August 4, 2014
I am always inspired when I read a book by a creative artist. For example: Twyla Tharp’s book THE CREATIVE HABIT Learn It and Use It For Life is not just for dancers and choreographers. Every chapter will boost creativity in whatever your field. When I read these books, I always find something I can apply to my collage studio practice or apply when I design projects for collage workshops.
Her chapter titled “Scratching” talks about how to get ideas and how to explode ideas. She says you can scratch in the footsteps of mentors and heroes, but must not copy or your work is derivative. Try to interpret the idea into a new idea and “scratch” in unexpected places to get a new slant on the expected. She says: link A to B to C to come up with “H.” She adds: scratching is the ability to identify A, and then get to B and C. So – don’t stop with one idea.
A class project in black and white and 3 primary colors
I love class projects that explore collage with unique media, or explore images in collage based on other media.
The image above is titled “Cucaracha” (1948). It’s painted sheet metal and wire, 17” wide, private collection, by Alexander Calder (American 1898-1976). He is famous for his mobiles and stabiles – metal sculptures that move in space. His work is about movement and change. Very often his metal sculpture is painted in primary colors – red, blue and yellow. Notice how the mobile parts hang together from tiny chains. Notice how the sculpture casts a shadow as it stands on the ground.
I asked students to make collage inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobile Cucaracha – a 3D metal sculpture interpreted as 2D paper collage. I asked the class to juxtapose print text with cut and pasted papers – one collage on top of another collage – to create a dialogue between the parts and show movement. Black and white magazine text would be the bottom collage layer. Cut and pasted red, blue, yellow and black papers would be the 2nd layer on top of the black and white text. I found the Cucaracha image in the book CALDER CREATURES Great and Small, published by E.P. Dutton, Inc., NY in association with the Hudson River Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The 2 images (above and below) show 2 different views of the same sample collage I created for the class. I deliberately cut shapes that looked like the 3D shapes – to show students how collage can look like sculpture. The top image is a close-up view and shows unglued yellow and black paper and blue and red round shapes overlapping in the middle of the page. The image below shows the same unglued shapes in another configuration on top of the text collage. When I move the papers, the design changed. I moved papers several times. I wanted to show the class how the image changed each time the papers moved. Calder’s art is all about movement and change. Collage is also about movement and change. And if you don’t like the collage, you can remove the paper and start again.
LESSON PLAN: BLACK AND WHITE AND PRIMARY COLORS
Step 1: Make a collage with magazine text.
Cut and paste magazine text to create a design. It’s black and white, can be clean and crisp, and creates a graphic pattern with letters. It looks easy but it took almost 1 ½ hours for students to create a collage with just text. I asked students to glue a long, thin strip of black paper diagonally across the page before they started to glue text. I told them it was important to have the text strips meet the black paper “antenna” and leave a tiny space between the edges. Notice I created a pattern with text.
Step 2: Make a second collage with painted papers on top of the text collage.
This was fun and much faster. I told students to cut papers into shapes and that their shapes didn’t have to resemble the sample shapes I prepared. Everyone cut unique shapes. They didn’t want to copy the Calder image. Some students created a narrative collage related to words in the magazine text. Almost everyone told me they loved the idea of having text as a bottom layer in the collage.
Following are student images. Notice every collage is created with the same painted papers. Notice every collage image is unique.
In Dee’s image above, notice how her shapes balance well against the text design underneath. Notice one blue square extends beyond the substrate bottom edge. Notice 2 red triangles, 1 red circle, 2 yellow curvilinear line shapes and 2 black thin strips in a “V” shape protruding from the blue square. The shapes are geometric and simple and contrast beautifully with the clean design of text collage. Dee wrote she liked the way fitting the print into the background made her think about space. That was a positive. Negative: Dee prefers working on a large substrate – I gave the class a 7 1/2”x8” art card for the substrate. She doesn’t like working with primary colors. Calder’s mobile image isn’t a natural inspiration for her because she likes softer Impressionist art. Positive: the text is in motion and the painted paper shapes are engaged. I think her collage is bold, clean and well designed.
