About Donna Dodson

April 8, 2014

I visited the Fountain Art Fair opening day (3/7/14). It’s one of many mega-shows during NY Armory Week in March each year.

Fountain Art Fair was founded in 2006 and is also the site of the original historic Armory show (1913), at the downtown 69th Regiment Armory, Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, NYC.


In my opinion, one of the best, and most interesting art installations at Fountain was the two-person booth with wood sculpture by Donna Dodson and Stephan Fowlkes. This is the 3rd year the artists showed together at Fountain.


booth installation at Fountain Art Fair 2014

booth installation at Fountain Art Fair 2014

The image above is my photo (a partial view) of their booth this year. Dodson’s works are the sculpture on pedestals. Fowlkes’ works are the large geometric wood crosses on the wall behind Dodson’s sculpture on pedestals. I thought their installation was one of the best because it showed two complimentary approaches to wood and mixed media.  Concept and craft were exquisite – combining art works that are both timeless and contemporary.


I stopped and talked to Donna about her work. Dodson carves wood sculpture and casts small sculpture (variations) in bronze, glass and as 3D computer prints.


Fowlkes works with reclaimed lath, plywood and mixed media.


See more work by Donna Dodson here. See more work by Stephan Fowlkes here. See more information about Fountain Art Fair here. Read the review SelavySays: Donna Dodson here.


Donna Dodson at Cusco, Peru residency

Donna Dodson at Cusco, Peru residency

The image above is Donna Dodson at a recent residency in Cusco, Peru. The sculpture you see is still a work in progress. Read about the residency here.

Dodson, Asian Elephant, wood, paint (2007)

Dodson, Asian Elephant, wood, paint (2007)

The image above is titled Asian Elephant, 32” tall, wood, paint (2007). See it facing left in the first photo above showing Dodson’s sculpture on pedestals. Notice the beautiful grain in the wood and the curve of her shoulders and soft breasts. Notice this female elephant has no tusks. And see her painted black gloves and golden blond hair that crowns her head. How lovely.

Dodson, Pregnant Kangaroo, wood, paint (2006)

Dodson, Pregnant Kangaroo, wood, paint (2006)

The image above is titled Pregnant Kangaroo, 29” tall, wood, paint (2006). See it facing right in the first photo of sculpture on pedestals. Notice the wood grain shows through the blue-grey paint of her jumper dress. She is in sandals and looks ready to “pop.”

Dodson, Pregnant Kangaroo, 3D Computer Print (2010)

Dodson, Pregnant Kangaroo, 3D Computer Print (2010)

The image above is a small version of Pregnant Kangaroo, a 3D computer print on a marble pedestal, 6” tall, edition of 10 (2010).


Dodson's Small sculpture on Pedestals at Fountain 2014

Dodson’s Small sculpture on Pedestals at Fountain 2014

The image above is my photo of Dodson’s small bronze, glass and 3D computer printed sculptures on pedestals seen at Fountain this year. Notice the works on paper hanging on the wall above the small sculptures. Dodson explores her imagery in many different media, including drawing and printmaking.


I told Dodson the two small white sculptures appeal to me, and remind me of ancient marble Cycladic art that I’ve seen at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.  I love the scale Dodson has created for these works. The size is so appealing. The image is so Classic. I especially love the pink glass sculpture seen on the right side. Dodson says her sculpture is inspired by African art and Native American totems.


I asked her to tell me how she works with wood. She said she learned the ancient art of wood carving by apprenticing with a master carver and has worked with wood since 1996. She currently has two series of carved wood sculpture titled Elephant Parade and Flock Together.


Elephant Parade includes 16 different interpretations of an elephant- headed female form. Dodson says the elephant represents power, sensitivity, strength and wisdom, and these elephants are feminine archetypes – goddess figures. The Hindu elephant god Ganesh inspires her work. Ganesh is a male deity. All of Dodson’s carved sculptures are female.

Dodson, Elephant Princess, wood,, pigment, paint (2008)

Dodson, Elephant Princess, wood,, pigment, paint (2008)

The image above is titled Elephant Princess, 20” tall, wood, pigment, paint (2008). Notice the tusks are painted a delicate red.

I asked Dodson to tell me about the wood she uses and where she gets it. She works with hardwoods and uses logs of osage orange from her grandfather’s farm in Illinois.


