Create a word collage and watch what happens…

Here is a simple activity creating an abstract art piece from words. I often use this process when I want to quickly integrate an emotional reaction to something; either a comfortable or uncomfortable emotion. It takes me about 30 – 40 minutes to complete. But I have been doing them for a while now!  

I like this activity because I can use words to express my emotions and when I am finished, it’s not obvious what I might have been working on, and it always seems to look pretty good!! But for me abstraction is a favourite form of art. 


Materials: Magazines, scissors, glue stick, A4 or A3 card for substrate, or a page in your journal. Today I used A3 card.

Step one. Think about how you are feeling in the moment, or another emotion that you would like explore.

Step two. Using images from magazine, choose a selection of words that resonate with your mood/emotion.

Step three. Create a poem, statement or list. Arrange your chosen words and phrases in a sequence that feels right to you in this moment.

Below are the words and phrases I chose to reflect what I was sensing and feeling in my body at the time. I know my words are resonant because when I repeated the words to myself, I felt the energy in my body reverberate; my chest felt like it became fuller, the emotion seemed give a little pulse, and my inner knowing became stronger. As you can see by my words, I was experiencing something quite ‘beautiful’, and it was distracting me from the moment. 


Step four. Contemplate your creation.
Notice how you are feeling now… what is happening in your body as you honour your particular mood and emotion? Is it changing in some way? Just notice… without judgment… notice… accept… allow it to be… to become…

Step five. Prepare you words and phrases, and cut through your words and phrases so they are unreadable and no longer make sense to a reader. Cut them anyway you wish to. Let go and take a risk; see what happens.

Just go with what feel right for you. When I made the abstract below, I noticed I felt a bit of tension as I cut into the words. The sensation was also underpinned by curiosity and anticipation.   At first I intended to cut my words into blocks of three or four letters, but then found I had started cutting them length-ways into long strips. It felt good… right.. so I continued! 

Step six. Create an abstract representation.

Allow your cut up words to lead the way. I always trust my instinct and ‘just start’ gluing the paper down ‘anywhere’, ‘somewhere’ or ‘wherever’. However, this time I felt drawn to lying the strips of paper in the same direction. I did look for more resonant words towards the end, as I had some gaps that felt uncomfortable. I cut the words into strips to ‘close the gaps’. This felt important for my process today.


When I had finished my abstract, I felt more settled in myself, which was my goal. Then, a bit of magic happened….

As participants arrived for my next art therapy group, one of them picked up a slip of paper from the floor, and gave it to me saying, ‘this could only be for you Robyn. Isn’t this what we do here, find clues to ourselves?’  I glued the slip to the bottom of my abstract.

Note for practitioners.
I often use this or another quick process to help me bracket my emotions and thinking. I find it helps me become clear and open for the next group or client.