In Louise’s image above, you can try to read the text, but the image is marching on top and is the primary focus. Notice the thin black strip is a criss-cross “X” placed diagonally across the page. Notice the black and white text in the background creates a grid of blocks with white negative spaces. Louise pasted a pale yellow round shape within the “X” and placed a tall red right angle triangle with torn edge on the bottom right side of the substrate. She added more cut and pasted red papers: a tiny square, a tiny circle, one small red equilateral triangle and a thin, curved red paper with personality – all touching the black “X” in the middle. She added a semi circle and a tiny pale blue square touching the red square. She added new papers: 2 irregularly shaped triangles in speckled magazine paper pasted on top of black paper shapes. The painted papers show movement. The text papers show direction. Louise said she liked working with magazine text and thinks she may use it again as a starting point. She says there is no narrative story in her collage. I think her collage has so many interesting components.
In Vivienne’s image above, notice the juxtaposition of shapes in text with shapes in painted papers is dynamic and also narrative. I think there’s a story above and beyond the words. Notice how much care she took with selecting text papers for her collage bottom layer. The colors in the magazine text range from dark letters on creamy white, to grey black on light pink white, to blue black on a range of pale grey whites. It’s a beautiful text collage with so much variation in the colors and design. Notice Vivienne created a unique shape in red painted paper. I think it looks like a boat. She has 2 thin black strips projecting up from the red shape on the right side, and one thin blue strip projecting from the red shape on the left side. She has a yellow strip at the end and a yellow triangle on the right. There are 3 overlapping triangles – yellow, blue and yellow – that move down onto the red shape like sails. There is a wonderful sense of harmony and gentle rhythm in this collage.
In Claudia’s image above, notice she included text in different sizes and fonts. The text strip “IF YOU LOOK” is prominent in the upper right side. Claudia overlapped her text papers. You can’t read text easily (rows are crunched) and it makes you look more carefully. Notice Claudia created a “V” design with jagged black strips. Notice the left side of the “V” touches a color block that is yellow, red and, blue – one paper on top of another. In the lower third of her collage, notice there is a horizontal black and white band across the entire width of the collage and it overlaps 3 red triangles that look like sails. Another blue on yellow shape (mostly yellow) sits below. The text ‘IF YOU LO0K” tells you to look “IN.” This collage is very layered, very colorful, and very well designed.
In Sheila’s collage above, notice she kept the Mondrian “Boogie Woogie” image that was printed on the art card beneath. Her text strips are glued around the Mondrian image and go to the edge of the card substrate. Her cut and pasted paper shapes go beyond the substrate edges. Sheila said the Mondrian image on the art card influenced her colors – so the project with painted papers in red, yellow, blue and black was a good fit. Notice some shapes overlap; some shapes nest between shapes. Sheila titled her collage “Joyful Explosion.” Notice you can read the text – it’s about Alexander Calder and his mobiles. This is another well-designed collage. Its abstract and about modern art. There’s a strong relationship between the text blocks and paper collage shapes, and a gentle connection to the boogie woogie rhythm implied in Mondrian’s work.
In Irene’s collage above, notice that the pattern of painted paper shapes mimics the pattern of pasted text shapes. All the text is slightly oblique and tilted like the paper shapes in red, blue, yellow and black. I love the fact that Irene left part of the top section of the substrate uncovered to create a horizontal white shape. Did you notice there’s a tiny section of text at the top that’s upside down? Notice that red peeks through the black strip (the right sideof the “V”), I asked the class to leave a tiny space next to the black strip. Irene’s paper shapes are bold and geometric. She cuts into her blue triangles and creates “V” shapes that repeat the “V” of the black strips and the “V” of the yellow strip and yellow triangle. There’s overlapping and repetitive shapes that move in unison along the “V” line. There is a subtle dialog between the upper and lower collage that keeps moving and keeps you looking.
In Carol’s collage above, notice how she created text in overlapping blocks and layered painted papers that became a flying bug on top. The “V” of the bug’s antenna covers the “R” in the word “Creature Comfort.” Carol commented: I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black “V” shaped pieces that were to be placed on the first collage text layer. She added: Calder made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me. I struggled with the background, not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. Notice the body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a fringe in blue underneath the head. Two black skinny legs are showing. Carol said: this project was a delightful revelation to me, and I think I’ll do more collage with text and image from now on.
Every color and shape emphasizes directional pattern. There is a strong sense of harmony between the lower and upper collage. They talk to each other. I wonder if there is a pun intended in the text “Altitude Slickness.” Where did the “L” is slickness come from?
Thank you for reading and I welcome your comments.
July 5, 2014
I planned to write about an art project I designed for an adult collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY, working with pasted papers painted in bright, primary colors. Not exactly 4th of July Red White and Blue – but Red,White, Blue and Yellow (and black). I will write about the project in my next post. The image that inspired the project was a mobile by Alexander Calder. The image below is by Carol (a teaser for the next post).