She says her friends usually bring her wood that has been cut down, or fallen in storms, and people contact her who are tearing down old houses, and ask if she can use or recycle old wood. Most of her figures are carved from a single piece of wood. She liberates the figure from the log and often adds color to carved sections to indicate eyes, gloves, tusks, beaks, or other anatomical elements.


She sculpts with a chainsaw, works with a belt sander, and uses chisels, rasps and files. Sculpture gets a smooth surface with sandpaper and is sometimes embellished with paint or pigment and then finished in varnish and wax.


The large sculptures range from one to four feet tall and one to two feet in diameter.


I asked Dodson about the small works on pedestals.


She said the small 3D prints, bronzes and glass castings seen on the pedestals at the Fair were made from image files of the Elephant Princess, Asian Elephant, Pregnant Kangaroo, and another Striding Rhino piece, that is sold.

Dodson, Elephant Princess, 3D Computer Print (2010)

Dodson, Elephant Princess, 3D Computer Print (2010)

The small white sculpture above is titled Elephant Princess. It’s a 3D computer print on marble base. Limited edition of 10. 6” tall (2010).

Dodson explained her 3D printing and casting process: She brings the large wood sculptures to a lab that scans each piece to create a 3D digital image file. The lab manipulates the file and creates a 3D print that becomes her 6″ white miniature sculpture.


For her cast bronze and glass pieces, Dodson makes a two-part rubber mold from the 3D prints, pours in waxes, and casts small sculpture from them.


She said she was excited to work with bronze and stone, and 3D computer prints. It gave her the opportunity to work in small scale and create variations in other media. My favorite of all the small works is the pink glass sculpture- and the way it plays with light.


2 More Elephants on Parade


Dodson, Elephant Matador, wood, pigment, paint (2008)

Dodson, Elephant Matador, wood, pigment, paint (2008)


The image above is titled Elephant Matador, 21” tall, wood, pigment, paint (2008). Notice she has white tusks and is wearing red gloves. This slim, solemn carved wood sculpture stands on a black base.

Dodson, Elephant Clown, wood, pigment, paint (2009)

Dodson, Elephant Clown, wood, pigment, paint (2009)

The image above is titled Elephant Clown, 26” tall, wood, pigment, paint (2009). Notice the swirling wood grain in her curled, carved headdress.


Dodson, Baby Bringer, styrofoam, cement, paint (2011)

Dodson, Baby Bringer, styrofoam, cement, paint (2011)

Supersize Outdoor Sculpture

The image above is a large outdoor sculpture titled Baby Bringer (12’ tall) that is sited in Switzerland. Completed in 2011, it’s Dodson’s largest sculpture to date and is constructed with Styrofoam, cement and paint. Dodson created Baby Bringer at the Verbier 3D Foundation’s Artist Residency and Sculpture Park in the Swiss Alps. Read more about her residency here.


Dodson currently has work in a group show called Visions/Visiones curated by Nora Valdez with members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery and notable Peruvian Artists at the Museo Convento Santo Domingo Qorikancha in Cusco Peru.

On April 30, 2014 Dodson will have her work at the ISC (International Sculpture Center) sale during the ISC Gala in NYC. The ceremony will present Judy Pfaff and Ursula Von Rydingsvaard with lifetime achievement awards. Read more here.


Dodson has work in two current shows in MA: A Celebration of Woodcarving from Students of Joseph Wheelwright 1980 – 2014, at ARC in Peabody, and in the windows of Boston Sculptors Gallery.

Her work will be included in the 10th Biennial Sculpture Invitational at Krasi Art Center in MI. Read more here.

May 3, Dodson will debut at the Rice Polak Gallery, Provincetown, MA, in a group show of all gallery artists.  Read more here.

Her solo show, Silent Scream, at the Boston Sculptors Gallery is scheduled for May/June 2014. Read more here.

In June she will participate in a three person show at the Essex Art Center in Lawrence MA.

In July, she has a solo show at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland VT.


Read comments Dodson writes each month about upcoming exhibitions and see more of her work here.


It was my pleasure to meet Donna Dodson and Stephan Fowlkes at the Fountain Art Fair 2014. I thank Donna for sharing comments about her work and her media and for sharing the image files seen here. I look forward to reading her blog and seeing more of her work again in person. She has an incredible exhibition itinerary coming up. If you are in MA, VT or MI, try to see her work in person.




Sunday, March 9, 2014 was the closing day for contemporary and modern art at Armory Week in NYC.

My previous post included images and comments about the opening night for the Hullaballoo Collective at FOUNTAIN (downtown Armory), including links from hyperallergic.com to information about all the Armory Week fairs.

