make it good

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).

Carol Frank, collage

Carol Frank, collage

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.

 

Stretch Boundaries

 

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.

 

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.

Julia Child quote

Julia Child quote

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.

Collage by Rosella

Collage by Rosella

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.

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

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.

Is it a smile or frown?

Is it a smile or frown?

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

    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.

We haven’t got enough PAPER

I teach a collage class at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. We have a new collage project each week. Almost every project has paper as the primary media.

We are half way through the fall term and have run out of magazine papers – our primary source for collage. I supplied the magazines at the beginning of the class term, and the students have depleted the supply. We need more magazines.

I would like the students (or a donor) to replenish the supply. I don’t want junk magazines. Cheap paper is a waste of time. It’s very hard to create collage with cheap paper. It curls when you apply glue. It’s hard to cut and tear. It doesn’t hold up over time. It looks cheap.

grid collage fall 2013 PAC 680

Nikkal, sample grid collage

I want students to work with quality magazines papers that are printed with rich color, offer strong graphic design, and use creative text. Replacing the ArtForum magazines would cost me much more than I want to spend. I would like every student to donate or find a donor neighbor. So many people toss away magazines or put good magazines into recycling bins. Collage artists recycle. We need good magazines.

Nikkal, a swell guy, paper collage

Nikkal, a swell guy, paper collage

Magazines I like include art, photography, internet, home decor,  fashion, garden design, nature and more. The paper quality is important. ArtForum, ArtNews and Art in America have good paper. I like Vogue, Elle, Elle Design, W and Interview magazine. National Geographic is excellent for paper quality, color, nature and animal images.

I will ask my friends and neighbors for donations. I would like my students to do the same.

Nikkal, sample line drawing with stamp pattern

Nikkal, sample line drawing with stamp pattern

I’m a snob for good paper. In my own collages, in addition to magazine papers, drawings, and my painted papers, I use artist hand-made imported printmaking papers because I love the range and contrast of whites. A lot of my white papers go in as the background layer in a collage.

Good Paper is Expensive. Good paper makes a Good Collage.

Another Way: Create Our Own Papers for Collage

Nikkal, sample magazine paper for collage

Nikkal, sample magazine paper for collage

Nikkal, magazine paper scan, inverse pattern color

Nikkal, sample magazine paper, inverse pattern color

In recent class projects we created large collage papers with multiple small magazine papers.  See the first image – a grid collage above. It’s a substrate for a figure collage. In another class, we created a crazy quilt collage with overlapping patterned papers.  See my sample image below in red, black and white. I will add another layer.

In a third class, we created a background collage for a landscape. We used pieced papers from a lot of different magazines.

I asked the students to keep the originals and reproduce multiple copies in black and white and color. The copies become the resource media for additional collages: as collage paper and as  a paper substrate (bottom layer). Papers can be reproduced from the original as needed. If the original collage is copied digitally, it can be reproduced in a copy shop in very large format. You can play with the image and color in PhotoShop.

Nikkal, crazy quilt collage

Nikkal, crazy quilt collage

I like to include drawing with collage.  See the 3rd image above that I made on artist paper and stamped all over with a bird pattern. I cut and paste small sections whenever I want line drawing in the collage.

I included two images that are computer scans of a rug (advertisement) from a design magazine. I like the diamond pattern and needed one to be positive (black on white) and one to be inverse (white on black).

4 Goals for the Class

Create projects that create (generate) papers. Create projects that repurpose and embellish papers. Discuss how to sort and organize collage media. Discuss why it’s important to collect, create, reproduce and build inventory for collage – because it saves time and money, it makes your media personal (you can pick the colors you like),  and it’s much better to have all your papers available when you are ready to work .

Please add your comments and suggestions on how to hunt and gather materials for art projects. Thank you for sharing.

Get Creative with Collage

September 11, 2013

How do you feel creative?

What does it take to become an artist? It takes looking and making. Artists are trained to observe. We regard everything we see with a critical eye. We analyze and  interpret what we see, and the world we observe is translated into the art we create.

Practice making art. Think about what you make. Think about how you made it. Make it anew. Practice.

KEEP A JOURNAL

Keep an art journal (notebook) to help you as you practice. Make it by hand. Record ideas in your own handwriting or print as you create work. Explore media and techniques in your journal. What did you do? Write down the steps you took. Write about plans for new works and works in progress.

ADD CUT OUTS

This is a collage blog, so I recommend you collage into your journal. Cut out and paste words and images from magazines, books and newspapers.  Add doodles and drawings with pen and pencil. Don’t say you can’t draw: trace and transfer a line drawing in your own hand.

Make lists. Print or cut out letters. Embellish your pages. Create a map or a flow chart or a diary of your day and the work you plan to do. The journal will help you develop ideas, and help you hold onto ideas for your studio practice.

Nick Cave, Art Journal

Nick Cave, Art Journal

The image above is a 2 page spread from a journal by contemporary artist Nick Cave (American, born 1959). Cave is a fabric sculptor, dancer and performance artists, best know for his SoundSuits, wearable fabric sculptures (I call these fabulous 3D collages).

