February 19, 2014
I noticed a familiar image at the beginning of Karen Rand Anderson’s blog–Look/see: A Little Book with a Big Punch.
It was the book – seen below - Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.
It was an amazing coincidence. I planned to write about Austin Kleon in a follow-up blog to the first Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal.
I took the little book down from the shelf, and began to read.
What I like best about Austin Kleon is he thinks like a collage artist. He says: next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and juxtapose them (collage is about juxtaposition). He recommends you keep a swipe file – another term for a notebook or journal.
I opened a favorite link (saved in a desktop file) to his blog dated Feb 10, 2010: 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.
Here are 3 quotes I really like:
Louis Armstrong: “my hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape…My hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”
Dizzy Gillespie: “You can’t steal a gift. Bird (Charlie Parker) gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”
William S. Bourroughs: “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”
In case you don’t know about Austin Kleon, he does a fabulous TedTalk.
Keep a Swipe File
Many artists keep a swipe file as a book or in a folder.
Typically, my papers are not pasted into a journal but left in a box. The image below includes swiped papers from recent issues of ARTForum, Art in America, and the March 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that is filled with page layouts that marry fashion and contemporary art. It’s the hot thing now.
Carry a Notebook and a Pen Wherever You Go
Listen to Austin Kleon. He recommends we carry a notebook and a pen with us wherever we go. He says: get used to pulling it out and jotting down observations. Add comments on what you observe, copy favorite passages out of books, record overheard conversations., and doodle when you’re on the phone.
I’ve started to play on Pinterest. It’s a way to collect images into a digital journal. On Pinterest you “pin” images to “boards.” I love it because it’s totally visual. I’ve created boards in different categories like art journals, paper collage, Romare Bearden, mostly red, and black and white. See all the images on my art journal board.
The image above is a lovely drawing and collage on a two-page open notebook by Olenka that I pinned to my art journal board (pinned from sodalicioushop.blogspot.com). I love how the artist played with geometric shapes and calligraphic lines with black ink. I love how the white journal paper was left pristine, and how the artist embellished the drawing with delicate pastel colors, tiny geometric shapes and letters that float inside triangles and circles.
The image above is a painting and collage on 2 pages in an open notebook by Jeffrey DeCosta. I love it because it’s not slick. It’s gritty and painterly. The left page has the block numbers and letters. You see 34 in red, and the word SAVE and the number 0 in black. The opposite page is an abstract painting with smudgy black dots covering a background in red, yellow blue and green. Some of the paint migrated to the opposite page. I was drawn to this journal image because I like the way the painted dots and collage letters communicate with each other.
Find more images at my Pinterest art journal board.
The image above is untitled and no artist is given credit (sometimes a problem at PINTEREST). Handwritten words march across two pages in an open notebook. The text creates a negative space (the white paper) that becomes a large letter B on both sides. The journal pages are created with pen and ink in small and large letters. I see the words: “my lack of understanding” and “help” and the tiny hand-written text on the left is not legible. I wonder if it’s all about the letter B.
See all the pinned images on my Pinterest letters board.
A Simple Idea – Observe, Collect and Comment
Keeping a journal is a simple idea: Observe, collect, comment, make art and learn in the process. A journal is a way to keep track of what you’ve swiped from others.
I do the same thing and tell my collage students to collect images and keep notes. If the image is too large for your notebook, scan or photocopy and reduce in size to fit your page. Take pictures with your camera phone so you include your own images. Put everything in folders, or a ring binder, scrapbook, plain notebook or fancy art journal.
Take notes on why you swiped it, what it means, how you think you will use it.
If you like, you can change your mind, reinterpret your images and rewrite comments.
Austin Kleon says: See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.
I am troubled because I don’t keep a journal. I have journals that are mostly empty. I collect images, make drawings, write comments, but don’t put them into the journals.
An artist who makes journals suggested I create the journal as loose pages and make the pages into a book. I saw an image that showed a book with pages in all different sizes. It was funky and pages were sticking out in all directions. But it was bound and a book – and it’s a definite possibility.
Another possibility is to collect images on Pinterest boards, and translate (interpret) and draw the images onto journal pages. I like that idea. I can pin and I can draw.
What inspires you? Do you keep a journal? Do you pin images at PINTEREST? Please contact me with your comments and share your pins.
November 8, 2012
How do you start a collage? It’s a question I’m asked a lot.
I say I like to create the background first. I also like to paint papers for collage.
The image below is by Bearden, titled Purple Eden (1987) 10.5×13 inches.
I wrote about Bearden and the workshop in a post titled Caribbean Fantasy Island Collage.
Materials for Painted Paper Collage
I brought paints, palette knives, and papers to the Pelham Art Center for the class to create a collage background (substrate). The papers were torn from a donated wallpaper book, and were perfect because they were sturdy, large, and FREE. The wallpaper had a pebbly surface that added a nice texture.
I demonstrated how to work with the palette knife. The acrylic paint was not mixed. It was right out of the tube. I showed them how handle the palette knife and apply the paint in varying thicknesses, to scrape paint into thinner layers, and overpaint layers to achieve depth.
We spent one class painting the background paper and painted additional papers for trees, plants, leaves and clouds. We created the media for the collage that would be assembled the following week.