Fountain is located at the 69th Regiment Armory, 25 Street and Lexington Avenue – it’s the site of the original 1913 Armory show.

I didn’t get to see all the fairs but did get to the uptown Armory show at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, the site for the  ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America). Downtown Armory includes emerging artists. Uptown Armory includes national galleries who are ADAA members. Read about the ADAA here.

In upcoming blogs, I plan to write about 2 wonderful artists I met at FOUNTAIN (downtown Armory show), and the galleries I visited and fabulous collage art works I saw at ADAA (uptown Armory show). FYI: I saw 3 Romare Bearden collages at 3 different galleries at the ADAA show. Each one was a museum quality masterwork.

Sunday March 9, 2014

I arrived at Fountain Sunday about 4 pm and saw a crowded booth, crammed with artists and visitors looking at the art and talking in animated conversation.

Bernard Klevickas at Hullaballoo 2014

Bernard Klevickas at Hullaballoo 2014

This image above – the smiling man – is Bernard Klevickas. He organized the Hullaballoo Collective show at Fountain. I say he is the main person responsible for its success. The image is courtesy of Linda Tharp.

This is not the first show for Hullaballoo Collective at FOUNTAIN, and Bernard Klevickas is the point man, the person responsible for initiating and coordinating the project each time. Everyone in the Collective is  grateful for his skill, patience and dedication. We applaud him and thank everyone who helped with the show – the curator and people who worked long hours to hang, label, attend and promote the exhibition.

I didn’t get a good picture of Bernard standing next to his sculpture, so didn’t include my photo here. What you see is a group photo with Bernard taken by Linda Tharp.

Linda’s image above shows Bernard looking relaxed with artists and guests in the booth at Fountain. Notice his work on the wall behind his shoulder. It’s the small reflective metal sculpture in the far corner.

See even better images of Bernard’s sculpture here, including larger works – all shiny, contemporary metal and abstract.


What is Salon Style? It’s a way to hang art, used typically for large group exhibitions where the works are arranged side by side and hung one on top of the other. Salon style dates back to the year 1670 and the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (they crammed in student  work in order to include it all). It had never been done before that time. The other way to hang art is call museum style.

At Hullaballoo, the curator mixed and matched two-dimensional works in all different media (paintings, prints, photos, collage, mixed media) with three- dimensional sculpture in all media, and also included floor installation with free-standing sculpture and works on pedestals. The booths had tall walls and generous space so a lot of work could be included.

closing day Hullaballoo Collective 2014

closing day Hullaballoo Collective 2014

In the image above you see a view from the Hullaballoo booth to booths beyond. Notice the art is all colorful and contemporary, all hung salon style. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp. See Linda’s work here.

Installation is an art

In my previous blog, I wrote that Marion Callis curated the installation this year, and credited her with an amazing job – placing so many works in the space in a way that was visually pleasing to everyone (artists and guests). I believe installation is an art form. People who do it well have a unique talent.

Hullaballoo Collective group photo

Hullaballoo Collective group photo

The image above shows almost everyone in a group photo at the end of the day. Image courtesy of Vincent Tsao.

Hullaballoo Collective taking down the show

Hullaballoo Collective taking down the show

The image above shows the Hullaballoo booth after the Armory show closed. Artists started to dismantle the exhibition. Notice that many works are removed from walls and pedestals, and artists are preparing to wrap their works to take home. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.

Hullaballoo Collective dismantling the show

Hullaballoo Collective dismantling the show

The image above is another view of the booth and shows Hullaballoo artists wrapping their art as the installation is taken down late Sunday afternoon. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.

Leaving the Armory show

Leaving the Armory show

The image above shows artists carrying their work from the Armory to the street after the show closed. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.

I love all the architectural details in this photo. Notice the bronze number 69 in the floor of the entry to the 69th Regiment Armory and notice the great double doors into the great hallway. How vintage!


I didn’t get to the Pier 92 and Pier 94 Armory shows. They were huge. One was modern art. One was contemporary art.

I decided to go to the uptown ADAA show and thought it was fabulous, for two reasons –  I saw works by great artists, many not seen by the public before – and I got to speak with gallery representatives about the artists and the works. Most of the galleries at ADAA show are located in NYC and I plan to visit them more often.

Please tell me if you attended the Armory shows at Piers 92 and 94, and include comments about what you liked and what you saw.

