish eyes. Carole Elizabeth McReynolds is certainly a Scot/Irish name. I have a turned up nose, and I was wearing red lipstick for the first time. I put on my red blouse since red was and still is my favorite color in the world.
Look deeply into my teenaged green eyes, and see my expression. Eyes are mirrors to our soul. I am wondering and asking myself, “What will be my luck of the draw? Will I grow up? Will I graduate from Starkville High School? Will I graduate from the only college in the world, Mississippi State University? Will I have a career? Will I have a prince waiting for me, the princess? Will I marry? Will I have children? Will I someday have grandchildren? Will I face challenges? Will I have ups and downs? Will I win or lose? Will I cry and smile? Will I have the happiest of times and the saddest of times ahead of me as I grow up? Will it take bits and pieces of living to make my future colorful and beautiful?”
Today, I went out to our 100-year-old wrap-around porch to relive the memories of my own past. I sat in the old swing that my great-grandaddy Wiley Bartley Pearson built, both this old swing and this old home, “She’s a grand ‘ole lady”/The Pearson Place. I began swinging in the white wooden swing up and down using my feet as its only motor.
Suddenly I heard the swing squeaking. It was sweet music to my ears. My daddy, John Andrew McReynolds, II used to sing in his monotone voice “In the Sweet Bye and Bye” as we would swing for hours together. I almost blocked out the sounds of the thousands of cars, trucks, and buses passing by on our busy Louisville Street, which is one of the most traveled streets in Starkville.
As I sat there just a-swinging, I remembered that this swing was swung in by Mama, Elizabeth Jeannette Lewis McReynolds, and Daddy as they used to swing in it courting back in the 1930s. They married here in this home in a beautiful home wedding on December 22, 1935.
I was a baby in the early 1940’s. In the 1950’s I became a teenager, so I was definitely a child of the 50s, those golden rock-and-roll Elvis Presley years. I was a bride and a mama in the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1980s, we as a family of five, two sons ages 13 and 7 and a 2 year old daughter spent six months in a third-world country, The Philippine Islands, going and coming two different routes circling the world and seeing many countries in Europe. Frank was on loan from The United States Department Of Agriculture to the International Rice Research Institute to design and build an Insect Rearing Laboratory. IRRI was owned and operated by the Ford and Rockefellow Foundation.
In the 1990s I was a grandmother - Granny. In the 2000s I suddenly had a new name around town, Miss Carole, out of deep respect, aging into a mature older lady. “The Hat Lady” was tacked on to my name, too. I love all kinds of hats, and don’t go out of my back screen door hearing that certain wonderful sound of a Mississippi screen door slam without a hat on my head.
What do we do most of the time, anyway? We try to find and rediscover ourselves every day we live, don’t we? Do we look for success? When I was a senior in Starkville High School in 1960, I was elected by my peers to our Hall of Fame -The Who’s Who of SHS - as “The Girl Most Likely To Succeed. Now, I wonder, “Did I succeed or did I fail?” I don’t know.
I gave birth to three children, Frank, Jr. age 44, McReynolds, age 37, and Elizabeth, age 32. Along with Frank, my sweet husband of 47 years and daddy to our children sent all three children to Mississippi State University debt-free as our last big gift to each one of them. We have since had three weddings, six grandchildren, (4 girls and 2 boys), and a recent Sacrament of Baptismal for our latest granddaughter, who is only 4 months old.
Now we stroll the new baby, play with and enjoy these grandchildren, take long walks and hikes around town and campus. We peddle our bikes and paddle our green canoe at the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, return to high school and college reunions, and think we look the youngest of all our old classmates, attend MSU sporting events and yell to the top of our lungs. “We got some Dawgs up in here, woof, woof.”
Isn’t it funny that the most fun we have in life are the simple things? Life everyday takes twists and turns. We have to make every day a great day. Did I succeed? I’ll never really know, will I? Who is my judge, and who cares, anyway? Success is buried privately deep inside your own heart, agree? I do know that my greatest happiness comes from my own imagination, inspiration, and creation of a painting.
My lasting happiness comes from knowing that I dearly loved my parents, grandmothers (my two grandfathers died before I was born), my only brother, Johnny McReynolds, III, my caring and encouraging husband, Frank, and my three children and six grandchildren. Family is my golden treasure.
Let’s read the second painting. It is beside my self-portrait, framed in a pretty cobalt blue mat and gold frame. It is resting on a black table easel on a tiny round white metal table. This is a “Metal Artist Self Portrait” of the smaller iron metal artist made out of nuts, screws, and bolts. She is adorable, and I found her at an art flea market years ago. I had to purchase and bring her home with me. She and the self portrait look like mirror images of each other. See their easels, hats, legs, and red/bronze copper metal palettes, and one metal brush. I named her, “Cutie Pie.”