The image below is my sample painted background.
The plan was to create an image of an island surrounded by water with a light blue sky above.
To start, I painted the entire paper with yellow green acrylic paint and let it dry. I painted a 2nd layer with blue acrylic directly over the green and created the shape of water surrounding the island. I scraped some of the paint thin to let the green underlayer show through. I mixed white acrylic paint with a tiny amount of blue and painted the horizon line above the island for the sky.
Everybody in the class did their own variation of the island, surrounding water, and sky. They took the painted papers home to dry. I asked them to collect and bring in magazine papers to add to their collage the following week.
The images below are the finished collages. Each one is unique. Each is 16 x 20 inches.
Carol added birds and fish and painted paper waves in the water. I said her palm trees were windswept.
Joyce added a mysterious, magical forest within her island landscape, plus many birds and critters she brought to class.
Sheila always does totally abstract collage and creates art books. For her project (seen above), I persuaded her to make her work more like a forest landscape with a hint of trees. The papers extend beyond the rectangle of the painted paper. I took the image on a brown masonite board.
The images below are by Marlene and Lorraine Furtick.
All the color variations in the painted papers were created by layering paint and scraping into underlayers.
I think the works are truly amazing, especially since the projects were completed in 2 class sessions and a total of 4 hours.
Does the idea of creating your own collage media inspire you? Romare Bearden painted collage papers with watercolor and called his works collage paintings. Henri Matisse had studio assistants paint his collage papere with gouache. I paint a palette of papers for each collage. You can too.
Please send me your comments.
November 2, 2012
The meaning of ser en dip I ty: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.
I recently posted a blog about visiting the Studio Museum in Harlem (NY) to see the Bearden Project (closed Oct. 21, 2012).
2011-2012 has been a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth with museum and gallery exhibitions all across the United States. Bearden was one of the great artists of the 20th century and is best know for his collage paintings. Read about his life and art at the Bearden Foundation.
I knew in advance the exhibition at the Studio Museum didn’t include works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). It was the 3rd and final installation of the Bearden Project, with paintings, collage, mixed media and sculpture done by mostly young contemporary artists who were inspired by Bearden as they were growing up.
The link to the Bearden Project website allows you to see all the works and read (or listen to) comments about how each artist was influenced by Bearden. It also includes images of works by Bearden each artist selected for the Project.
The trip to the Studio Museum was a bonanza. There were 4 important exhibitions. All the shows closed on Oct. 21, 2012.
The lobby gallery featured postcards by 4 artists in an installation titled Harlem Postcards. Museum visitors were invited to take a card. You can see the cards and send a postcard from the website link.
I kept returning to look at the mixed media work on paper by Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled Species I, 2010-2011 (see above). It’s cut papers and fabric embellished with glitter, 62 x 50 inches. It was fascinating to see the cut-outs, glitter and embellished surfaces.
I also got to see the exhibit titled Illuminations: Expanding the Walls 2012 (photography).
After checking out the Bearden Project on the lower level, I walked upstairs to the mezzanine to see Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-12.
The exhibition catalog says each artist uses appropriated source material and imagery and reinterprets and re-contextualizes content through different media: painting, photography, drawing (and collage). The Museum curator, Lauren Haynes, wrote: “Through their investigations of primary sources, either their own life stories, political histories of nations in flux, historical texts, or images found on the internet, these artists create artworks that will themselves become primary sources about contemporary art in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
The image by Meleko Mokgosi, seen above, was a grand painting in multiple parts that wrapped around the gallery walls. The artist uses wide-angle perspective and large-scale imagery. Many images are appropriated from wedding blogs, newspapers (from Botswana), magazines and his own photographs. The catalog says Mokgosi is a conceptual painter who uses the language of film and works like a film director to create his large scale tableaux – painted montages with figures, objects, furniture and still lives where his frames, like movie sets, fade one into the other.
The image by Xaviera Simmons, seen above, is a color photograph, titled Index 3 Composition 2, 40×55 inches. In the catalog essay, Luc Sante writes: “Her alchemical touch transforms every kind of rag and bone, variously drab or cold or ponderous or high-hat in both their original states and artistic implications, turning them all into vehicles for adventure…The entire African diaspora is contained in those clusters of pictures and objects clothes-pinned to a tumbling skein…”
I got to view the most amazing collage paintings I’ve seen in years by the artist Njideka Akunyili.
It was a perfect example of serendipity – I went to the Studio Museum to see the Bearden Project, and in the last gallery I visited, I found the collage paintings by Njideka Akunyili.
Her work took my breath away. It is so masterfully done.
The image above, titled Witch Doctor Revisited, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 76×51 inches.
In a review, Alex Fialho wrote (Art Fag City, October 17, 2012): “… what makes Akunyili’s work the principal success of Primary Sources (is that) at just 28 years old, Akunyili seems to have already fleshed out a practice that recasts a disparate array of sources and materials into a cohesive aesthetic sensibility.”
He says Akunyili’s work loses much of its tactility and detailed nuance in reproduction. You have to see it in person. I was so lucky to see her work at the Studio Museum. I believe she will be an important artist with a great future.
The image above by Njideka Akunyili is titled Efulefu: The Lost One, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 40×30 inches.