Hullaballoo Collective at the Fountain Art Fair, NYC – March 7, 8, 9, 2014

I attended the opening reception March 7th at FOUNTAIN – at 68 Lexington Ave., NYC at 25th Street. I am pleased to show my work again with the Hullaballoo Collective at the 69th Regiment Armory where the first ever Armory show took place in 1913.

Art is Everywhere in NYC

The review at hyperallergic.com, says FOUNTAIN is the go-to Armory Week show if you want to see and buy art that’s more alternative or DIY, less brand-name (and less expensive) than the other Armory shows in NYC. Read it here.

Cultural omnivores – hyperallergic.com prepared Art RX: Your Concise Guide to Armory Week and the Whitney Biennial (March 4, 2014). Armory Week is New York City’s answer to Art Basel Miami Beach in FL in December. Read it here.

Nancy Nikkal and curator Marion Callis

Nancy Nikkal and curator Marion Callis

Hullaballoo Collective had a curator manage the art installation at Fountain Art Fair.

In the image above I am talking with Marion Callis (I am on the left; she is on the right). She’s an independent curator and representative for emerging and established artists. Callis is responsible for the way the works were placed. Over 75 artists are represented and we think she did a brilliant job. You can read more about Marion Callis here.

Find Hullaballoo in facing booths C-104 and C-204. Get information here.

Fountain hours are:
Friday, March 7th
12 – 7pm: VIP/Press Preview (Open to the public)
7pm – Midnight: Opening Night Reception
Music Lineup: DJ Nick Zinner

Saturday, March 8
12 – 7pm: Open to the public
7pm – Midnight: Saturday Night Event
Music Lineup : THE DEEP!

Sunday, March 9
12 – 5pm : Open to the Public

Opening Night Reception

We were pleased the opening reception drew large crowds through the night – so many people, that you could barely see the works by individual artists (a good thing at an opening). You had to walk up close to see the work you liked.

sculpture and paintings at the reception

sculpture and paintings at the reception

When the crowds dispersed a little, I took the image above. It shows Marion Callis, our curator, with artist Adrienne Moumin. My eye was drawn to the four bright abstract sculptures in primary colors and the 3 geometric paintings hung vertically, showing delicious primary and secondary colors in wavy horizontal and diagonal stripes. Notice how shapes and colors compliment each other as you look through the sculpture on pedestals to  the wall-mounted works from this vantage point. The sculptures are by Edwin Salmon. The colorful paintings are by Richard Timperio.

Nancy Nikkal, DNA, collage

Nancy Nikkal, DNA, collage

The image above is my collage, titled DNA, paper and acrylic paint, 29×22 inches. The image below is the Fountain installation view and shows how the collage is placed vertically in a group with other art works in the Hullaballoo Collective.

art by the Hullaballoo Collective

art by the Hullaballoo Collective

The image below shows two whimsical sculptures by Suenghwui Koo with pigs and a cat. One is titled No Place To Go. The other is titled Lamborghini.  Notice the tall ladder. I took the photo before the Fair opened.

Hullaballoo installation in progress

Hullaballoo installation in progress

About the Hullaballoo Collective

Our press release says “We are artists who work in all media. We make art and want to share it with you, and are thrilled to return to the Fountain Art Fair at the 69th Regiment Armory.”

Final Thoughts

It’s exciting to exhibit in a large group show in NYC. I wish I included more images from the installation, and named artists in my images.

Artists in the Hullaballoo Collective Fountain 2014 show include:

Ellen Alt / Sharon Appel / Marianne Barcellona / Beth Barry / Fran Beallor / Richard Brachman / Megan Sirianni Brand / Jo-Ann Brody / Miriam Brumer / Cecile Brunswick / Gülsen Calik / Kathleen Casey / Pamela Casper / Steven Ceraso / Ursula Clark / Barbara Coleman / Yvette Cohen / James P. Dalglish / Colleen Deery / John N. Erianne / Patricia Fabricant / Robin Feld / Karen Fitzgerald / Elaine Forrest / Jerome Forsans / Lynne Friedman / Robin Gaynes-Bachman / Irene Gennaro / Judy Glasser / Beth Giacummo / Peggi Pugh Gottlieb / Norma Greenwood / Aimee Hertog / Eileen Hoffman / Sandra Indig / Suejin Jo / Robin M. Jordan / Bernard Klevickas / Seunghwui Koo / Melissa Kraft / Bernice Sokol Kramer / Enhanced Art Resources / Thea Lanzisero / Iris Lavy / Donna Levinstone / Liz-N-Val / Robert Lobe / Patrick McEvoy / Gammy Miller / Bascha Mon / Sharon Moreau / Adrienne Moumin / Helene Mukhtar / Nancy Egol Nikkal / Walter O’Neill / Nancy Oliveri / Fleur Palau / Sergey Pchelintsev / Cade Pemberton / Arthur Polendo / Jeffrey Allen Price / Elisa Pritzker / Jacqueline Sferra Rada / Julia Rooney / Edwin Salmon / Ann Sgarlata / Joyce Silver / Regina Silvers / Mike Sorgatz / Audrey Stone / Cigdem Tankut / Linda Tharp / Richard Timperio / Patrick Todd / Shira Toren / Marilyn Walter