The hand-writing and color embellishment may just be working information.  I say it’s also contemporary art, a personal object made by a contemporary artist that reveals the artist’s hand at work. Contemporary art is often about lists and information.

Nick Cave’s notebook proves that an artist’s journal can become a work of art.

Are you Stuck? Are you worried? Keep a journal and get un-stuck.

If you have a work in progress (a painting, print or collage) that you can’t finish, and are afraid to keep working on it, use a journal to help you understand what and where the problem is. Artists worry about taking a work too far.

DON’T WORK ON IT. TAKE A BREAK.

1st step: Put the work aside – turn it so you don’t see it. Walk away. Return when you think you have been away long enough, and look at your work with fresh eyes. BUT, Don’t work on it!

USE THE JOURNAL AS A TOOL

2nd step: Take out your journal. Write about what you see in the work  you want to change. Describe what you like and what you don’t like.

Analyze the work in parts. Look at colors, shapes, and lines. Write about how you would change these elements.

Do color studies in your pages. See if different colors work better together.

Make several small print copies of the work you want to change. Cut and paste the images into your journal. Add cut outs and change the image. Write about the changes you made. It’s important to see and understand and describe what you do.

Find works by artists that inspire you. If I wanted to work with red, I would look at The Red Studio (1911) an oil painting by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954).

I love this painting and always think about The Red Studio when I think about the color red.

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

I found a very interesting commentary about what Matisse was doing when he created this painting.

Listen to the comments on the audio that describe how Matisse made the painting, and how he was able to crush the illusion of space – something all modern artists tried to do – and the way he used the color and the way he applied the paint.

CUT AND PASTE and CREATE A NEW WORK OF ART in YOUR JOURNAL

Your journal pages can become a work of art as a collage.

Find collage media online. The Internet is a great resource for inspiring images. Find images in art periodicals, books, exhibition catalogs, fashion and home design magazines. Find images in catalogs you receive in the mail.

Use media for inspiration. Cut and paste images into your journal. Make sure the scale is right for your journal pages. Play with scale. Write about the juxtaposition of your images, your design and the colors you use. Make notes about what you will do and how you will use the images. It’s important to write all the ideas down by hand. You will remember original thoughts better that way.

THEME AND VARIATION

Another way to tackle the problem of your unfinished art work:

Make 10-15 standard size (8.5”x11”) print copies of the unfinished work. Reproduce some copies in color and some copies in black and white. Glue the copies to a larger paper (a substrate) that is sturdy.

As you work on each copy, add collage elements with new colors and texture (use pieces of colored paper to move colors around, cover areas that are too busy, open up areas that are tight, etc.).

Make notes. Take a digital image of the 8.5″x11″ collage, reduce the size  and glue the small print image into the journal. Write about the new image. Add to the image. Make it into a new image.

Analyze how you use color. Do you want to explore other color relationships? Make another collage.

Ask: Is there any image, color, shape or line that is too dominant (or too weak)?  Should it be covered over, minimalized or replaced?

If you are dissatisfied with lines, make a drawing with an artist pencil (2B, 3B, 4B) onto a piece of paper (I like to work with hand-made BFK Rives paper). then add the  line drawing into the collage.

The image below is by Benjamin Jones. I love what he does with text. His collage is titled 7 Virtues. He achieves so much with black and white and one color – red. Notice that the central squares (his drawings) open up the space, and the surrounding text feels like a pattern.

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

COLLAGE GIVES YOU INCREDIBLE FREEDOM

Collage allows you to take chances, try new techniques, play with images and design.

Other ways to get “un-stuck” with an original work of art:

Rotate the image clockwise. See how it looks in every direction. Make notes in your journal.

Look at the work in a mirror. See how it looks in reverse. Is the composition off? How can you correct it? Make notes in your journal.

HOW I START A COLLAGE

I like to start a collage by looking at papers.  I choose papers even before I know what the image will be. My paper inventory is sorted by color, texture, pattern, and separated into painted paper, natural (undecorated) papers, drawings, copies, etc.

The collage below is a riff on the Exquisite Corpse genre, a figure done in 4 sections.

Read about the exquisite corpse in a class project I taught at the Pelham Art Center.  My post “All Mixed Up” includes many images by students – each student created a unique figure in collage.

Historically, the Exquisite Corpse was created as a collective collage (a group project). The idea for the Exquisite Corpse (Cadavre Esquis) originated in 19th century France.  The collage had words (a poem) if the group included writers. The collage had a figure in 3 or 4 folded sections, if the group included visual artists.

I made the Exquisite Corpse below. It was not a collaborative project.