Rose Oluronke Ojo writes about the autobiographic content of this painting in the Primary Sources catalog essay titled “The Dance.” She says: “Akunyili’s series of multimedia works reference multiple discursive formations, as well as supposed opposites: black African and white American, European painting traditions and traditional African art, conservative African courtship rituals and an interracial couple in coital bliss…This dance of the opposites in Akunyili’s work is reflective of the multicultural, multi-local nature of contemporary African art.”
Njideka Akunyili was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She received her MFA from Yale University School of Art (New Haven, Ct) in 2011. She participated in the Bearden Project earlier in 2011 at the Studio Museum.
A final review: Holland Cotter wrote about Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-2012 in the NY Times (July 19, 2012). He starts with Njideka Akunyili and mentions the autobiographical content in her large collage paintings. He comments on the political content in Mokgosi’s works, and has a lot to say about Xaviera Simmons, who – he says “has been playing audacious photographic games with the African in African-American, by scrambling categories like ethnic authenticity and historical objectivity.”
Your comments are Welcome
Please let me know if you were able to see the exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and comment on the artists I’ve written about here.
October 25, 2012
I like to create my own media for collage with watercolor, gouache and acrylic paint. Painting allows me to create multiple sheets of paper in the colors, patterns and texture I want for each collage.
I apply paint to recycled magazine papers and other paper media. I like to work in mixed media collage, and include hand-made papers, decorative papers, my own drawings and prints to the painted papers, and often paint papers to match colors of other papers.
See my online tutorial on painting papers.
I told the class that two of my favorite collage artists – Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – worked with painted papers. Bearden painted his own papers, typically in watercolor. Matisse had studio assistants paint his papers for him in gouache.
The image above is acrylic paint on drawing paper, done by one student in the Pelham collage class.
We worked with a plastic palette knife. Almost every student I meet has no experience or almost no experience painting with a palette knife. I tell them it’s so easy to get really good results with this technique.
It’s a simple technique
The image above is a selection of 9 papers done with palette knife and acrylic paints by one student in the Pelham collage class.
I did a simple class demonstration, showed them how to set up their palette of paint colors on a disposable paper plate (plastic coated), and very quickly the students started to paint with the palette knife to make their own painted papers. They created an amazing variety of colors, designs and textures.
I showed them how to apply paint over a film of acrylic medium I applied to white drawing paper. After that, I showed them how to apply acrylic paint directly with the palette knife onto magazine pages.
I like to paint on magazine papers – to recycle pages from art magazines like Artforum, and fashion magazines like W because the pages in those magazines are heavier than typical magazines. I don’t recommend using news magazines for painting papers, because the paper is thin and curls when you apply paint or glue, and is difficult to work with in collage.
How to work with acrylic paint:
Use any good brand of acrylic paint. The better brands are usually more expensive because they include more paint pigment. The colors are richer and the coverage is better. I recommend students work with gloss or satin acrylic medium to make the paint thinner. I tell students not to use water to thin the paint.
I often buy art supplies online from Jerry’s Artarama and NY Central Art Supply.
When I am in NYC, I stop by NY Central Artists Supply at 62 Third Avenue. Their paper department is incredible and they ship everywhere.
Dick Blick is another good resource for acrylic, gouache and other art supplies.
Tools for the Workshop
In the class demo, I tell students to squeeze out dots or small ½ inch strips of acrylic from the paint tube onto a plastic coated disposable paper plate, and leave some space in the center of the plate so colors can be mixed.
The image above shows a plastic and a metal palette knife, a 1 inch soft paint brush, a paper cup, tubes of gouache paint, a single tube of acrylic paint and the book titled Jazz (about the artist Henri Matisse).
When I paint papers with acrylic, I typically lay the colors down on a disposable paper palette and mix one color at a time. When I paint papers with gouache, I typically mix the paint with water in a small cup so it’s diluted to the proper consistency. For the class, I wanted everyone to be excited by the possibilities of working with different colors and with mixing colors as they painted.
I also mix colors directly on the paper. First, I squeeze acrylic gloss or satin medium from the container directly onto the paper and brush it across, then squeeze dots of acrylic paint out of the tube directly over the medium and move it around with the palette knife to create stripes, patterns and transparencies.
The swirly painted image above is by a student who tried that technique. She applied paint directly over gloss acrylic medium and moved the paint with the palette knife to create transparencies and pattern.
The palette knife can be made of plastic or metal. I supply plastic palette knives. I also work with a metal palette knife. It’s important to wipe the knife clean, especially when changing colors, and never allow the paint to dry onto the knife (acrylic paint can dry quickly).
I urge students to wipe the paint off the knife with a paper towel so that the paint on the knife doesn’t get mixed into water (it they dip the knife into a water container). It’s not good for the environment to pour paint dissolved in water down the drain.
The image above shows Matisse in his studio in Nice, France in 1952 (this image is included in the book titled the Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse, by John Elderfield, published by George Braziller, NY).
All of Matisse’s collages were created with painted papers. His studio assistants painted his papers for him with gouache.
Matisse said he painted with scissors. He called his works paper cut-outs (gouache decoupes). Read about the Technique of the Cut-Outs…
The image above, a collage in painted papers, is by Matisse and is titled Creole Dancer (image courtesy the Internet). Notice it is organized as pieced blocks of paper in the background, overlaid with cut out shapes. Notice the painted papers show variations in color saturation and paint density because they are hand-painted.