Your comments are always welcome

I am always pleased to receive comments and questions on the blogs I write, especially when they require me to dig deeper and locate information and learn something new in the process.

Duh Chuen Wang Priefnitz commented on the Dec. 18, 2013 post Robert Motherwell and Contemporary Collage, and asked about Motherwell using Japanese rice paper in his collage practice.

It’s true. Motherwell incorporated Japanese rice papers into his collages.

I re-read the exhibition catalog Robert Motherwell Early Collages, especially the chapter by Jeffrey Warda on papers and materials that Motherwell used in the 1940s (pp 55-67) and learned the Japanese papers were called unryu. See an image of the paper below.

Japanese Unryu Paper

Japanese Unryu Paper

Unryu is one of the most popular papers from Japan, and is commonly referred to as mulberry paper. It contains strands of fiber that are added to the sheet to create contrast and texture. Tear Unryu Paper in any shape you desire and you create a soft, feathered edge. The name translates as “dragon paper” and refers to the long fiber swirls that are unpulped, unbeaten kozo fibers. Unryu paper can be tissue thin or thick enough to support a print. The long fibers are typically made of kozo, but can be gampi or hemp. See what the papers look like at NY Central Art Supply.

Motherwell Modified Collage Papers

Jeffrey Warda wrote Motherwell modified his papers with ink and paint – always exploring how the papers changed as he applied new paint or ink layers. Unryu is especially strong and can withstand manipulation with water media.

It made me think about what I saw at the exhibition, and how the surface of the collage papers were wavy and the edges were irregular.

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

My favorite Motherwell collage (seen above) is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).  It includes gouache, ink, oil and pasted German decorative paper, colored paper, Japanese paper and wood veneer on paperboard (size: 71.7 x 91.1 cm – 28 x 35 7/8 inches), collection, the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA.

Please notice how Motherwell created a geometric background with rectangles and circles in layers of paint in dusty blue, faded pink. creamy white and yellow with 2 abstract black stick figures painted over. Notice papers on top of papers. See red black and tan paper on the right side. This is his German decorative paper. Motherwell added splotchy dot patterns with pale red, pink blue and black.

In the catalog essay, Warda tells us Motherwell loved to work with fine quality artist drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle textures. We learn Motherwell selected commercially printed decorative papers for their bright colors because the papers reminded him of long visits to Mexico with artist Roberto Matta. Warda also discussed how Motherwell experimented with Japanese rice (unryu) papers to see the response he got from ink and paint stains he applied to the thinner Japanese papers.

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage


The image above is a detail of the collage Joy of Living (1943) and shows how the green ink puddled and spread.  Notice the  wavy irregular texture of the green paint. We don’t know how many layers of water media, ink and paint Motherwell applied and reapplied because he wanted to see how the paper changed as it absorbed each new application of ink or paint. Please note also that the colors faded and some changed over the years. Warda shows examples of color changes.

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

The image above is a full view of Joy of Living (1943). The collage on paperboard includes Japanese paper, colored paper, construction paper, printed map and fabric, ink, gouache, oil, crayon. Collection: the Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA (size: 110.5 x 85.4 cm – 43 ½  x 33 5/8 inches)

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

The image above, titled View from a High Tower (1944-45), is collage with tempera, oil, ink, pastel, pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper, and printed map on paperboard. Size: 74×74 cm – 29 z 29 inches (private collection). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Notice the torn edges of various collage elements and the wavy, buckled edge of the large light grey paper on the left side. Texture is an important visual element – almost as important as the geometric patterns with straight and wavy edged papers in red, brown, blue, white, yellow, green, black and grey.