It started with a magazine photo of a man with bare legs and loafers. I was drawn to the image. It was the right size and scale for the collage I wanted to create. I cut the image into 2 parts. I separated the torso and hands from the legs. I found other papers to  create 4 sections. I found a line drawing map.  I wanted text and a funky diagram drawimg (found in a contemporary art magazine). Other images (solid grey background blocks and textured patterns) came from interior design magazines. l included text: it’s folded. I used a black and white concentric circle as a bullseye for a face. I wanted a strong pattern. I found a drawing of a single eye, and placed it on top of the bullseye circle. I found a windowpane patterned paper, and cut it into a wedge shape for a skirt. This is a very strange fellow. It’s my idea of Surrealist art (something emotionally charged and challenging) with a contemporary twist because it includes the map and text for arms.

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

ART IS NOT JUST FOR ARTISTS. EVERYONE IS CREATIVE

My pitch: Participate in a creativity workshop. Make original art. Gain a new appreciation of your own creativity.

Explore contemporary collage.  Contact me. I teach classes at the Pelham Art Center and teach semi private (small group) workshops in my studio at Media Loft in New Rochelle, NY. I also offer small group critique sessions and help you analyze your work in progress.

Every class session includes demonstration and a little discussion about ideas for contemporary collage. It’s important to know what’s current and who the masters are.

We create our own collage media from everyday stuff.  We collage with words (text). We paint papers. Students bring their own media to add a personal touch.

Contact me to get information about a workshop. Send me your comments (see comments box below). Ask me about how you can problem-solve to get art work un-stuck. Thanks for reading.

Share the Love

February 19, 2013

Thursday, Feb 14 was Valentines Day. I hope everyone was able to share the love.

I was in NYC that day walking on Fifth and Madison Avenues from Grand Central Terminal to 34th Street. All the shops, department stores, and restaurants had red heart-shaped helium-filled balloons and red flowers in tubs in their windows or just outside on a sidewalk table.

People were walking hand in hand. Some were carrying flower bouquets to take to the office or home. I saw a little boy holding flowers wrapped in clear plastic. He held the flowers in one hand and held his father’s hand in another. I imagine he was bringing flowers home to his mother.

NYC was one big Valentine.

The image below is one of four collages I am sharing in this blog. All four images are titled Barneys because the collages exist in a Barneys New York shoe and boot catalog.

I received the catalog in the mail, and thought it was a perfect way to recycle consumer media with collage. The catalog is still a work in progress. I sometimes show the catalog to my students when I discuss how important it is to recycle postcards, catalogs, books and junk mail. It’s so easy to add images to existing backgrounds. And the paper is free.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 1, collage, 9x16 inches 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 1, collage, 9×16 inches 2011

Being in NYC on Valentines Day made me think about sharing the love, and that made me think about important blog advice from a great source – Alyson B. Stanfield and her Art Biz Blog. She offers great tips on marketing (and more).

I’m an expert at collage and want to share my ideas about the art of collage. In 2009 I started to write my blog. I was a newbie at blogs.

I took an online workshop with Alyson B. Stanfield and Cynthia Morris in 2010 called Blog Triage. I posted several blogs as assignments for the workshop.

The 1st lesson was titled Who I am Writing For. I wrote about a friend (Sylvia) who loves design and creates jewelry. Sylvia says I should include more personal content. If you want to read the blog, here’s a link to that post

The 3rd lesson “Your About Page – The Heart of Your Blog” included a link to my collage workshops site where you can read that I say my life is about glue (because I like to put things together).

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 3, collage, 9x16 inches, 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 3, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

The 6th lesson was titled “Cure Yourself of Blog Envy” and asked us to find blogs that inspire us – in my case – artist’s blogs where the content and images are presented beautifully.

I included a link to Gwyneth’s Full Brew. The artist writes “… I am documenting the intersection of art-making and art-seeing, daily life in New York City and…my drawing surface of choice since 2007 is the cardboard coffee cup.” Gwyneth Leech has had incredible exhibition success with her up-cycled coffee cup installations. She also takes wonderful photos of NYC and documents great places for a cup of tea or coffee.

At Blog Triage, I learned the best blogging serves your reader and includes links to useful information. The course included 20 assignments. Assignment #10 was titled “Show Some Link Love” – about including good links.

I always remind myself to share the links and share the love.

The image below is another one of four collages titled Barneys pasted inside the catalog. One page is about night and the other page is about day. The red lips are a huge kisser.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 2, collage, 9x16 inches, 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 2, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

Sending comments is another way to share the love.

I got email recently (Feb 10, 2013) from Douglas Beaudry. He has a blog titled The Bearing Edge and designs and sells skate-influenced custom jewelry (wrist cuffs made with leather fashioned with recycled derby and skateboard bearings) – really cool.

He commented on an old blog that I posted November 30, 2010 in which I asked and answered a question.

Question: How Are the Best Blogs Like a Great Collage?

Answer: The best blogs are good looking, engaging, multi-media, explore new ideas, and like the best art, invite you to share the experience!

That’s my concept for really good collage. Collage is layered.

Douglas Beaudry commented: What a great blog post and certainly served to clear my brain a little bit.

I thanked him for the compliment. I don’t know how my post cleared his brain.

I re-read the blog How Are The Best Blogs…. Basically – it included a lot of links and was all about sharing links.