I tell my students that Matisse did not discard papers that were cut out and that landed on the floor. Notice the image above with Matisse in his studio and all the papers on the floor. Notice his cut-outs were typically curved and organic in shape and referenced nature.
The image above is by a student in the Pelham class. She painted papers, and while the paints were drying, she created a collage with colored papers I supplied. Before she glued the papers down, she embellished them with oil pastel drawing to make the surface richer and brighter. Notice the oil pastel sticks in boxes nearby.
The class explored many different techniques with painting papers. They layered colors, wet layer over dry layer, to see how the colors changed. They painted with transparent gouache paint over papers painted with acrylic in patterns. They scribbled wax crayon on white drawing paper (a resist process), and applied acrylic paint in both transparent and opaque layers over to see how the crayon showed through. They all liked that.
I told the class that all the papers they created were usable – nothing was a throwaway. Some were so good they were paintings that could get collage additions and be finished as mixed media works. Some were ideal as unique collage papers and could be reproduced if they wanted multiples for large collage projects.
One student created a palette of papers that coordinated with purchased hand-made papers she brought to class. How clever that she mixed colors to compliment other papers she already had (collage artists collect papers for the next collage).
I showed the class how to twirl wet paint on drawing paper as they painted, and create directional patterns.
We talked about the art of the cut-out by Henri Matisse. I hope they were inspired.
I’ve recommended resources for paper and paint above.
Please email me or add comments to the blog if you can share a good resource for paper, paints, and any other media you like to use for collage. Thanks in advance.
October 18, 2012
Last weekend I visited the Studio Museum in Harlem to see the exhibition Bearden 100, a centennial tribute to the great 20th century artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988). What I saw was the 3rd and final installment of Bearden 100. It closes October 21, 2012.
I promised to write about the Bearden 100 exhibition in a previous blog about a Bearden workshop I lead on August 5, 2012 at the Newark Museum titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage – inspired by the artist Romare Bearden.
The workshop was offered in conjunction with the exhibition Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections at the Newark Museum (closed August 19, 2012).
The image above is by Romare Bearden and titled Conjur Woman. It was completed in 1964. It’s only 9×7 inches, and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines such as Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post.
Bearden turned his tiny collage into a huge black and white print (called a Photostat). The Newark Museum had small works and large prints on display. The large black and white Conjur Woman Photostat is in the collection of the Studio Museum.
Read more about the meaning of the Conjur Woman and more about my workshops.
22 ARTISTS AT THE STUDEO MUSEUM IN HARLEM
Here’s a link to see images of the 22 works at the Museum. The link is from the Bearden Foundation.
I was drawn to several works.
One was a figure by Elia Alba titled Portrait of a Young Girl, 2012 (see the image below).
It’s a 3D figure in a prayer-like pose. She wrote: It wasn’t just Bearden’s collage, but his merging of cultural and artistic practices that left the strongest impression on me.
I really liked a collage by Noah Davis titled The Frogs (2011) seen below.
It looks like collage with many magazine papers and fractured faces (it’s definitely inspired by Bearden media and technique).
I was drawn to a mixed media 3D work by Xenobia Bailey, titled Endless Love: Conjur Kit, 2012 (see below).
I love the fact that the artist named her work Conure Kit – maybe she is inspired by all the Conjur Women in Bearden’s oeuvre.
The artist wrote: I love the continuum that his (Bearden’s) collages have to African-American quilt-makers and musicians. Mr. Bearden constructs everything in his artwork as if he is patching together the idea of the New African in North America.
See #66: Bearden, In the Garden 1974 (image below). It includes red striped fabric on a figure, and abraded painted papers.
The Bearden image was selected by Tanekeya Word, a visual artist living in NYC.
See her mixed media work (below) titled Pretty Dope-a-licious Cameo #11, acrylic paint, gouache, watercolor, acrylic ink, gold leaf, embroidery, floss, pastels, latex paint on watercolor paper, 2012.
Willie Cole selected the collage by Bearden, #57 Gospel Song 1969 (below) It includes multiple pieces of abraded papers, a gray background, and shows what Bearden did to his media to create unique surface texture. It also shows how he used pieces of papers to create a sense of dimension, texture, and rhythm.
Willie Cole, a Newark, NJ artist, said he selected this work because it sang to him when he saw it.
See his work tiled Sole to Sole (below). Cole works with found media and creates/constructs metaphor about race in prints, sculpture and other media.
Cole describes himself: Today I am a Perceptual Engineer. I create new ways of seeing old things. and by doing so inspire new ways of thinking. I’ve also been described as an Ecological Mechanic, a Sacred Clown, a Transformer, the hardest working man in Shoe Business, The Original Iron Man, formerly known as the Dog Man, and once known as Vincent Van Black.
Willie Cole is one of my favorite contemporary artists.
More BEARDEN 100
The Studio Museum plans to extend the Bearden Project. They say:
The site will be frequently updated with new participating artists, sharing their story of inspiration and will include a high-resolution image of their artwork. We hope you’ll share your own artwork, stories, and comments with us by email.