Here are comments Carol wrote: Nancy – I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black vee-shaped pieces that were to be placed in a particular spot on the page. Calder also made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me. I struggled with the background not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. The body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a blue fringe underneath the head. There are black skinny legs–two are showing. It was a delightful revelation to me. I think I’ll do more with text and image from now on. Thanks Nancy. Carol
Challenge is Always Good
Today I want to share comments by Seth Godin in his blog post titled “Is better possible?” I recently signed up to receive his blog (well written, timely and always brief and to the point). Today’s post is about challenge. Seth Godin says most people are comfortable with saying “no” to the question is better possible? It’s the easiest and safest thing to do – to accept what you’ve been given, and assume you are unchangeable. He says, when you assume that you are unchangeable, you give up responsibility for outcomes. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t do it to others,
I always say challenge is good for you (and me). Godin says we are afraid of challenges because we fear the possibility of the outcomes. Read what he wrote here.
I design collage art projects that give students a challenge. Last Monday they made amazing multi-layer collages in a 2-hour session. The first layer had to include strips of cut and pasted black and white magazine text in a pleasing design. They had to select the text. I brought a sample collage where the entire background was text that didn’t line up in horizontal rows. The class spent about half the time on the first layer, and organizing magazine text became its own design challenge. The second step was to create an over layer with papers in primary colors cut in unique shapes. I provided the red, yellow, blue and black painted papers and did a quick demo on ways to place shapes over the text. I showed them overlapping shapes, shapes spread out, and shapes clustered together in different arrangements. Collage is always about layers and juxtaposing images (and shapes). The class rose to the challenge and I knew they would. Kids in elementary school can do this project, time permitting. Kids love a challenge and everyone loves primary colors.
Here’s more from Seth Godin’s post. He concludes with: “We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher. I share his post because when you stretch boundaries, you grow, gain confidence, and you feel good that you took the chance and reached the goal.
What is your goal? Whatever it is, make it creative. Make it good.
June 18, 2014
Do you use PINTEREST?
I’m passionate about Pinterest because it’s so visually inspiring. I collect Pinterest images for the collage classes I teach. I design collage projects inspired by Pinterest images, and encourage my students to visit my “boards” online.
The image above – a quote by Julia Child – says: “Find something you’re passionate about AND stay tremendously interested in it.” That’s good advice for a fulfilling, creative life. I was drawn to the pin immediately for the words and also for the white on black design. It’s pinned to a board titled black and white that includes paintings, drawings, sculpture and more by great contemporary and 20th century artists. See images here. Join Pinterest if you aren’t a member. My last post – CHILDREN MAKE ART – was about an after-school workshop project with cut and pasted papers at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). I found the sunshine image at Pinterest and designed the project with all papers included. See the 7 step lesson plan for the sunny face collage here.
See Rosella’s collage above. She was one of twenty 4th and 5th grade students at the one-hour workshop. Notice she created a background with multi-color Sharpie markers that contrast with her collage papers. She created a collage face with cut and pasted papers for the nose and eyes, and cut triangles for sun rays. Papers are bright yellow, pink, purple, lime green, blue and crayon red. Notice all the stripes and polka dots. Rosella is a very dedicated artist and included a lot of collage papers and details. See the original Pinterest sunshine inspiration and more kid’s images here. The image above shows another Pinterest pin – a sunny face – with text: “Make My Day.” The sunny face is on top, but the emphasis is on the colorful block letter text on a yellow background. Notice the letters are triangles, rectangles and semi-circle shapes. Each shape is a distinct color: green, purple, red, teal blue, and orange. Notice the colors change as shapes overlap. Everyone – kids and adults – loves to play with letter shapes. I will design 2 projects. The kids’ workshop will emphasize overlapping shapes and how the colors change when the shapes overlap. We’ll explore color transparencies with tissue paper. I will design the adult’s workshop so people explore re-contextualizing the words “Make My Day” and play with vintage Hollywood, and Clint Eastwood images as Dirty Harry.
The image above is by the artist John Stezaker. I’m a fan of his contemporary portrait collage. Notice he juxtaposed two black and white photos that are probably Hollywood headshots. He cut and pasted the images to make a single composite image. Notice one photo is smaller and is pasted down so the top projects above the photo under. I pinned this image to my board titled portrait collage. See portrait collages here. I’ve included images that range from whimsical to semi-abstract to historic works by the dada artist Hannah Hoch.