The original blog included a link to the artist Robert Rauschenberg who had an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC. I included a link to a Nov 26, 2010 NY Times Holland Cotter review of the exhibition. Both links are repeated here. The Gagosian Gallery link connects to works by Rauschenberg. The NY Times link is so well written it is still valuable to read. Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He has influenced so many artists who followed.

The Barneys 4 collage seen below is in black and white and in color over a background that turned from amber yellow to bronze. I used magazine images that were printed in color and black and white. The models are a mix and match of men and women. I wanted the focus on the eyes. They are looking at me and you.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 4, collage, 9x16 inches, 2011

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 4, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

If you think you want to update or improve your blog (or want to start to blog), I recommend the self-study Blog Triage workshop. Check it out… There are so many ways to do a blog, depending on the audience you are writing for.

Following are comments about the media I use.

My substrate (background for the collage) in these 4 works was a high fashion Barneys New York catalog I got in the mail. I wish I could get more. I only got one.

My collage papers were from magazines like W, Interview and ArtForum.

I added text and line drawings because I love words, letters and graphic patterns and love to mix drawing, pencil, ink and printed media.

I thought about how to marry the old image with the new image and how the content changed with the overlays.

I thought about how the 2 pages had to work together and how all the pages had to work as you leafed through the catalog.

Collage is about juxtaposition.

I love juxtaposing images and making it into a commentary on our consumer culture. I wanted the images to become edgy.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. If you have questions about collage, you can email me.

Small Scale Collage

January 24, 2013

Next week I will teach a workshop in paper collage at Iona Collage in New Rochelle, NY.  

I will be a substitute for their regular teacher, and I want the class project to be fun, quick and easy to do – and engage them in making a collage right there.

I will provide each student with a 6 x 9 inch exhibition postcard for them to work on.

They will use magazines for source media, and work with scissors and glue sticks to cut and paste papers. I will show sample postcards with collage that I prepare for them.

I will talk about the history of collage (and will not talk too much) while they are working on their project.

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are credited with the invention of modern collage (1912-1914). The English word collage comes from the French words papiers colle (glued paper), a term coined by the Cubists. People who paste paper may also paste photos, fabric and 3D materials like wood, plastic, metal etc.

Many books on contemporary art describe COLLAGE as a medium of surface planes that explore sub-surfaces. Many books also discuss collage as a medium that comments on waste and rampant consumer consumption. A lot of collage is about politics and identity. It’s always about narrative and media.

Basically, I want to say that there is so much potential collage media out there to recycle into art.  I think the idea of recycling and consumer consumption will appeal to this age demographic.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 1, 6x4, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 1, 6×4, 2013

How about creating cards with collage?

I think we all have too much paper in our lives. But, I also think every piece of junk mail is a potential substrate (base) for collage, or can serve as paper to cut and paste onto something else.

Do you get postcard announcements for consumer goods in the mail? Do you get glossy multi-page home goods and fashion catalogs in the mail? It’s all potential collage media.

In my collage classes, I talk about 3Rs – reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, card with collage 2, 4x5, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 2, 4×5, 2013

What about the holiday cards you received this year? Don’t throw them out. Recycle the castaways and use collage to create your own work of art. Cover the base with a little collage or cover it with a lot (but leave a little of the original card peeking through) to show the juxtaposition of the old with the new media.

Free Paper Bonanza

Last year I was gallery hopping in Chelsea (NYC). It was the closing day for the exhibition at one gallery, and I noticed a pile of really good, heavy weight exhibition announcement cards sitting on top of the counter where the gallery people sit.  The cards were an elegant graphic (text) printed on lovely white stock.

As soon as I found out it was the last day for the exhibition, I asked if I could have the cards. They said yes.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 3, 4x6, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 3, 4×6, 2013

Theme and Variation

I like the idea of theme and variation. I start with the same base image. It can be an exhibition postcard (from my exhibitions) or a greeting card I’ve reproduced from my collage paintings.

Do you make your own cards? Do you reproduce your images into cards? Use the cards as a base for multiple collages. The new little collages can become the inspiration for new large works.

All the images included in this post are my tiny collages made with magazine papers on top of my printed 2013 New Years card. The card is a reproduction of a large painted paper collage I did last year. The card is small, about 4×6 inches. I added up to 10 collage pieces (very tiny pieces) per card. The imagery on the original was very geometric, so I planned to use rounded shapes and circular lines as a counter-balance to the straight edges. I did about 20 collage on cards and sent the cards to people who send me hand-made cards.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on card 4, 4"x6", 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on card 4, 4×6, 2013

I found a very interesting interview online titled “What’s New With Collage?” by Hrag Vartanian who interviewed Charles Wilkin at Hyperallergic.com (Oct. 25, 2011)

Wilkin curated an exhibition in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (NY) titled All That Remains, at the Picture Farm Gallery.

Vartanian asked: “What do you think is unique about collage today, if anything?”

Wilkin said: “One of the exciting things about collage is its primary use of discarded paper media which ultimately keeps it in motion, constantly changing like a chameleon. A quick look at the diversity of styles, concepts and technique found in contemporary collage proves it’s moved well beyond simply cut paper and glue.