Romare Bearden was involved in founding The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Cinque Gallery (initially funded by the Ford Foundation). Bearden and 2 other artists – Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow – established Cinque to support younger minority artists.
Bearden helped found the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.
He is recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the 20th Century. He worked in many different media, including painting and printmaking, but is best known for his richly textured collages
August 31, 2012
2011-2012 included many, many museum and gallery exhibitions all across the US honoring the centennial birthday for Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988).
See the Romare Bearden Foundation site for updates and information.
Read about The Bearden Project (August 16-Oct 21, 2012) now at the Studio Museum of Harlem (144 W 125 St., NY).
The Bearden Project shows work by 100 contemporary artists who have all been influenced by Bearden’s genius. Each artist was asked to create a work of art inspired by Bearden’s life and legacy.
The image above, is titled Summertime (1967), collage on board, 56×44 inches, image courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, NY.
In the collage Summertime, Bearden employs the rectangular geometry of window and door frames in a way that explores inside and outside space. We are looking in. Who is looking out? Notice the face and eyes of the Dan mask set within the upper-right tenement window (and the eye seen behind the pink gingham curtain in the window nearby). Bearden’s figurative elements included African masks. Are these reminders of lost African ancestors?
In an earlier post, I wrote about an August 5, 2012 Newark Museum workshop I led titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. The post included many images by participants in the workshop. This post includes more images created at the workshop. See their images below.
See the upcoming exhibition Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise at the ACA Gallery (529 W 20 St., NYC). The exhibition runs November 3, 2012-January 5, 2013. Reception date TBA.
The image above by Romare Bearden is titled Conjur Woman (1964). It’s a small collage, only 9×7 inches and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines like Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post. She is looking at us. See her hands. One holds a leaf – to make a potion? Notice the window in the upper right corner. Are we looking out at the full moon?
See more Bearden images in a post I wrote on January 15, 2011 titled Romare Bearden: Conjur Woman and Collage.
Looking At Collage Looking At You
Bearden’s is a radically inclusive artistic vision.
We can’t help but participate. He draws us in.
We are viewing and we are viewed.
The Bearden image above is titled Carolina Morning (1974). It’s mixed media collage on board, 30×22 inches. The work was included in the Southern Recollections show that travelled to the Newark Museum.
We see a woman holding a baby. Is she in a doorway or on a porch? An older woman with a young child is in the distance. Are they approaching – or departing? We are caught in the woman’s gaze and have to wonder what she is thinking about.
CONJUR WOMAN by Workshop Participants
Here are additional images by people who attended the Conjur Woman workshop at the Newark Museum August 5, 2012.
Now, I look at the art and notice how it is looking back at me.
Mansa Mussa sent me a close up view of his collage, seen above. Notice the face of Romare Bearden (a photo he took when he met the artist in person). Bearden is playing drums. Notice the saxophone player in the foreground. He’s looking at you. This work is all about jazz music. Bearden was a great jazz fan and knew all the greats.
Joan Alleyne-Piggot sent me her image titled “Without Limits, seen above. It’s a collage with text and magazine papers. Notice her emphasis on mouths. She wrote:
What the eyes can’t see, the ears will hear
What the ears can’t hear, the nose will smell
What the nose can’t smell, the lips will taste
What the lips can’t taste, the hands will touch
Everything is without limits if one fails to try,
She wrote: “I was inspired by Romare Bearden’s work after attending the premiere at the Newark Museum and decided to take the workshop. It was very inspiring.”
Dorothy Meissner sent me an image of her collage titled The Conjurer, seen above.
At the workshop she built her collage with black and white stripes (the piano keyboard all around), and skyscraper imagery. She finished the collage at home after the workshop when she found her skyscraper magazine images. She wanted the skyscraper image to capture the energy of the big city.
I will visit the Studio Museum in Harlem and write soon about the The Bearden Project show before it closes on October 21st. I will also visit the ACA Galleries and write about the upcoming Bearden show Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise.
Thank you for reading this post and thank you for your comments about all the exhibitions this year that honor the creative genius of this great artist.
November 17, 2011
I recently wrote about children making art.
It’s exciting to watch. They know instinctively what materials to use and how to express their ideas in a fresh way.
I think it’s important for kids to learn about collage by great artists like Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and others.
The image below shows collage in progress by two 2nd grade students at the Williams Elementary School. Notice the line drawing by Romare Bearden sitting on top of papers near the green scissor.
The image below is Bearden’s collage titled The Block. Image: the Internet. Made in 17 fiberboard and plywood panels. Media includes various papers with foil, paint,ink, and graphite. You can see The Block at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012).
HOW GOOD IS CHILDREN’S ART?
Do you suppose children’s art is good enough to show in a contemporary art gallery? I think so. It can be bold, inventive, and charming.
My last post was about a collage exhibition with works by children in the 8th grade. I talked a lot about how the works were framed and installed in the gallery.
I didn’t mean to imply that framing and gallery installation was responsible for how good the art works looked. Good framing always helps, but the young students made good art. Read about the exhibition…
Picasso said all children are artists and the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.
Do you think it’s true that young children are freer at making art than adults?
I remember a talented 10-year-old girl in a collage class I taught last summer. She was so confident and competent.