Pretty People and Pithy Quotes
Typical Pinterest boards are about food, fashion, and children. Quotes are very popular. Since art is my calling, I collect arty images and pin work by favorite modern artists (Henri Matisse’s photo shows him cutting paper for collage). I organize pin boards as portraits, art journals, mixed media, and geometric shapes, including circles, triangles, stripes, and squares. The flavor is contemporary, geometric and abstract. See all 17 boards here. I’m very fond of quotes – more and more – and started 2 boards with quotes. One board is titled “Words to Remember.” One board is titled “Typography in Art.” The image below is all cursive lettering with the statement: “All my BEST friends eat SUNSHINE.” That’s a great comment and makes me smile. Notice the hand-painted letters are black on white and stacked vertically. As a collage project, I would use the quote as a jumping-off point and ask people (or kids) to cut out images that remind them of friends, eating, and sunshine (happiness). How would you interpret best friends who eat sunshine? Would you include words in the design? Would your collage be all cut and pasted images? Would you emphasize faces, food or letters? How would you create the letters? Kids like to cut individual letters and paste down one at a time. If you paint letters, I recommend you paint individual letters on medium weight paper, allow the paint to dry, and then paste letters down. Notice the letters are different sizes and some of the letters are lower case and some are capitalized.
Notice the image above. I see a frown and also see a smile. You decide how you view it. So many people add a smiley face to end sentences in email. This one makes you stop and think. It makes me smile. The image above is a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “No Matter What, Nobody Can Take Away the Dances You’ve Already Had.” This image would be a great collage project for a girl who loves to dance. The collage could include cut and pasted magazine images of dancers and dancer’s shoes. It would be a different collage project for the Carrie Bradshaws (see cable TV – Sex and the City). She collects top designer shoes. That’s a major theme of the show. Pinterest shows a lot of shoes and images of models in high fashion shoes. Women love their shoes. Imagine a collage showing rows and rows of high fashion, outrageously beautiful shoes. You can find those images on Pinterest. That would be a statement. There is etiquette on Pinterest. The image above says: “If you want to honor someone on Pinterest please credit their work. So much art it not credited. Please put a name to the art.” I found the pin at Diane Dodson Barton’s site and pinned it to my quotes board. She has 29 boards and 10,205 followers.
The above image is a quote – “Creativity Takes Courage” by Henri Matisse written in his own script. How wonderful to see the hand of the artist in his own words. A photo of Matisse (in a wheelchair) cutting papers is on the cover of my board titled “Favorite Modern Artists” (79 pins) – including Matisse, Paul Klee, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and more. Every one is inspiration. I have a Pinterest board and show images of my own art that I re-pin from other people’s boards. I am always surprised to see where the images land, and always happy when I see my name credited. See my board titled nikkal studio collages here. Please add your comments. Let me know if you love Pinterest – or you prefer Instagram.
May 30, 2014
Every Child is an Artist
Pablo Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
In March 2014, I “taught” after-school collage workshops to 4th and 5th grade students at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). The project at the 3rd workshop was a Sunny Face collage. The image below is my workshop sample. Notice there is a yellow circle that sits on top of a teal blue circle. The kids cut out the circles first. Notice the triangles with wavy stripes that are placed around the circumference of the paper circle. Kids got the striped paper pre-cut into 2″ x 4 ½ inch strips. I showed them how to cut across the strips in zigzags to create tall, thin triangles. The striped papers were bright neon colors: green, blue, yellow, fuchsia pink, and purple. Notice there are 3 small 5-point stars pasted at the top. Two students wanted to include stars. See collages by Kenyatta and Akeem below. I’ve included a lesson plan: 7 Steps to Create a Sunny Face Collage (see below). See image of striped papers directly below the 7 Steps lesson plan.
I make a sample collage for each project because it gives students a visual jumping off point for how to begin. Another reason I make a sample collage is it’s important for me to learn the best way to structure the project for kids so they can get to work quickly and complete the collage before the end of the workshop. This project involved multiple steps. The workshops last only one hour.
I set out prepared materials at every student’s seat. There are about 20 kids at each workshop. When they arrive they see papers, markers, glue sticks and scissors at every place. They can start quickly. I reproduce black and white photocopies of the sample collage and put one in front of every two students. I show the sample collage to everyone, and explain how to proceed. I tell them I do not expect them to copy my sample. They never copy. They look at my sample and they look at what other students are doing, and they always create something new.