He added: “I suspect many artists find it alluring for not only its immediacy but its unique and inherent nature to reinvent the familiar into something mysteriously new.”

Read more…

Thanks for reading. Please let me know how you recycle papers into art with collage.

Making art is a habit you cultivate. It’s a good habit and very important for artists.

But you need a proper space that’s dedicated and a place that makes you feel inclined to work.

I’ve had studios in my home and outside my home. Sometimes it’s more convenient to work from your home. Sometimes it’s better to separate yourself from home and work in a space dedicated to just making art.

My current studio is a dedicated space with worktables, sink, bookshelves, storage cabinets, my easel, printing press and flat files in one room with overhead fluorescent lights, and an east-facing window. I’ve been in the studio, located in New Rochelle, NY at Media Loft for 5 years and I’ve improved my studio space over the years. Media Loft is a great space for artists. We organize open studio events and have a first floor lobby gallery.

Nikkal studio worktable view

Nikkal studio worktable view

The image above is my worktable covered with papers, paints and tools. When I’m working it gets messy.

Notice the paint jars in the center of the table. I bought the jars in a retail stores that sells everything you need for storage. I needed to store paints that I custom mixed. Notice the painted canvas sitting in front. It was a clean piece of canvas and I’m using it as a blotter for excess paint from my palette knife. I swipe the paint onto the canvas and I think this work surface will become a collage element in a future work.

My table gets cluttered with painted papers as I work, and then I clean it up and organize the materials to make room to continue or start over on a new project. When people visit for open studio events, the space gets cleaned up totally, and people think I work that way. You can see that I don’t.

See the painting and collages on the wall behind the worktable. I just had a hanging art system installed in the studio and hung my art as if my studio is a gallery. It looks good when people visit. I also want to look at the painting and collages on the walls. The hanging art is there to inspire me to continue to work on the Metro Series. I am exploring color and want to see the colors I’ve used in front of me.  The Metro Series is about geometry. It’s constructed abstraction. Geometry is my reality.

Every artist needs a dedicated space – no matter how small.

It’s easy to get to work when you have a dedicated space where ongoing projects can be left in progress. It means you can leave at the end of the day and return the next day and everything is set out ready for work as soon as you arrive.

But, many artists work in improvised spaces. They make the space work for them.

In a recent class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, a gifted student who’s an artist brought up the subject of her studio space problem.

She is trying to decide the best place to work.  She can set up a workspace in her home basement or in her kitchen. The basement is bigger, but is also a shared space for family and TV.

The kitchen would be a happier place – she said it felt right even though it was the kitchen.

I asked if she could find a way to store all her art materials, glue and collage tools in the kitchen.

Antique Wood Flat Files

Antique Wood Flat Files

I don’t know whether the kitchen is vintage or modern, but, no matter what the style, there are new or vintage pieces that could be used for storage (or maybe there is a piece of furniture somewhere in the house that could move into the kitchen).

I found the above image online. I asked for images of  antique wood flat file cabinets. I got a huge number of images, including old metal flat files (probably less expensive than new).

Similar pieces can be found at ebay or etsy.com or go scout at a neighborhood antique shop, a tag sale or country auction. Maybe you already own something like this. It’s a beautiful piece to store your beautiful papers.

metal storage boxes

Metal Storage Boxes

The image above is suitable for an office or contemporary styled room. It’s readily available if you look for metal storage files or boxes.

If there isn’t floor space, is there a place to set a portable writing desk or stack storage boxes on top?

Vintage Storage Bin

Vintage Storage Bin

The image above appeals to me. It’s vintage and could hold postcards and small booklets for projects in progress. I would leave it on top of a cabinet or counter in the kitchen as a constant reminder of your creative time.

I’ve seen portable desks (writing desks) with storage compartments. Everything is tucked away and safe.

Storage Boxes

Storage Boxes

The image above shows 2 storage boxes to store collage papers, scissors, pencils, pens, etc. The boxes come in so many sizes and range in prices and are available online and in retail stores. They look fine stacked and could be stashed in a cupboard, on top of a cabinet or counter. I would keep glue in an upright position inside a cabinet.

Taking Out and Putting Back Can be a Good Thing

There’s a benefit to taking out materials every time you begin to work on a project because you handle all the media and see things anew. When you return the materials to the storage container, you organize again, preparing for the next time you will work. You can write notes on what your next steps will be so you are ready to begin when you return.

I suggested to my student that she could organize her materials (papers) and place them into extra-large plastic zipper bags, sorted by project. Depending on how the kitchen is organized, the bags could be placed in a kitchen drawer, or into a freestanding stack of drawers on wheels, or into a crate.

I have stored papers in plastic page separators organized into 3-ring binders. I sorted the papers by color, texture, pattern and image.  I place the binders on a shelf with art books (for reference) next to my stack of magazines that are a resource for more collage papers. My favorite magazines are ArtForum and Art News.

Check out ebay or etsy.com (storage and organization) for vintage storage pieces if that’s your taste. Or go online and locate sources for new types of storage – boxes, containers, flat files, storage drawers, etc.