She selected and cut all the collage papers she planned to use before she placed or glued any papers down. She didn’t plan her collage in advance. She built her collage as she glued. The process was seamless, direct and accomplished.
She was also the only child in the class.
I did an experiment last Sunday. I asked 3 of my grandchildren to make a collage based on The Block by Romare Bearden. Alexander is in 4th grade. Sofia is in 2nd grade. Aaron is in Kindergarten. I showed them 3 drawings and a color print of The Block by Romare Bearden.
The image above is a poster for the exhibition Romare Bearden 1911-1988: A Centennial Celebration (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012). Image: the Internet
Do you see that Bearden included an interior view of people, including a person sitting in the stairwell?
I brought along pre-cut papers and larger 9×12 inch paper in several different colors. I brought white Bristol paper for a substrate (the base of the collage). I brought black fine-point markers, glue in squeeze bottles, and plastic squeegees to press down collage papers. They had their own assorted color markers.
We talked about the buildings in their neighborhood. I said it was important to include lots of windows and show detail in the windows. I said remember to include doors, entry steps, architectural details within and above windows, and a view of people or pets in the windows (I showed them how Bearden included people). I suggested they embellish the rooftops with details.
The fine-point marker pens were the most interesting to them, so the collages all started as drawings. Each grandchild wanted to cut their own building blocks from the larger sheets, and cut windows from the medium size papers.
They image below is by Sofia.
Sofia loved the pen with the brush tip and began to draw immediately on the right lower portion of her paper. The collage was glued in and around the drawing, and when the blocks were too wide for the paper, she slipped one behind the other. She used a light blue marker to color in the sky.
The image below is by Alexander.
Alexander worked with the fine-line marker and drew details. He added a tall sculpture on a rooftop, added drawings of people inside and wrote numbers and words next to and within the buildings. He was very interested in how buildings have different window configurations. We talked about how older buildings may have high ceilings so windows are taller.
The image below is by Aaron.
Aaron built his collage by first layering papers (windows) on building blocks. His buildings were constructed one by one. He cut the building blocks from large pieces of paper so the edges are not perfect rectangles. He cut thin, long triangular papers to fix the edges where they were irregular. He drew an elevator shaft in the blue building and added a collaged traffic light.
Each grandchild’s collage looks different and reflects their unique interests and focus.
Have you observed the way children make art? How do you think the work varies by age?
In December 2011, I will teach young students again at the Williams Elementary School and will watch and observe how they work and the ways they build their collages. I also want to see if and how they watch each other as they work.
Read more about the exhibition Romare Bearden 1911-1988: A Centennial Celebration (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012).
Bearden worked in collage – it dominated his studio practice the last 25 years of his life. His collages included magazine clippings, fabric, old photographs and colored papers.
Also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
I hope you get a chance to see the many shows that honor Romare Bearden on the centennial of his birth.
Please add your comments below about childrens’ art and collage by Romare Bearden. Thank you.
November 10, 2011
What a surprise! Children’s art on view in a pristine Chelsea gallery space.
I visited the DC Moore Gallery on West 22nd Street in NYC last month and saw an exhibition with collage done by children. The main gallery had wonderful paintings by Eric Aho. The adjacent gallery had an installation with 31 collages by students at the Calhoun School in NYC, titled 9/11: Through Young Eyes (September 8 – October 8, 2011).
The works were done 10 years ago. The students were 8th graders. Read more.
My first reaction was – isn’t this interesting to see collage by young students in a Chelsea gallery. My next reaction was that the student’s works looked really good.
I wanted to get up close and see the way the collages were made, the materials that were used, and understand why the work looked so good.
When I walked around and looked at the individual works, I noticed they were made with pieces of cut construction papers pasted on top of another piece of colored construction paper. This is the stuff that children use for art projects in elementary school. The paper is not that special. But the works looked almost professional.
I analyzed what made the works seem so special. The answer: every work, no matter what background color of construction paper was used, was “floated” on the same warm white paper – a high quality background paper – and framed in a matching white wood frame.
All the frames were the same size, and each one was hung with just the right amount of space between. Every framed work had room to breath. Each work got the gallery treatment.
Seeing the exhibition made me think how art can be enhanced by optimum presentation and installation.
I also thought about art made by even younger children I ‘ve taught at an after-school program at the Williams Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, NY, organized through the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY. I will teach collage again at the Williams School in December 2011.
The images below are collages done by 2nd graders, inspired by Romare Bearden (African-American 1911-1988).
I showed them a small print reproduction of a Bearden work titled “The Block.” It’s 48 x 216 inches, six panels, cut and pasted printed, colored and metallic papers, photostats, pencil, ink, gouache, watercolor pen and ink on Masonite. The image below is a section.
I also brought reproductions of Bearden’s much simpler line drawings to inspire the students at the Williams School.
I think it’s important for kids to learn about collage by great artists like Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and others.
The image nearby is a drawing by Romare Bearden. Image: the Internet.
The after-school program at the Williams School is self-selected. That means the kids decide what activity they want to join. My activity is making art with paper collage. The school has a very good art program and the children know how to work with scissors, paper and glue.
I bring drawing paper for the substrate (bottom collage paper) and assorted papers. I bring scissors, glue and crayons and encourage the students to embellish the papers with drawings, patterns and more color.