I wanted students to paste letters on the sunny face in their own words. Notice the letters on my sample spell out “Good morning Sunshine. Notice the pasted paper letters on the image below spell out “Enjoy Artful Mornings Passions Songs Explore Today Music.” The image below is the prototype for my sample collage. I gave it a title: “Shine On” and am pretty sure I found the image at pinterest.com. The students created their own words with photocopied letters I supplied.
Notice “Shine on” is made with a single yellow circle with a watercolor blue background. I counted 24 cut and pasted triangles around the circle. Notice all the papers are different solid colors, stripes and patters. The edge of the yellow circle includes small cut and pasted letters. I think it’s difficult to read the words because the letters are so small.
Notice my sample collage (top) did not have any background. I asked the students to add color to the 8 ½ x 11 inch white cardstock they used for their collage background paper. They didn’t have time to create a watercolor background. I showed them how to hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and decorate their background with multi-colored lines done with a sweeping motion. I love how every student created a different background with the markers, and how they were so focused as they worked. It was a great beginning. See all the different images below.
The image above is by Rosella. She’s a very dedicated young artist. Notice her multi-color background – curved, concentric stripes in blue, yellow, purple and pink. Notice her sunny face has 2 rows of triangle rays around the circle. She cut and pasted larger striped triangles first, and then added smaller triangles from a polka dot patterned paper as a second row. Notice how collage papers became a face with eyes (eyeglasses?) and a red and green nose. Notice the words “Happy Day” became a smiley mouth, and how she used collage letters to create a signature at the top.
The image above is by Omarion, who designed a background with free-hand scribbly lines, first in yellow Sharpie marker, then in blue. Notice that the blue lines over yellow lines make green lines.
Notice the bottom circle is black and the top circle is yellow. Omarion cut and pasted 11 striped triangles around the circle. Some are tucked under and some are over the yellow circle. Notice the collage squares with black on white letters that spell “freedom of speech.” See Omarion’s signature in cursive that matches the loopy shaped lines in his background design. I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing as he made the collage.
7 Steps: Lesson Plan for the Sunshine Project
(1) Use cardstock for the substrate (bottom collage layer). Refer to the collage sample with the blue colored background. Hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and make patterns on the white cardstock.
(2) Prepare 2 circle outlines: 5” diameter on blue paper and 4” diameter on yellow paper. Cut out 2 circles.
(3) Cut preprinted striped paper in 2”x4” strips (see below). Cut triangles from paper strips: zig zag from bottom to top and back. Notice the pattern in all triangles show the same horizontal direction for all pieces. Match colorful papers to Sharpie marker colors in the substrate.
(4) Glue the large blue circle down on the decorated substrate near the middle of the paper. Glue cut triangles around the blue circle – with the pointy edge projecting outside the circle.
(5) Glue the smaller yellow circle down over the blue circle. Try to cover the uneven edges of the triangle papers.
(6) Decorate the circle “face” with cut papers and pasted letters that create a personal statement or quote.
(7) If you like, add collage to the background. Add your signature.
The image above shows 6 striped paper strips. Each student got 2-4 strips from which they cut the colorful sunray triangles. Most students made 12 – 20 triangles to glue around the blue circle.
Following are 5 finished collages by students at the Williams Elementary School after-school workshop.
The image above is by Kevon. His background is made with scribbly lines (done while holding 2 markers in his hand). The lines go from top left to bottom right and from top right to bottom left. Notice Kevon added 6 cut and colored 5-pointed stars along the side and corners. He cut 14 perfect striped paper triangles, and pasted them down on the larger yellow circle. Notice how the striped colors radiate out in all directions. The colors are in motion. Try to see the 6 stars. They blend into the background and are almost invisible. His text is his signature, done with black on white cut and pasted letters within the gold yellow circle. The more I look at this collage, the more I enjoy it. Kevon’s collage seems simple, but it’s really sophisticated.
The image above is by Bridney. She had fun swirling markers to create overlapping loops in blue, green, purple and hot pink. Notice the light yellow circle is placed off-center and is covered with 12 striped triangles. Notice the colors – pink, yellow, green, blue and purple radiate out into the background created with swirling lines. Everything is in motion, including the cut and pasted letters that becomes Bridney’s signature.