It seems like everyone is into storage solutions today.

What solutions have you created? Please share how you’ve organized your personal art project space. Thanks for sharing.

What Did You Do In 2012?

January 11, 2013

I subscribe to Alyson B Stanfield’s artbizblog.

The December 19, 2012 post at Art Biz Blog, titled Year End Review  opens with:

You probably did more in 2012 that you are giving yourself credit for.

I immediately followed Stanfield’s suggestion to take time and outline my own accomplishments for the year 2012.

It was a wonderful exercise, both supportive (I got to see that I accomplished goals I set) and encouraging (I got to put in writing my goals for 2013).

Categories in the year-end review include:

How did you promote your art and what did you do to enhance your online presence? (Marketing Triumphs)

How did you strategize and track your growth, what books did you read to help your career, what grants/honors/awards did you receive (Business Growth)

Creative Challenges (how did you improve your studio habits)

Personal Happiness

Nancy Nikkal at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

Nancy Nikkal at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

Getting to see contemporary art in a setting like Art Basel Miami Beach makes me happy. I was there for 5 days December 4-8, 2012.

It’s an incredible experience, because the art you see ranges from museum quality blue chip art – to independent fine art dealer’s inventory from every country – to experimental and funky art that surely expands our understanding of what contemporary art is and can be. You get to see it all at Art Basel Miami. It’s an opportunity to meet and network with artists, gallery people (who were very friendly and accessible), and collectors. I attended programs, openings and free events. It was non-stop.

In the image above, I am standing in front of what I call a dimensional collage.  The image was taken at one of the large art fairs. The image is courtesy of Mary Hunter (my artist friend who met me in Miami, FL for 5 days to see all the shows).  I will write about the fairs, the program Conversations (with artist Richard Tuttle in dialog with Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, London), and a visit to the Rubell Family Collection in upcoming blogs.

The final category in the Year End Review at Art Biz Blog was:

What was the single best thing that happened to your art career in 2012?

I will write about that in an upcoming blog. Hint: it was a huge undertaking and it was worth it.

I recommend you do your own Year-End Review at the Art Biz blog site.

Here’s a link to a pdf with more career advice especially for artists that includes:

Fail-Proof Business Advice from 10 Years of Art Biz Coach

Top 10 Marketing Advice from 10 Years of Art Biz Coach

I include the final 5 here because they are so important. I think you will agree.

(5) Start blogging: Write regularly and consistently. My goal in 2013 is to write blogs about collage that will become content for a book. Alyson Stanfield recommends artists blog about their art to establish their credentials as an expert. That sounds good to me (no matter what the subject)  – because it helps you understand your subject in a deeper way, and the blog provides a place for dialogue with your fans, and makes you more search-engine friendly.

(4) Find ways to get your work out there. It’s critical for you to exhibit your art.

(3) Find ways to communicate about your art. Words can connect your art to more art viewers.

(2) Your contact list is your most valuable asset (keep it current and active).

(1) Get into the studio and make art!

I have a copy of Stanfield’s book I’d rather be in the studio.  It’s an excellent book that is perfectly titled for the dilemma studio artists face – because we are always juggling studio time (what we want to do and where we want to be) with the need to devote time to being out of the studio (marketing, seeing art at museums and openings, networking, writing, updating career and contact information, etc.).

New Goal: In 2013, I plan to send out my newsletter Notes from the Studio more regularly. Its focus will change and be more about what I do in the studio (maybe show works in progress), about juggling time, marketing triumphs, and improving social media skills.  I will always include links to my blog Art of Collage because my studio practice is collage and I teach collage classes and workshops. They are always related. My studio practice keeps my life centered. I teach collage because my purpose is to help people enrich their lives with art (and through making art).  I hope you will sign up to receive the news.

Thank you for reading this post. Let me know how you did in 2012.

Planning

I planned to post a blog about my 5-day trip to Art Basel Miami Beach (Dec. 5-9, 2012). It was an amazing opportunity to see contemporary art.

I couldn’t write about the wonderful art in Miami, because I am upset about the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last week.

Because blogs need to be posted regularly, I found another way to get past my writer’s block –  by going to my studio and making a sample collage for a workshop I will lead in April at the Newark Museum. It was something to do, and after I did it, I knew I could write about it.

Making art makes me feel happy (happier).

Stargazing, Collage and You

I  painted papers and collected magazine papers in bright colors and geometric patterns for the sample collage. I wanted to create a palette of painted papers in green-blacks, reds, and red-blacks and coordinated magazine paper in red and black stripes.

The Newark Museum workshop is titled Stargazing, Collage and You. It’s scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 10-4, and is offered in conjunction with the Museum exhibition African Cosmos: Stellar Arts (February 27-August 11, 2013).

The African Cosmos exhibition is currently at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts in Washington DC and will travel to the Newark Museum.

See the Smithsonian website for images and wonderful text about the exhibition.