Find the second “Cutie Pie,” the main character in the painting. At the end of the table sits a black felt derby hat filled with arty stuff. Get a magnifying glass out, and discover a third metal artist wrapped with colorful duct tape around her legs and body to be her arty clothes as she paints on her easel with her metal brush and metal palette. She is named “Tiny Cutie Pie” and lives pinned on the hat. There are three nuts, screws, and bolts metal artists. Odd numbers are so appealing to the eye.
The third smaller painting is below my self-portrait on the left. It is one single white velvet Magnolia flower, two glossy green leaves, and a hint of a magnolia bud all resting in an old, light brown antique wooden dough bowl borrowed from Mama’s kitchen.
The fourth painting is titled, “Ducks At Dusk” flying over Bluff Lake at the National Noxubee Wildlife Refuge as the orange, yellow, mixed with light gray/blue sky setting sun colors the sky and the ducks and pine, cypress, and hardwood trees become silhouettes across the sky above the lake for the dark night ahead. The ducks are searching for a place to roost, rest and sleep for the night. Can you hear their honking?
I found my own refuge that late afternoon down at the refuge. As I rode out there on the Oktoc Road, I enjoyed seeing the countryside and the cows grazing in the pastures. It was peaceful. That day I rediscovered peace, tranquility, and refuge from my busy world. The silent nature except the honking of the ducks above me became my treasured spot to get away from the ordinary life I had left behind for just a few hours. When darkness covered this world, I returned back home to roost for the night.
The fifth collage is a photograph of the early morning sun rays coming across the back of my straw hat and across my canvas as I began my glorious day of sketching a field of black-eyed susans in this hidden field out on Sturgis/Maben Road. This is a side view of me, and you will find me lost in a world of painting.
Look at the three paintbrushes between the Magnolia and this fifth collage. One brush is green, picking up the same color in the umbrella of red, green, and yellow. One brush is bright red, and one brush is black They are dripping paint all over the middle of the collage down to the end of the collage. The paint really begins on top of the hat on the table. See all the messy, dripping paint.
Now glance back at the whole collage as one painting itself. See all the red/oranges as they make a “X” across the entire collage. See the red/orange in “Carole’s Self Portrait”, “Ducks at Dusk,” and the artist smock I am wearing. Look at the “X” of all the whites I used. The white of the water color paper, of the second “Cutie Pie” metal artist, the white metal round table, the white canvas and white sun rays hitting the white canvas of my sketching the sunflower field, and the white velvet Magnolia painting.
Find the “X” of the black behind the paintings, the black Derby hat, and the black shadows across the wicker basket of the photograph. The colorful brushes in this collage let you, know that you have entered my special world of sketching and painting. I call it my “bubble world.” I go into this world to think, create, and block out the distractions of everything around me. I was working so hard one day on the MSU campus painting the statue of Stephen D. Lee on the Drill Field that my son, McReynolds found me, and for a split second, I did not even recognize my own son. I was lost in my own world. McReynolds reminds me of this experience often: “Mama did not even know me that day.”
This world of ours is filled with things to love, capture, and place forever on my canvas. The people become my portraits, the places become my landscapes, and the everything else becomes my still life subjects. I am most grateful and appreciative to God for the talent to a paint imperfect paintings with my right hand.
Sometimes I spend 17 hours non-stop sketching first a fine sketch, losing some of the sketch within the paint itself, and find myself exhausted when I sign my name and date the finished painting. I fall asleep quickly, getting a good night’s sleep, and hit the road again the next morning to begin my creation all over again of a face, place, or thing.
Every day is a slice of life on a canvas. We are making a collage of our lives so we have memories of today and memories of our past. Every day becomes a puzzle. We try to fit all the pieces of life together perfectly, but we fail. Some of the pieces just quite don’t fit. Our days would be boring if our pieces were a perfect fit.
Life is imperfect. Every day can be a kaleidoscope. Enjoy to the fullest seeing our days, nights, and our whole world in living brightly colored glass. Look at the colors of the four seasons as they shift, change, and move. Look through a kaleidoscope, and live colorfully.
Each one of us has a lot of living to do. Be yourself, do your thing that you love most in this world. Laugh until your tummy hurts. Promise to be happy because we only have this one life to live to its very fullest. Make your collage without any regrets.

Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Contact her at

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