The image above is by Kenyatta. He decided to use yellow-green paper for his substrate, and created a scribbly line background pattern with green and blue markers going from top to bottom on the diagonal. Kenyatta’s sunshine is larger across than all the others in the workshop. Notice there are 15 long, thin triangles for the sun’s rays. Kenyatta is tall and slim. The paper patterns show different directions. Notice the 5-pointed stars are hand-colored with blue, green, yellow and hot pink markers. See how they blend into the background in terms of colors, but also stand out against the background because the lines are facing in different directions. This young artist took great care in cutting shapes and placing every paper in his collage.
The image above is by Akeem. He used Sharpie markers to draw almost parallel lines across his Cardstock background. He started in the upper left and drew alternate blue and green lines diagonally. Akeem glued 2 circles to the background, and placed his cut striped triangles on top so you see how the papers are glued down. The combination of drawing (contrasting lines) and collage is beautiful to see. Notice Akeem cut a 5-pointed star, left it uncolored, and glued it down near the center of the gold yellow circle. He added his signature nearby as a closely spaced collage of block letters, black on white. The whites in the star and signature tie into the white showing through the drawing in the background. There’s a lot of freedom and energy in the way this collage is organized, and that is very exciting to see.
The image above is by Andrew. He drew free-hand crisscross lines that overlap and curve across the cardstock white substrate. He used purple, green, blue, yellow and hot pink Sharpie markers – colors that match the printed striped papers in his collage. Notice he added spatter dots with marker dipped in water. The 2 circles that form the sunshine are cut from light and dark yellow. Triangle rays are cut from striped and from polka dot papers. Andrew wrote “You only Live Once” in red green yellow and black, and signed his name in cursive – all around the circumference of the yellow outer circle.
Before he was finished, Andrew drew black triangles at all the corners. He has an intuitive sense of design – he curved the wide base of his triangles, which repeats all the curved lines in the background, curved stripes in the printed collage triangles, and curved words along the circle inner edge.
Kids make art to express ideas and show their personality. Children are brilliant at color, design and composition. It’s intuitive. All they need is an assortment of inviting materials. I design collage projects to make it easy for them to get engaged.
How do you get the kids engaged? Project must be cute, fun and open to personal expression. Kids need to see the project as a challenge they set for themselves. It’s their choice to make the project as simple or complicated as they want. My challenge is to focus and encourage them, and organize the materials so the project can be completed in a short period of time. I love to see children make art. That’s why I design art workshops for kids.I want to optimize their experience. I want kids to feel proud of their work and how they’ve reached the challenge they gave themselves.
Often my idea for a collage project starts with an image I find online or in a magazine. See Rosella’s sunshine collage and other works by and for young artists at my Pinterest site. Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments.
May 8, 2014
I used the phrase “Collage Artist Extraordinaire” to describe Ivan Chermayeff in my review of the exhibition ABOUT FACES (March 20-April 19, 2014) at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery at 531 West 26 Street, in NYC. Read it here.
Pavel Zoubok says: no art form expresses the character of the twentieth century and the contemporary moment with greater clarity and immediacy than the art of collage. The Gallery is the place to go if you are a fan. The exhibition calendar includes both historic and contemporary collage artists. Read more here.
I’ve been a fan of Ivan Chermayeff’s collages for years and years, but only saw reproduction in art magazines. ABOUT FACES included collage and assemblage (sculpture). Each wood assemblage included found wood and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and/or brushes. Two works included a found glove that became a face portrait.
My photo (above) shows the gallery installation with 3 wood assemblages by Ivan Chermayeff. Titles are: (left) Janus Head with Canoe Hat, (center) Portrait with Pincushion Cap, and (right) Young Person with Hairless Brush Head. I’ve included solo images (two views) for each sculpture below. All images are courtesy the Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Sculpture should be seen in person, where you can walk around and see different views. The front and back are sometimes very different in Chermayeff’s assemblage.
The image (above) is titled Janus Head with Canoe Hat (2000-2005), mixed-media assemblage, 23 ½ x 8 ½ x 8 ½ inches. Click on the image and enlarge it to see more detail. Look at the nose. I think it looks like the handle on a coffee mug, big enough for you to put your hand through. Notice the hat is actually a little carved wood canoe. Notice the lips on the mouth are wood and painted red. Look at his expression. I think he looks grumpy or is sulking. Read whatever you like into his expression.
The image (below) is a profile view of the same sculpture, and, when you look up, you see the bottom of the canoe on his head. I think the wavy blue painted wood on the side is shaped like a child’s drawing of waves in the ocean. You don’t see the waves in the image above, but you can see the shape better in the image below.
