PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

March 7, 2017

I posted a recent blog titled Hearts for Valentine’s Day, dated Feb 13, 2017

 

The first image shows magazine papers in red, painted papers, and papers with text in black, red and white. I cut the papers and created hearts in halves to show that two halves pieced together would make a single heart. I believe relationships are about how we connect. We start apart and we come together. Collage is about putting things together.

I included some of the backstory in the blog about Valentine’s Day, and showed collage versions of Valentine’s Day cards with heart images.

nikkal, Valentine's Day collage

nikkal, Valentine’s Day collage

 

The image nearby is a Valentine card I created with hearts and a figure from a fashion magazine. The model is seated on a plush red sofa and the hearts are floating above her head – larger than life. See more traditional cards with hearts in the Hearts for Valentine’s Day blog post.

The Art of Collage is about Cut and Paste

I always look online for what people say about collage. Frequently it’s described in terms like cut and paste. I believe we live in a cut and paste world. That’s a big reason why collage is so contemporary.

 

 

I found an article online from the Financial Times – Visual Arts (March 3, 2017 by Emme Crichton-Miller) titled Cut and paste: the art of collage – works of fragmented reality come together in two concurrent shows in New York and London. The exhibit is in New York to April 15 and in London March 10-May 13. It’s a fascinating article and references historic and contemporary collage. Read about it here.

 

 

Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24×32 inches

 

 

My studio practice is painting and collage, but I make collage differently than most collage artists. I paint papers for collage and cut and paste them into geometric grid patterns.  I put the papers together in ways that emphasize color relationships.

The image nearby is  titled Blue & White Diptych and is made with painted papers in shades of blue, cut into triangles and pasted on 2 wood panels. Together, the panels are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. Notice how the triangles move left to right and go from lighter to darker as they move within the collage.

 

Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24×32 inches

 

The image nearby is titled Blue Triangle Diptych, and done as two panels that are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. The right panel is an acrylic painting, 24×16 inches, that looks like a collage. The left panel is a collage with painted papers, 24×16 inches that has a triangles done with layered paint. Some of the underpainting shows through. The colors in the painting are blue, green, pale sienna, white, black and grey.  The left panel has only right angle triangles made with two pieces each. The right panel has triangles with all different angles and shapes. I did the painting and collage separately. By chance, I put them together, and  decided they speak to each other and belonged side by side. If I flip the panels left and right, they look different, so it’s important to keep them exactly as they are.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I work with acrylic paints and mix all my colors. Everything I do is about color – even black and white are colors because they are mixed. My current studio focus is about triangles and the colors blue, white and black. My previous focus was grids and the series titled Metro. I wanted to learn to love the color green. That meant a serious focus on one color.  When I paint, no color is straight out of the tube pure. Nothing is exactly red or blue, yellow or green. Nothing is exactly white or black. I play with the basic colors and paint colors in layers to show how they interact visually. If you want to learn to paint papers, see my video tutorial Painting Papers with Nancy Nikkal. Please also see my green paintings and collages in the Metro Series.

Are you fascinated with color? I see color, not just as art, but as everything in my everyday life – in the city and in the parks, in plants and trees, the ocean, the sky, in cinema, television and magazines I read, the flowers I arrange, the clothes I wear, the design and furnishings, paint on the walls at home, table settings, even the food on my plate. Color is everywhere.

 

Here’s an extra – a little information about the science of color: In physics, a color is described as visible light and has a specific wavelength you can measure. Black and white are not considered colors because they do not have a measurable, specific wavelength. Black is described as the absence of light. White light (seen through a prism) contains all wavelengths of visible light and reveals the entire color spectrum. If we discuss paints and dyes, we understand what we see is a reflected wavelength. So there’s a science to paints and dyes also.

Thank you for reading, and for your comments – Nancy

 

 

Hearts for Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2017

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you send or receive cards, candy or flowers?

Do you know why we associate the day with love and romance?

blog-valentines-day_640_nikkal-hearts-collage

 

I made a collage with paper hearts (ab0ve).  It’s a sample and not finished. I would add red glitter and lace. I cut magazine papers and pasted the papers into 7 hearts on a substrate paper with stamped red circles.  Each heart is made with 2 parts. Some hearts are painted with red acrylic. Some show white on black magazine text and some show red on black magazine text. Very important: every heart has two halves that touch. Each heart has a right and a left side to show how two become one.

 

A very brief history of Valentine day cards

Sending notes and letters for Valentine’s Day started in the 1700s in Great Britain.

Esther Rowland (1828–1904) is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine” She was an artist and businesswoman responsible for popularizing Valentine’s Day greeting cards in America.