The website introductory page shows an image of a painting by the artist Gavin Jantjes (b. 1948, South Africa). It’s acrylic on canvas and was purchased by the Museum with funds provided by the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program (see image below, image courtesy: the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts).

Gavin Jantjes, Untitled, Acrylic

Gavin Jantjes, Untitled, Acrylic

The artist rendered dancing figures in a style similar to ancient rock paintings from southern Africa.

The Smithsonian website includes many images, including the image below – the stars of the Pleiades cluster, also know as the Seven Sisters (seen from the Cassini spacecraft. Image: NASA). Only a few of the stars seen here are visible to the naked eye on earth.

Pleiades Seven Sisters, NASA

Pleiades Seven Sisters, NASA

The Smithsonian website also includes links to information about celestial deities in the time of the Pharaohs, cosmic models, celestial guidance, and more. You will also see African sculpture.

Sample Images: Pieces for a Collage

The image below is a sample collage I prepared with magazine and painted papers, titled Dancing With the Stars. The papers are glued onto 14×11 inch Bristol paper (the substrate).

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Dancing With the Stars, Collage, 2012

Dancing With the Stars, Collage, 2012

Following are sample collage papers.

I plan to demonstrate different ways to organize, paint and embellish papers at the workshop. We will use ordinary materials that are inexpensive and easy to find. The image below is green construction paper painted with a mix of green and black acrylic paint applied with a palette knife.

I will bring additional samples to the workshop and demonstrate the process so that participants can create their own palette of papers for collage. Notice the texture in the painted papers,  and makes the final collage much more interesting.  We save a lot of money when we create our own papers. We also  make our work more personal.

Green Painted Paper

Green Painted Paper

Black Painted Paper

Black Painted Paper

On the red image below, I made scribbled marks with 3 crayons (held together in my hand) on plain red  construction paper and painted over the scribbles with acrylic. It’s a crayon resist process.

Red Painted Paper

Red Painted Paper

The image below is red construction paper painted with red acrylic paint and overpainted with a second coat of black acrylic paint that was scratched into while the black paint was still wet.

Red Painted Paper with Crosshatch Pattern

Red Painted Paper with Crosshatch Pattern

I will encourage people to bring their own magazines to the workshop, especially if they want to use specific imagery in their collage. I will discuss how to play with images, textures and patterns.  Collage is about juxtaposition. Many times, people don’t see the potential of images until the images are cropped. I will demonstrate how to cut, tear and assemble the papers into new images.

I think the photo of food (below) came from Real Simple magazine.  I’ve included it here to demonstrate that all images have possibilities.

food for collage

food for collage

The image below includes small pieces from several different magazines, including ArtForum and W. I planned to combine the triangles into points on a star to collage into the background. The funny face is assembled with about 5 pieces of paper and is only 2 inches high. It was going to be the head of the figure stargazing at the Pleiades Constellation.

Magazine Papers

Magazine Papers

The magazine images below are backgrounds papers cut form fashion photos from W magazine. I wanted stripes in reds and blacks. The fashion magazines now show a lot of geometric patterns.

Assorted Striped Magazine Papers

Assorted Striped Magazine Papers

The striped papers became the body, arms and legs of the figure in the collage. The black paper on the bottom of the image (above) was cut up into the small stars for the constellation.

In addition, I drew 5-pointed stars freehand and cut them out, cut out a crescent moon, and glued them around the figure onto the collage. It was a challenge to glue down the tiny white stars.

HOW TO:

Drawing as Plan

Drawing as Plan

I planned the collage in advance and did 2 simple drawings to determine the size and shape of the figure, the placement and direction of the of the arms and legs. I wanted  to know in advance how tall the figure would be in relation to the background paper, and the size of the sky in relation to the size of the figure. See the drawing above.

I planned to make the background in two sections and cut a piece of magazine paper for the top portion. It’s a section of an abstract painting reproduced in ArtForum magazine. The bottom section is painted paper. I created the figure from painted and magazine papers cut into circles, triangles and angled rectangles. The figure was placed in sections (arms first) and glued on top of the background papers. After the figure was in place, I added a crescent moon and 5 pointed stars onto the background around the figure. The tiny cutout shapes that became the Pleiades constellation were added last.

See the finished sample collage above.

I hope you check out and are inspired by the images at the National Museum of African Arts website or see the exhibition at the Newark Museum in NJ. It will be amazing. If you want to take this workshop, please contact the Newark Museum

What can you do with Collage?

Two weeks ago at the Pelham Art Center, I talked about collage projects during the fall term. Many of the projects included recycling and repurposing papers. The class is titled Embellish An Image – Play With Collage.

Almost every class project I teach involves working with paper. We also work with found media and fabric. Everyone likes the idea of recycling junk mail, catalogs, magazines and cards. We say – don’t throw anything out because you can find a way to use it.

I stress 3Rs: Recycle, Renew, Repurpose.

If you doodle, do drawings, paintings, or prints, you can use the drawing, painting or print in your collage, either as the base for the collage (it’s the substrate) or as collage papers on top. It’s easy to start a collage when you build on top of something else.