What’s in a name?
I checked Wikipedia for information about Janus – the ancient Roman god of doors, passages, endings and times (representing war and peace). FYI: The month of January is named for Janus. Janus is usually represented with two faces. I wonder if Chermayeff named his wood sculpture Janus because the sculpture includes part of an old wood door. Read more about the god Janus here.
He collects garbage like crazy.
I include a collage (above) titled Red Talker, 15×11 inches (1995). Chermayeff says he collects garbage like crazy. According to the Gallery press release, his collages include the stuff of everyday life: scraps of paper, stamped envelopes, tickets, photographs and other discarded oddments that become juxtaposed compositions of color and form. Chermayeff says: “A little spot, whether a postage stamp, a graphic mark, a letter of the alphabet, a splash of color becomes a nose, an eye or a mouth. In the right place, more or less, it becomes a face…that is both recognizable and rewarding. When a face is there, it has its own reality, whether recognized or not, much like strangers passing in the street.” Read Gallery comments here.
Notice the colors in Red Talker: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. He’s facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye. His mouth is a torn red and white address sticker. See more gallery images here.
The image (below) is a front-facing view of Chermayeff’s mixed media assemblage titled Portrait with Pincushion Cap (2000-2005), 13 x 8 ½ x 3 inches. Notice the deep grain in the wood and how the artist used smooth round white river stones for eyes. The stones are different sizes. The larger one faces vertical and the smaller one faces horizontal. The mouth is wood painted red. Ears appear on the side of the rectangular head as semi circles painted black. The pincushion cap (painted silver and blue) is another toy wood canoe sitting across the top of his head.
The image (below) is the rear view of Portrait with Pincushion Cap. Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the rough surface texture in the wood in this view. There’s a deep recess gouged into the wood. I see a different face. The eyes are still white river stones, but they look tiny. The mouth is part of a negative space so it looks like his mouth is open. The “nose” is a rosy red blobby shape stuck into the gouged surface. The ears are gone, replaced with a solid black band of wood with rounded ends and now looks like a hat. The toy wood canoe (pincushion) sits on top. I think he looks like a drunken Russian sailor or an old Viking. It’s another Janus with two faces.
Two images (below) are front and side views of the mixed media assemblage titled Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, 24 x 15 ½ x 4 ½ inches (2000-2005). Notice Chermayeff added wood dowels for this portrait’s 2 arms. The Head is an irregular shaped rectangle. It’s an old hairless brush with 27 holes in 3 vertical rows. There’s a painted red wood dowel planted across the top of his head and a painted red block projecting between his legs. The wood figure looks like he’s wearing cut-off pants. His feet are thin black metal rods that run down to a square metal base. What do you see? I see a portrait of a young boy. Do you think the sculpture is innocent and childlike? I think maybe not.
Ivan Chermayeff’s fine art collages and assemblage sculptures have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. His next exhibition will be in the UK. He is best known as a designer and illustrator. With Tom Geismar, he founded the design firm Chermayeff & Geismar (1957), and the logos they’ve designed are recognized worldwide.
FINAL THOUGHTS: See it in Person
In my previous post, I wrote you have to see Chermayeff’s assemblage sculpture in person and walk around to view the work from every angle. I hope the additional images here gave you more information. Please add your comments below. Do you like this artist’s mixed media assemblage? Do you prefer the collages? Do you think assemblage is 3D collage?
April 30, 2014
ABOUT FACE – Amazing Unique Collage and Assemblage Sculpture
Collage enthusiasts – if you want to see important contemporary and historic collage, and also want to see assemblage and mixed media installation, go to the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea, 531 West 26 Street, NYC. . Every month the gallery showcases artists who explore and extend the boundaries of these media. See more information about the gallery here.
I went to the gallery to see collages by Ivan Chermayeff. I’ve been a fan of this artist’s work for years. The exhibition (March 20-April 19, 2014) also included his wood assemblage. My image above shows the gallery installation of 3 Chermayeff wood sculptures on white pedestals. It also shows framed collage portraits installed on the rear wall.
This is collage sculpture. Notice the work is assembled with pieces of found, carved and painted wood. Chermayeff juxtaposes old materials and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and brushes to create heads and torsos. Each sculpture (like each collage) has a unique personality. Notice the 2 figures and face are embellished with painted wood in red, white and blue for eyes, noses, lips, ears, hats and anatomical parts. Sorry you can’t walk around the sculpture to see them in person.
