Danielle Sweetnam is a Canadian collage artist based in Edmonton, Alberta. To compose her unique pieces, she exclusively uses found images in her work, which range from vintage books and magazines collected from a myriad of places.
All elements are hand-cut and then meticulously altered and assembled, resulting in an entirely new image that perfectly balances modernity with nostalgia. Danielle breathes new life to old materials that may have otherwise been forgotten.
How long have you worked with the medium of collage and how did you discover your passion for it?
I've been exploring the medium of collage for about three and a half years now and to be honest, it began as a happy accident!
I had taken a long hiatus from art and was feeling discouraged because I couldn't seem to find a medium or style that suited me. I thought maybe this art thing just wasn’t for me!
I just happened to come across some vintage magazines from a local antique store and purchased them (thinking they'd be great for my coffee table). When I got home I started flipping through them and thought, "this image might look interesting if it was superimposed onto this background" and I started cutting things out and playing around with the composition... and I've been obsessed ever since!
Where do you collect your materials?
One of the things I love about hand-cut collage as a medium is that finding the materials is like one big treasure hunt! When I first started creating collages I would spend hours scouring second hand stores and garage sales trying to find vintage books and magazines, but now that more people know about my art and the materials I use, I've been very fortunate to have people reach out to me with donations of old books and magazines... their trash is my treasure!
What is your background, educational, family, otherwise? How have these life experiences influenced your work? Do you have any specific memories that led to your formation as an artist?
I've never had any formal art education! I grew up in a family where art and music were a big part of everyday life— whether it was watching my grandma work on her newest painting, my mom creating edible masterpieces in the kitchen, or listening to my dad sing while strumming his guitar— I was always surrounded by creativity, and that definitely helped nurture and inspire my love for art.
You incorporate botanicals and natural imagery into nearly every piece you produce. In a modern COVID-heavy landscape, constantly shifting, where it feels environmental issues are being somewhat pushed to the wayside, do you feel your work addresses any one particular theme?
I wouldn't say that my work aims to address any specific themes and if there is a particular message, it changes from piece to piece. Sometimes I think it's important to create something that allows people to step back, take a break from all the noise and just look at something pretty for a moment. However, because of the second-hand books and magazines I use, I love that I am able to repurpose and recycle materials into something beautiful that may have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Eco-friendly art!
How do you feel your work is interpreted by your audience? What are some of your favourite interpretations or comments you've received?
I love creating a sense of nostalgia for a time or era that people may or may not have been a part of. I think the vintage materials in combination with the modern composition make it appealing for a wide age-range and audience.
My goal when creating a collage piece is to blend all elements as seamlessly as possible so that it's difficult to tell where the edges start and end. I know I've accomplished this when people ask if the piece is a painting or created digitally, and that's a great feeling!
What inspired the piece included in Kolya’s June box?
After a long winter and so much isolation, I feel like we are all more than ready to come out of hibernation! I wanted this piece to embody the natural beauty of botanicals and to act as a reminder that even when things seem uncertain or we feel ungrounded, we are always blooming.
What are you listening to while you’re in the creative zone?
Patsy Cline, Irma Thomas, David Byrne, Dolly Parton, John Prine, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday… the list goes on and on!
- Article from our Kolya Summer Box (2021) Magazine.