The image below is my collage with pen and ink drawing in a series titled Strata. It’s on 8×8 inch paper. I made 16 different drawings and added collage to each one. I showed the images to my class and explained that strata is about horizontal layers. In this case the layers are a drawing and papers on top.

See more images at my website.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Strata 13

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Strata 13

I like to combine drawing with collage and I encourage students to add drawing.

A hand-drawn element makes the collage personal. Anyone can do drawing. Doodling is drawing. If you think you can’t draw, try tracing. Gather images and papers you like as inspiration. Do a copy of the image. You can start with a tracing on vellum paper. Draw with pencil, pen and ink, crayon and pastel onto small pieces of paper. Add your drawing to your collage..

Explore Theme and Variation

If you create your own greeting cards, you can use the cards as a base for a collage series.

If you don’t want to cut up the originals cards, take a digital photo or photocopy them if they are small. Make multiples and use the copies for collage media.

If you create a wonderful collage, don’t cut it up. Make multiple copies and use the copies as a base for more collage or as collage media.

Possibilities with Painted Papers

We used wallpaper from a donated book in a recent project. The paper was oversized, strong, and free. Some of the wallpaper was patterned and textured.

Each person painted a page with blue and green acrylic and created a background for a landscape collage that included an island surrounded by water and sky. Each person worked with a palette knife and used 2 greens, and mixed blue and white. The painted wallpaper became the substrate (the bottom layer). Some students added gloss acrylic medium to the paint. It made the paint more transparent and gave the colors depth in layers. After the painted wallpaper substrate was dry, students added various collage papers.

The image below is by Marlene Furtick.  She added magazine papers and papers she painted in a previous class.

Painted Paper collage by Marlene Furtick

Painted Paper collage by Marlene Furtick

Many collage artists use heavyweight watercolor paper or museum board as a substrate. It’s expensive. Sometimes the paper warps or buckles because of the water in glue or in paint. Wallpaper is a good substrate because it is typically coated and will not absorb water and will not warp or buckle.

Everyone Loves Painting Papers for Collage

Painting papers is a way to create collage media. You can paint on magazine pages, scrap paper, fabric, newspaper and wallpaper You can photocopy or scan and print the painted papers and create multiples. You can also use the original painted papers as a substrate. I always encourage students to create a painted substrate. It’s a great way to begin a collage.

For another class project, we worked with medium weight scrap paper that was plain white, and painted it with gouache (opaque watercolor).  Students used a 1 inch wide soft straight-edge (bright) brush and worked with diluted paint applied as a single color. Students painted more than one color on separate papers.

The image below is by Joyce Dutka, and shows the worktable and oil pastels nearby.

The papers are painted with gouache.

Joyce Dutka collage

Painted Paper Collage by Joyce Dutka

I encouraged Joyce to add drawing to her collage papers because doodles and drawing give the work more personality. It also added color, pattern and texture

Joyce cut her papers into shapes and embellished the papers with oil pastels. The project was inspired by the artist Henri Matisse, who worked in collage at the end of his career. Matisse called his collages paper cutouts.

We used fabric for collage in a recent class. The fabric was donated. Students cut up the fabric and glued it down onto canvas I supplied. We worked with carpenter’s wood glue because it is heavier than white PVA glue.

Carol Frank created the image below. It’s upholstery fabric and paper on natural unprimed canvas. The project is called Strata. Carol placed the horizontal strips so some edges were under and some edges were over others.

Fabric and Paper Collage by Carol Frank

Fabric and Paper Collage by Carol Frank

Here are more ideas for collage projects:

Explore black and white and red. Find magazine images and newspaper text. Play with shapes and line. Cut words into strips. Turn them upside down and on edge.

Find a large magazine image you like and glue it down on Bristol or another heavy paper. Select an image that is big enough to cover the paper substrate.  Add collage elements all over to create something that looks new and different.

Explore a grid design. Cut up 6, 9 or 16 small blocks of medium weight paper. The blocks can be 2×2, 3×3 or 4×4 inches. Add drawing or collage to each block. Organize and glue the blocks on a heavy Bristol or watercolor substrate. When you rotate the blocks as you place them, you get different patterns.

Play with layers. Work with thin paper over thicker papers. Let the edges peep through. Cut and open out top layers to reveal layers beneath.

Cut out text from books and magazines. Draw or write on cut papers. Glue Japanese washi papers on top to reveal line and text underneath.

Play with colors and tone. Work with a selected palette of collage papers that you create, collect or purchase. Choose colors that show contrast in color saturation (pale to bright) and in value (dark to light).

Play with edges. Cut and tear collage papers. Overlayer so edges peek through. Cut papers into curved shapes. Glue papers to create rhythm and pattern.

Explore examples of art by artists you admire. Copy (interpret) a painting, but do it in collage.

Interpret the style of 2 artists. Do a collage that includes elements of both.

I will teach 10 classes on Monday evenings (7-9) at Pelham, starting in January 2013. Contact me if you want to join the class.

Thank you for your comments. Please take the survey nearby and tell me what you like.

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