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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: Imagination bubbles at Sawdust

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

— Henry David Thoreau

I love the imagination! But my sense of it got a wonderful surprise this past weekend.


The Imagination Celebration is underway in Orange County. The countywide festival held each spring is in its 24th year and will continue through May 17. The arts festival has as its goal to build a creative community and toward that end this year has more than 100 free or affordable events for families in 31 Orange County cities.

It was my privilege to be a part of this year’s festival at an event April 18 at the Sawdust Art Festival grounds. This was the first year that the Sawdust group has participated. Many of the summer and winter show artists volunteered their time to make this event a success. And a success it was!

Large bubbles floated on the air along with joyful voices as the breezes blew through the stately eucalyptus trees of the Sawdust Festival grounds. There was little time for one of my favorite pastimes — watching — as the collage booth where I was teaching was busy from the very start as children showed up to try their hand at the many activities offered.

And then Noah showed up. He climbed up on a stool right in front of me. He seemed sure and uncertain at once at he glanced around to see just what was being offered him. With a smile, I said hello and asked him to pick from the many colored base sheets we had.


“I can’t,” he said, in mild frustration, turning to his mother.

“Well, close your eyes and I’ll fan them out; you just take one.”

This choice-free option seemed agreeable to Noah. Except, the one he picked randomly was a bright fluorescent pink. His face fell.

“We’ll do it again,” I said.

This time his hand found a cream-colored piece. He smiled and nodded.

Base piece chosen, I showed Noah the options for style of collage and demonstrated using acrylic medium to glue pieces down. Then, I placed a bin filled with a variety of papers and other bits — a potpourri of color and texture and pattern and image — in front of him.

“Dig in. Choose any you want. You can tear them or cut them smaller…,” he was told.

Tentatively, Noah began choosing — picking pieces and then putting them back. He pulled a predominantly brown piece of origami paper from the bin. This was a small piece left after I had earlier torn the origami square crosswise and then crosswise again several times.


Digging around, Noah came up with another piece of this same paper, then another. Painstakingly, he gathered enough pieces to completely cover his base sheet.

Once Noah had reconstituted the origami paper, he had the task of figuring how to put the “glue” under it. After watching him struggle, I offered my hands to hold his pieces in place as he lifted the edges, insinuating the paintbrush loaded with acrylic medium underneath.

When all the pieces were attached he leaned back slightly to view his creation. A tilt of his head signaled another reach into the bin. He pulled out a piece of red plastic netting.

Moving the red piece around, he sought the perfect place for it. There! Reaching back into the bin and rummaging around, he pulled out yet another piece of the red. This continued and it was clear Noah intended to again cover the entire surface.

The helping hands process was repeated and “glue” was applied before hanging the piece to dry while Noah went off to other activities with his mom and sister, Piper. I shook my head slightly, marveling at the different forms creation sometimes takes.

Two hours later, I again spotted the family group headed our way. Noah approached and asked for his collage piece. “Do you know which it is?” I asked. Noah nodded and pointed. I turned to where he pointed, held up my hands to his collage, and turned back with a questioning look as if to ask if this was in fact the right one.

Noah had a beaming smile on his face. Without taking his eyes from the magnificence of his creation, he said to his mother, with joyful excitement in his voice, “It turned out just perfect!” His mother smiled broadly and my own heart gave a small leap. It was just perfect, as was he.

Noah made my day by the simple act of asserting his own small conceptual presence into the mix of the springtime celebration. This may have been the first time the Sawdust Art Festival has participated in the annual Imagination Celebration. If my experience was any indication, it won’t be the last.


Make sure you go online to www.ocimagination to see what activities there may be to enjoy over the next month.

“Imagination rules the world.”

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, and creative coach exploring and enjoying the many mysteries of life in the moment. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (714) 745-9973