At the beginning of the class I show a reproduction in color of Bearden’s collage and drawings and say Bearden was a famous artist with works in important museums. I ask them to raise their hands if they know what a collage is. All hands go up.
I ask them to look at the windows in the classroom and see how the spaces are divided. I ask them to notice how the windows in the 3 different Bearden line drawings each have different windows, and to notice that some windows have people looking out.
Making art is about learning to see.
I ask the students to make a collage like the Bearden drawings and have more than one house on a street.
The Bearden reproductions include people and cats in the window. The children drew puppies, kittens, birds, trees, flowers, boys and girls.
Because time is short and the students have different skill levels, I prepare a lot of the collage papers in advance and pre-cut papers into 3 sizes of squares and rectangle in brown, yellow, black and teal blue papers. Each student gets a small squeeze bottle of white glue and a pair of children’s scissors.
I leave some papers uncut, and encourage the students who want to be independent and inventive to cut squares into rectangles for doors, steps, chimneys and long windows, and cut squares into triangles for rooftops.
I always do a tutorial on how to carefully squeeze glue from the small bottles. I say do “dot dot dot” and don’t squeeze too hard. I am there to help clean up the glue puddles if they squeeze the bottle too hard.
I am amazed at the energy in the works. Even if they don’t cut squares into smaller pieces, or cut parallel edges, each work is fun and joyful, based on the ways the papers are placed and the drawings they add. Everyone is able to finish his or her work.
The images show student works in progress and works held up for admiration. I didn’t show all the children’s faces to protect their privacy.
Read more about the exhibition “9/11: Through Young Eyes” (September 8 – October 8, 2011) at the DC MOORE Gallery,
The thirteen-year-old students in the exhibition “9/11” made their art after a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see an exhibition of works by Jacob Lawrence, including his “Migration Series” (1940-41). The Migration Series is about movement of African-Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North following World War I.
Thank you for your comments about children making art with collage.
August 3, 2011
Last week I drove by car for a late-morning appointment in NYC.
The highway route from Westchester took me along the Hudson River by way of the Henry Hudson Parkway.
The view was spectacular. The sky was bright blue and filled with round, puffy clouds – the kind children draw.
The clouds seen in the image above are called cumulous clouds.
As I drove along the highway, the clouds marched in a stately parade across the sky, white against brilliant blue. There was a ribbon of green grass along the highway with a blacktop pathway for cyclists and runners, and the grey blue green waves of the Hudson River were lapping along the water’s edge, reflecting sunlight from above.
The clouds reminded me of the clouds I saw in a collage painting by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), on view recently at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in NYC (the show Romare Bearden: COLLAGE, A Centennial Celebration, closed May 21, 2011).
The online exhibition is worth a look. I’ve included a link to the Gallery press release that says “The works in this exhibition reflect the artist’s belief that art is made from other art. This idea is literally present in the act of collage-making –- taking images, colors and forms out of one context, altering them, and juxtaposing them with other pre-existing images, colors and forms to create something new. Read more…
The work by Bearden I remember so well was titled “The Train Whistles” seen above (image the Internet).
It’s a large work compared to most works by Bearden, 31×40 inches, and a masterful mix of painterly passages, papers and striped and patterned fabric.
I saw the show twice before it closed.
I kept returning to see the Train Whistles and look again at how Bearden used his papers, and how he created his clouds.
I check the Internet and learned that a cloud is a visible mass of water droplets suspended in the sky above the surface of a body of land or water, and the droplets are so small and light they can float on the air.
The shape of a cloud depends on the moisture content in the air. The clouds are white because they reflect the light of the sun.
Bearden used different papers to create his clouds, combining multiple, subtly different shades of white with some torn edges against cut edges, layered with just the right spaces along the edges in between the papers to suggest depth and mass.
The image above is another Bearden collage in the recent Michael Rosenfeld Gallery exhibition. This one, titled “Watching the Good Trains Go By” (1969) is mixed media collage on board and is 9 x 12 inches. (image the Internet)
Like many of Bearden’s works, it contrasts strong, bright colors against black and white magazine and newspaper images in shades of grey. The colors are green and blue in paper and paint, and red and white patterned polka dot and red and cream in gingham checked fabric.
There’s a single cloud in the deep blue sky against a bright emerald green ground.
It was such a treat to see the works at the Michael Rosenberg Gallery exhibition. See more images online.
I hope you also got to see the show at the gallery.
A BEARDEN CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
If you want to see more works by Bearden and are in NYC, please contact the Romare Bearden Foundation to find out about the ArtCrawl Harlem: The Strivers Garden Gallery (300 West 135th Street at St. Nicholas Ave.) that will present “Bearden at 100” (August 4th – October 9th, 2011).
See “Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Collective (July 14th – October 23rd, 2011) presented by The Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th Street).
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Boulevard) presents Romare Bearden: The Soul of Blackness/A Centennial Tribute (July 15 – January 7, 2012).
As I got closer to my highway exit at 26th Street, the traffic slowed to a crawl. I had to drive crosstown to 6th Avenue.
I was listening to the Pachebal Canon on classical radio and wasn’t troubled by the delays and traffic. It seemed I had all the time in the world.