I love the tall sculpture on the left in the photo. He has a protruding wood nose that reminds me of a handle on a big coffee mug. His lips are pressed together, and almost touching his nose. You can read whatever you like into his expression. That’s what makes the sculpture so interesting.
DowntownMagazineNYC reviewed the exhibition that showcased works by Ivan Chermayeff (b 1931, London, UK) and photocollage by Witold Gordon (b. Warsaw, Poland, 1885-1968). In the review, Xavi Ocana wrote (March 20, 2014): Chermayeff has the ability to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary, a perfect equation of the playful plus the poetic. Read the exhibition review here.
The image above is titled BOY WITH SAM’S HAND, collage, 30×22 (1999). Notice the figure is made from an old corrugated cardboard box that is opened flat. Chermayeff kept the original cancelled stamps and brown tape on the cardboard. The red stamps are now Sam’s eyes. One of the blue mailing labels is his nose. There’s a black line in exactly the right place for a mouth. Chermayeff added cut black paper for shoulders, and pink semi-circles for ears. Notice the painted child’s handprint. That must be Sam’s “signature.”
SMILE and LOOK CLOSE
The image above is titled GIRL (2000), collage, 14 x 11 inches. It’s so simple and so very clever and witty. The shapes are dots, semi-circles and rectangles. The girl’s face is a grey paper rectangle and her eyes are round grey dots. See the gold and blue cut papers – semi-circles that are ears and a hat.
Notice her blue dress. It’s the same crayon blue paper as the “hat” and reveals a photo of deep cleavage showing through the V neckline in the dress. What a girl! The best part – her “mouth” is actually a photo of an eyelash. At first glance, you see a curved black line. It’s a happy-face smile. Then you notice it’s a fringe of eyelash in a closed eye. Very demure. How witty! My reaction: it’s a Mona Lisa smile. What is she hiding?
He collects garbage like crazy
In interviews, Chermayeff admits he has drawers full of old envelopes and postage stamps, and recycles gloves people drop and leave behind. His approach to collage is spontaneous. He says. “What I’m playing with is making new visual connections. That’s what my collages are all about.” Chermayeff’s people are made from letterheads and labels, pebbles and Polaroid prints and stuff from the office recycling bin. The craftsmanship is meticulous, pristine and clean. They are not garbage.
The image above is titled Red Talker, collage, 15×11 inches, 1995. Notice the colors: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. The portrait is facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye.
Notice some papers have tiny punched holes and show the white through. One collage paper is a printed bullseye with black concentric circles on a peachy tan background. There are multiple tiny holes punched in a horizontal line marching across the bullseye to meet a larger white dot in the outer black circle. See more punched holes in the red paper rectangle touching the bullseye paper. Notice the mouth is a torn red and white business form – probably a mailing label.
Did You Know?
Ivan Chermayeff is world famous as a designer and cofounder (1957) of the firm Chermayeff & Geismar, that produced the iconic logos we all know: NBC, PBS, CBS, Mobile Oil, Chase Manhattan Bank, National Geographic, the Museum of Modern Art and more. He graduated from Yale University and began his career designing book covers and album covers. He is most famous for his logos, but also does collage and has exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world.
The image above is the PBS logo (Public Broadcasting System) the firm designed in 1983. Image: courtesy Pinterest
According to artsy.net, Chermayeff (born 1932, London, UK) is an artist who rotates through multiple media. His strength as a designer and illustrator are equally present in his collage and printmaking media. They say, the works are ingenious and complex even though they look simple. Read more here.
Ivan Chermayeff says “collages make it possible for everything to be something else.” That’s the essence of our contemporary lives.
I talked to Pavel Zoubok at the gallery and learned so much about the artist and the art works. It was a great opportunity to speak with an expert. Zoubok is a passionate advocate for collage and has devoted his career to promoting this genre. Here’s a quote: Zoubok says we live in a cut and paste world. Isn’t that the essence of contemporary life? That is the essence of collage. Zoubok also believes collage is manifest in the digital culture that is transforming our society. I absolutely agree.
Tell me what you think.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The image above is a small version of Pregnant Kangaroo, a 3D computer print on a marble pedestal, 6” tall, edition of 10 (2010).
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.
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.
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
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.
The image above is titled Elephant Clown, 26” tall, wood, pigment, paint (2009). Notice the swirling wood grain in her curled, carved headdress.
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.