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

The Motherwell image above is titled Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage). It’s collage with oil, ink, charcoal, pasted Japanese paper, colored paper, drawing paper and fabric on paperboard (101.6 x 76.2 cm -  40 x 30 inches). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA. Motherwell love to paint with a light blue and variations on yellow ocher.

Motherwell produced nearly 900 works with collage during his lifetime, and said collage influenced his paintings.

Read the exhibition catalog essays. They give critical insight into how Motherwell began working in collage, and how important it was to his creative practice.

Final Thoughts

The Guggenheim Museum exhibition was an opportunity to see and share Motherwell’s love affair with paper and collage.

On Feb. 6, 2014 I gushed: I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto so many different papers…I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below…

I was excited because I had never seen so many Motherwell collages in person before the exhibition.

Please add your comments below. Tell me what you think about the papers Motherwell used. Do you work with Japanese papers? Do you paint your papers for collage?

I noticed a familiar image at the beginning of Karen Rand Anderson’s blog–Look/see: A Little Book with a Big Punch.

It was the book – seen below - Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.

It was an amazing coincidence. I planned to write about Austin Kleon in a follow-up blog to the first Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal.

I took the little book down from the shelf, and began to read.

Austin Kleon book cover

Austin Kleon book cover

What I like best about Austin Kleon is he thinks like a collage artist. He says: next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and juxtapose them (collage is about juxtaposition).  He recommends you keep a swipe file – another term for a notebook or journal.

I opened a favorite link (saved in a desktop file) to his blog dated Feb 10, 2010: 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.

Here are 3 quotes I really like:

Louis Armstrong: “my hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape…My  hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”

Dizzy Gillespie: “You can’t steal a gift. Bird (Charlie Parker) gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”

William S. Bourroughs: “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”

In case you don’t know about Austin Kleon, he does a fabulous TedTalk.

Keep a Swipe File

Many artists keep a swipe file as a book or in a folder.

Typically, my papers are not pasted into a journal but left in a box. The image below includes swiped papers from recent issues of ARTForum, Art in America, and the March 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that is  filled with page layouts that marry fashion and contemporary art. It’s the hot thing now.

magazine papers for collage projects

magazine papers for collage projects

Carry a Notebook and a Pen Wherever You Go

Listen to Austin Kleon. He recommends we carry a notebook and a pen with us wherever we go. He says: get used to pulling it out and jotting down observations. Add comments on what you observe, copy favorite passages out of books, record overheard conversations., and doodle when you’re on the phone.

I’ve started to play on Pinterest. It’s a way to collect images into a digital journal. On Pinterest you “pin” images to “boards.” I love it because it’s totally visual. I’ve created boards in different categories like art journals, paper collage, Romare Bearden, mostly red, and black and white. See all the images on my art journal board.

journal pages by Olenka

journal pages by Olenka

The image above is a lovely drawing and collage on a two-page open notebook by Olenka that I pinned to my art journal board (pinned from sodalicioushop.blogspot.com). I love how the artist played with geometric shapes and calligraphic lines with black ink. I love how the white journal paper was left pristine, and how the artist embellished the drawing with delicate pastel colors, tiny geometric shapes and letters that float inside triangles and circles.

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

The image above is a painting and collage on 2 pages in an open notebook by Jeffrey DeCosta. I love it because it’s not slick. It’s gritty and painterly. The left page has the block numbers and letters. You see 34 in red, and the word SAVE and the number 0 in black. The opposite page is an abstract painting with smudgy black dots covering a background in red, yellow blue and green. Some of the paint migrated to the opposite page. I was drawn to this journal image because I like the way the painted dots and collage letters communicate with each other.

Find more images at my Pinterest art journal board.

untitled, journal pages

untitled, journal pages

The image above is untitled and no artist is given credit (sometimes a problem at PINTEREST). Handwritten words march across two pages in an open notebook. The text creates a negative space (the white paper) that becomes a large letter B on both sides. The journal pages are created with pen and ink in small and large letters. I see the words: “my lack of understanding” and “help” and the tiny hand-written text on the left is not legible. I wonder if it’s all about the letter B.

See all the pinned images on my Pinterest letters board.

A Simple Idea – Observe, Collect and Comment

Keeping a journal is a simple idea: Observe, collect, comment, make art and learn in the process. A journal is a way to keep track of what you’ve swiped from others.

I do the same thing and tell my collage students to collect images and keep notes. If the image is too large for your notebook, scan or photocopy and reduce in size to fit your page. Take pictures with your camera phone so you include your own images. Put everything in folders, or a ring binder, scrapbook, plain notebook or fancy art journal.