And the advantage of the traffic (advantage of traffic?) was that I was driving and stopping. It allowed me to take some photos from the car when I had to stop for a traffic light.
The image above is from my car. I am looking north on 6th Avenue. I was at 26th Street. The uptown view almost doesn’t look like a city street in NYC – but it is and you get to see the clouds against the city buildings.
Today I will drive into the City again – even though I prefer to take a train to Grand Central Terminal in order to avoid traffic.
I hope it’s another beautiful day with another amazing view along the way.
Questions for You: Are you a fan of collage and Romare Bearden? Did the information I shared about his work inspire you? Please add your comments below. Thanks for reading this post.
June 20, 2011
I am a great fan of Calvin Tomkins who writes brilliantly about contemporary art and artists.
His book LIVES of the ARTISTS includes in-depth profiles of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra and others.
The book is exciting to read, filled with personal information and critical insight, and would be appealing to everyone who is interested in art and artists.
Tomkins writes: contemporary art is all about choices.
I’m a collage artist. Collage is the most contemporary art medium, accessible to everyone. Collage is all about choices.
I got a phone call from Stephen McKenzie, the manager of Adult Education in the Visual Arts at the Newark Museum (Newark, NJ). He asked me to lead a mini collage workshop this past Saturday for museum members.
I chose to say yes.
I wanted the opportunity to promote two upcoming workshops, and, as always, to promote creativity through collage.
In May I did a very successful workshop titled Possibilities with Paper at the Museum. I am scheduled to teach Possibilities with Paper 2 and 3 in August and in October. There are so many possibilities. Collage is the perfect contemporary media.
The Newark Museum Mini Collage Workshop
I gave a lot of thought to what the Newark Museum mini workshop would include, and wanted to offer a project that would encourage looking and promote understanding visually.
Here are some of the possible mini workshop themes I considered:
Possibilities with Paper
Project: Create variations in papers for collage
Create texture with paint and tools
Combine elements and explore design
Repurpose papers for collage
I will teach Possibilities with Paper 2 at the Newark Museum on August 7, 2011, and will teach possibilities with Paper 3 at the Newark Museum on October 30, 2011. See more information about the 2 workshops.
Project: discover a personal color palette
Explore rich saturated colors in watercolor and pastel
Play with variations in hue, value and chroma
Select magazine images in related colors
Explore complementary colors
I will teach a Colorful Collage workshop on July 17 at the Pelham Art Center.
The Art of Romare Bearden
Project: explore collage as layered imagery
Explore variation in scale
Design with geometric and curved shapes
Play with pattern, surface and line
Last year I taught 2 workshops at the Newark Museum inspired by Romare Bearden. One was titled Caribbean Landscape. Another was titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. Each full-day workshop is 6 hours – long enough to complete a collage.
A Question of Time
The two mini workshops would each last 90 minutes so the project had to be simple and not take too long to complete. I wanted everyone to be able to start quickly and have enough time to finish.
My top choice was Romare Bearden because this is a special year (the centennial of his birth) and many museums and galleries are honoring him with retrospective exhibitions (including the recent show at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery on West 57 Street in New York City). The exhibition closed May 21, 2011.
See works by Romare Bearden online at the Michael Rosenfeld gallery website.
I wanted people to see and understand how Bearden constructed his collage images. But I was also concerned that it would require more time than was available.
Serendipity and the art of Jean Dubuffet
The day before the scheduled workshop, I discovered an image by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985) with a fabulous, provocative quote – it was guaranteed to stimulate and inspire. Here’s the quote:
“What I expect from any work of art is that it surprises me, that it violates my customary valuations of things and offers me other, unexpected ones.
Art doesn’t go to sleep in the bed made for it. It would sooner run away than say its own name: what it likes is to be incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what its own name is.
Personally, I believe very much in values of savagery. I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness.”
The image above is titled Sylvain. It’s 10×6 inches. It’s a collage made with insect wings.
This is how I organized the Museum mini workshop project:
Provide 12×12 inch construction paper in a deep hue
Provide a free-form profile drawing on 9×12 yellow paper
Provide magazine images of faces, eyes and mouths
Supply scissors, markers, glue, seam rollers and squeegee
Supply magazines for additional collage papers
Everyone got a color copy of the Dubuffet image and the quote.
I read the quote aloud.
I discussed how the image was constructed with insect wings – and also pointed out that there was an eye and teeth that could be on top or below the other papers.
Everyone was instructed to cut out the profile drawing and either trace or glue the drawing onto the larger sheet (and they got to choose where to place it). I did a demonstration on how to apply the glue. I suggested that they notice how Dubuffet limited the range of colors and try to select papers in a similar tonal range.
The rest was up to them. They chose how to proceed and what images, patterns and colors to include.
See samples of their work below. Notice how each one is unique.
I was attracted to Dubuffet’s quote and art and connected both back to a comment by Calvin Tomkins in LIVES OF THE ARTISTS. He described Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst – contemporary art stars – as the reigning heirs of deliberately outrageous art that feeds off the corrupting influences of capitalist glut and entertainment.
Dubuffet called his work Art Brut. He created with common media. His art was not high brow and he created deliberately outrageous art.
See Damien Hirst’s butterfly winged art (done in 2003), and read the review.
Thanks for reading. Please add your comments below.