 

The History of St. Valentine’s Day

Historians identify Valentine’s Day with the Feast of Saint Valentine, a martyred Christian saint . FYI: There was more than one Valentine martyred. Read more about the saints Valentine.

In the Middle Ages, people believed birds began mating on February 14. February was the month of love.

 

blog-valentines-day_640_black-birds-read-heart

In the image above, 2 black doves are facing each other with a red heart outlined above them. The heart connects the two birds and symbolizes the love they share.

The connection to birds and mating goes back to pagan Rome and a holiday called Lupercalia – a purification day to avert evil spirits and accomplish health and fertility. Very pagan.

 

Link here to see a very witty, entertaining video about the original Roman holiday Lupercalia.

 

blog-valentines-day_640_hearts-and-banner

 

Victorians assembled original valentines from lace, bits of mirror, bows and ribbons, seashells and seeds, gold and silver foil appliqués, silk flowers, and clichéd printed mottoes like “Be Mine” and “Constant and True.” Victorian valentines commonly feature churches or church spires, signifying honorable intentions and fidelity.

 

You can make your own card. All it takes is birds, words, and hearts. The image above is a contemporary card with glittery encrusted hearts in all sizes.

 

nikkal-valentine-collage

I created the image above to add to this post. It has new cut paper hearts pasted on top of a fashion magazine page image. Some of the hearts are painted papers with oil pastel embellished on top. Some of the hearts are cut magazine papers. I like the scale of the paper hearts contrasted with the scale of the model sitting on a red sofa.

 

Did you exchange Valentines cards and candy when you attended grade school? Do you remember the tiny candy hearts in pale pink, yellow and green?

Do you give or receive chocolates in heart shaped boxes?

Hearts dominate. That’s why I chose the collage with hearts for the top image. Valentine’s Day is about connections and relationships and red hearts. I cut the hearts so each was in two halves. They touch to show how important it is to connect.

 

Do you think this is a good way to show connections? Please send me your comments. Please share images if you make your own Valentine cards. Email me your image.

CREATE with COLLAGE

January 20, 2017

Albert Einstein said: Creativity is intelligence having fun.

Do you know that art enhances problem-solving skills? Art encourages creative thinking. It will make you feel good. Making art boosts self-esteem.

Making art is good for your health. It focuses your mind and pushes your worries aside. My collage students at the Pelham Art Center say the 2½ hours spent in class seem to fly by because they are totally absorbed in their art-making projects. They’re in “the zone.”

Pablo Picasso said: Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

I teach CREATE with COLLAGE at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY.  Winter classes meet Monday nights, Jan 23-March 20 – 7:00-9:30 pm. 7 classes (no class Feb 20). This post shows sample collages for the 1st class.

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

The sample collage nearby may look simple, but it’s also a creative challenge to combine colors, text, and pattern into a pleasing design. It’s guaranteed that each student’s collage will look different from the others. The triangles are cut from magazine papers. They face in different directions and papers overlap. Some papers are dark and some are light. Some have white text on a dark background. Some have dark text on a light background,

Collage is about Serendipity

In class I discuss how papers move as you handle them, so the design can change as you lift papers and glue them down. Some students worry that their plan for a collage will change as papers move. It does. The best part of making collage is serendipity. I say: if you like, trace the outline of the design or take a photo with your phone. Or – go with the flow. Be happy as you move papers and glue.

 

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #2

nikkal, sample triangles #2

The image nearby shows tall triangles that are arranged so papers touch the edges of the rectangle substrate. The substrate is the bottom layer for the collage. In this case, the substrate is a heavy art postcard I collected at a NYC Chelsea gallery. I always ask for postcards at art galleries. The paper is a perfect substrate for a small collage – and it’s free!

Notice two triangles (on the bottom) each include a slice of a face – one is a man and another is a woman. Once you notice the faces, you cannot stop looking at these triangles. Notice the lower section of the collage has a dark skinny triangle facing downward that points to the two dark triangles with faces. Every other triangle is light, yellow or white with text. The red triangles mimic the red tones in the faces and lips.

 

 

I will offer the class a 2nd project with triangles in a grid. I like the idea of theme and variation.

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

 

The image nearby is a sample collage with a horizontal grid. There are 20 rectangles. Each rectangle has contrasting dark and light right angle triangles that faces up and down.

The dark triangles are cut from black painted papers. The light triangles are cut from magazine papers with dots, text and patterns.

 

.

Be inspired. It’s not copying. It’s Theme & Variation

class project: triangles in a grid

class project: triangles in a grid

The image nearby was made by a student in class last fall. I brought the sample triangle grid to class and asked everyone to create a collage with dark and light contrasting triangles in rectangles. I said their collage didn’t need to look at all like the sample collage, but I encouraged them to create a grid pattern.