Take notes on why you swiped it, what it means, how you think you will use it.

If you like, you can change your mind, reinterpret your images and rewrite comments.

Austin Kleon says: See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.


I am troubled because I don’t keep a journal. I have journals that are mostly empty. I collect images, make drawings, write comments, but don’t put them into the journals.

An artist who makes journals suggested I create the journal as loose pages and make the pages into a book. I saw an image that showed a book with pages in all different sizes. It was funky and pages were sticking out in all directions. But it was bound and a book – and it’s a definite possibility.

Another possibility is to collect images on Pinterest boards, and translate (interpret) and draw the images onto journal pages. I like that idea. I can pin and I can draw.

What inspires you? Do you keep a journal? Do you pin images at PINTEREST? Please contact me with your comments and share your pins.

My recent blog, Drawing and Collage: The Journal as Art (January 23, 2014), encouraged you to explore images and ideas in a 90 cent notebook (or a more expensive book with fine paper).

Experts say if you keep a notebook, your memory improves.

Advice: Get a notebook with blank pages and carry it with you so you can fill it up each day with personal notes, observations, contact information you collect, to do lists, doodles, drawings, and ideas.

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

The image above is a journal page by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) from the book  titled Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations (from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art), by Liza Kirwin.

Notice Calder’s Paris address book page included sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the artist Hans (Jean) Arp in his list. Notice Calder’s calligraphic line. The page with cursive penmanship is a beautiful drawing.

Calder is best known for his wire sculptures and mobiles.

Calder said: “I think best in wire.”

The image below is a motorized mobile with painted wood, painted metal, metal wire and string, 23×24 3/4×7 (1931) Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Do you see a face in profile? I do.

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

See images of 3D wire portraits, sculpture, and toys in an online review of a 2005 the 2008-2009 Whitney Museum exhibition: Drawing in Space – Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (1926-1933). Image, courtesy the city review.com.

See Calder’s miniature Circus (see it when you visit the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC).

Contemporary Artists Who Keep a Journal

I found an online interview of a contemporary artist (Harvey Tulcensky) who keeps a journal.

Written by Clair Corey, the article (INSIDE/OUT Dec 17, 2012) says Harvey Tulcensky works full-time at the NYC Museum of Modern Art, exhibits with Edward Thorpe Gallery (Chelsea, NY), maintains a studio practice, and keeps a notebook handy for traveling to and from work – and she adds – the artist says he fills his Moleskin notebook obsessively “like an EKG with his minute-to-minute existence.” 

The image below is an untitled drawing (detail from a notebook) by Tulcensky in ballpoint pen on paper. Image: courtesy the Internet.

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Ballpoint Pen Drawings are the Hot New Thing in Contemporary Art

The January 2014 cover of ARTnews magazine shows a self portrait by Toyin Odutola in mixed media with the face and torso done in ballpoint pen. Read the article by Trent Morse (posted 01/08/14) titled “Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens.

See Odutola’s blog for images and even works in progress.



Buy a notebook. Buy pens, Buy ballpoint pens (contemporary!).

Start a diary. It can be as simple as the diary kept by Pierre Bonnard – a record of what shoes he wore every day, that tells us where he lived and what the weather was like.

Discover what you like, and what you want to say. Explore your own creative ways to keep track of your life.

I hope you do.


Drawing and Collage

January 23, 2014

The Journal as Art

I’m reading the book Drawing from Life: The Journal As Art, by Jennifer New (Princeton Architectural Press, New York).

Book cover: Drawing from Life by Jennifer New

Book cover: Drawing from Life by Jennifer New

It’s a beautiful book with text and drawings by 31 artists who keep a journal. Chapters include Observation, Reflection, Exploration and Creation. The preface states: journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life.

A journal can be a diary, sketchbook and notebook. It can include anything and everything. It’s a place to play and explore images and ideas.

Drawing by Maira Kalman

Drawing by Maira Kalman


At the beginning of the book Drawing from Life, I found the image above – a line drawing of oak leaves with a live twig and oak leaves placed on top of the drawing by Maira Kalman. The artist says she likes to gather information while she walks. She is the author of 13 children’s books and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker magazine. I’m intrigued by her drawing.

I love that you can see through the photo of the leaves to the beautiful drawing below. It’s simple and elegant. I feel the gesture of the lines in contrast to the actual leaves and bark.

In an interview, Kalman says she always has a sketchbook with her and is drawing all the time.

I decided I have to make more time to draw.

So many people say they can’t draw a straight line. Actually – anyone can draw a straight line if they use a ruler. No excuses! If you are an artist or wannabe, I say: get comfortable with drawing because it’s really important.

If you don’t know how to draw something (example: leaves), trace the outline of the leaves and transfer the image onto drawing paper. Another way to approach drawing is find a drawing and copy it. Turn the image upside down and start to draw. You will be amazed at how good your drawing will look when you copy from an upside down image. Your confidence will rise. You can start to draw from what you see  - example – a view on a walk, your desk, your room, etc.

Look at something and make an abstract drawing  - gestural lines and shapes in response to the image you see. Collect images and make a sketch while you look at the image.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, drawing with collage, Nov.5, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, drawing with collage, Nov.5, 2013

I think it’s fun to doodle with lines, move the pen and watch the image grow. I like to draw from my imagination.

The image above is the 7th drawing in my journal. It’s my favorite drawing so far. The journal is exploring an imaginary fishy world with waves, floating food, and underwater critters. Do you see the snail and the fish in this one?

The journal papers are 10×8 inches. The drawing is small and the collage papers are tiny.

I started the collage with horizontal strips of BFK Rives art paper. I drew with pen and ink on the cut paper and then glued them into the journal. Notice the irregular sides. That’s intentional. I found magazine papers with printed text, tiny dots, a spoked wheel, and stripes. Since the drawings are high contrast pen and ink, I looked for collage papers in a range of grey to black tones. I drew spirals with pen and pencil with softer edges.

I titled the image above White Paper Waves. The cut paper on the bottom of the collage was a scrap leftover from another collage project. I love the pencil outline around the cut out waves. As soon as I found it, I knew I would use it.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, drawing and collage, Dec. 26, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, drawing and collage, Dec. 26, 2013

I titled the image above Fishy Tails.

Recently I decided I want to cut the collage papers into open shapes with space in the middle. I use a fine scissor. I want the paper to become another line – collage as drawing that can be glued on top. The image below is a cut paper sampler for the next drawing.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, cut paper sampler, 2014

Nancy Egol Nikkal, cut paper sampler, 2014


I started the journal because I wanted to play with thin and thick, straight and wavy lines. I wanted to create new images that explored the image that came before. My journal is a journey via drawing and collage. I want to see how the images change.  It was very important to use certain papers. I discovered I like some papers much better than others. It will influence what I use and what papers I collect.

My journal is spiral bound with a heavy black paper cover and includes medium weight drawing paper. I’m particular about size. It has to feel right in my hand. The pages have to be receptive to pen and ink and bear the weight of glue and papers.

Some artists do a drawing every day. Experts say drawing is good for relaxation, concentration and observation.

If you want to learn to draw, find an online tutorial, a how-to book, or take a class at an art center.

Buy a notebook with blank pages and fill it with drawings. Write comments, keep notes on what you observe. Draw from life. Look at what’s around you. Doodle with thick and thin lines. Create open and solid shapes. Add patterns and stripes. Fill in with cross-hatch lines.  If you like – embellish with paint and collage.

Buy pencils and pens. B pencils are softer and darker (2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B). H pencils are harder and lighter (HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H). I do not like H pencils and never use them. I like 3B, 4B and 5B. Higher B pencils (6-8B) are too soft, dark and smudgy for me. Permanent ink pens come with a range of ink tips. I like them all. I especially like the pens with a brush tip.


I love the blog post “the 90 cent solution to becoming organized, creative and successful” by Pat DePuy at Mainstreethost.com (December 18, 2013).

What is the 90 cent solution?

It’s a notebook (a journal) that you buy. Typically it’s unlined papers in a bound book.

Experts say it works best when what you enter is handwritten – when  you print by hand or use script/cursive  – never mechanical wordprocessing.

Experts say keeping a notebook improves your memory. There’s documented evidence that the ideas you record by hand get acted on and become more successful.

Because your notebook/journal is handwritten,  you remember with much more detail when you review what you wrote.

Advice to everyone: keep a  notebook. Artists: fill your journal with images you find and drawings you make. Add comments on what inspires you, what you did and why you like it, and what you will do next (what will change, what will stay the same).

Please contact me. Do you draw? If not, why not? Do you keep a journal? Can you describe it? Thank you for reading and your comments.


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