Many students tell me they dislike the idea of copying. I say: don’t worry. You can’t even copy yourself.

Notice this student’s collage doesn’t look at all like the sample I made. She added light teal-blue paper to her substrate before she added the rectangle grid with cut triangles on top.

I think her design and colors are gorgeous. It’s an amazing collage.

 

Final Thoughts

I am happy that my collage classes became a creative community. The class experience builds confidence, trust and success. That’s the goal. Each member in class develops a visual style that’s personal, and everyone cares for each other.

Many people believe you have to be a painter or sculptor to be a real artist, or that if you are not a born artist it makes no sense to make art. Not true. Creativity is for everyone. The art of collage is ultimate creativity.

Make Art and Build Your Brain Power

Read more about how creating with art stimulates brain power – and how anyone can do it. See: Be Brain Fit by Deane Alban.

I welcome your comments. Email me for a free PDF for tips and a materials list for the triangle collage project.

Ask me about the class projects I design that include collage with figures, and faces, collage with landscape, and collage abstraction. I can custom-design a workshop for you and your group.

See my newest triangle paintings and collages with painted papers online here.

 

Theme and Variation

nikka,, collage 1

nikkal, collage 1

 

 

 

This year, I decided to cut and paste red, green and blue papers into a collage for a holiday e-card. The image nearby is the first collage I created. Notice there are soft edged outlines in pink, yellow and light blue, created with oil pastel. This collage didn’t make the cut for the e-card. The design wasn’t as open as I wanted.

I made 3 color copies of the original collage. One by one, I cut and pasted each color copy and reassembled the pieces. One collage became 3 collages. I wanted the right combination of curvy, overlapping shapes and open spaces in between. I wanted the collage more vertical.  See the 2nd collage image nearby.

nikkal, collage version 2

nikkal, collage version 2

 

 

Version 2 is more vertical. I added cut circles and half circles in contrasting colors – blue on green, red and green on blue – and glued the papers into the collage on top of the strips.

I still didn’t love the 2nd version of the collage  because there wasn’t enough white space in the design.

I cut up another color copy of the original collage and glued the strips down. See the image below.

 

 

 

nikkal_640_curvy-strips-unglued

nikkal, collage version 3 unglued

 

 

Notice version 3 of the collage nearby is unglued. Notice the strips of white paper. This time, before I glued the papers down, I took a photo because I wanted to remember where the paper strips were placed. You can see that the papers are not attached.

 

 

 

 

 

nikkal, collage version 4

nikkal, collage version 4

Here is version 4. I glued down the papers, but they moved – they always move in the process of lifting the papers to apply glue. The 3rd collage looks different from the unglued version.

I posted the collage image with a holiday greeting on Facebook and got a great response.People loved the colors and the design.  I’m emailing the image as a holiday greeting to friends and family who may not be on Facebook.

I still have the first original collage and can make more color copies for more variations. Collage is unending. That’s ok.

I have a new project: theme and variation with cut and reassembled curvy paper collage. I want to do this on a larger scale. Paintings can become quilts.

I’m paying attention to colors, connections and interior spaces.

 

 

Inspiration

The inspiration for this project came from seeing an exhibition this summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA. It’s a converted factory building complex and one of the largest centers for contemporary, visual art in the United States. It’s a favorite destination for me for a summer get-away.

I walked through all the first floor galleries this trip tot MASS MoCA, then walked through all the 3 levels of galleries showing works by the artist Sol Lewitt, then walked up a tall industrial stairway into a 2nd floor gallery and saw large paintings by Sarah Crowner. She’s a Brooklyn-based artist. Her exhibition also included ceramic tiles installed on platforms you walked on to get close to the paintings hung on the wall. I was inspired.

Sarah Crowner says she treats her paintings like a collage. I was smitten.

 

Sarah Crowner, cut and sewn paintings

Sarah Crowner, cut and sewn paintings

The image nearby is from the Mass MoCA website: Sarah Crowner – Beetle in the Leaves (summer 2016). Try to image the scale and the industrial background. The space is huge.  Read more about the Mass MoCA exhibition here.

Sarah Crowner says this sewn painting is inspired by Sophie Taeuber Arp (Swiss, 1889-1943), a multi-media, applied arts, performance artist and textile designer also associated with the Dada art movement. Read about her here.

The Mass MoCA website says: Sarah Crowner mines the legacy of abstraction and treats art history itself as a medium to be manipulated—sampling, collaging, and rearranging existing images to create new forms. Her practice—which includes ceramics, tile floors, sculptures, and theater curtains—centers around sewn paintings she stitches together with visible stitching functioning as both line and surface. Her works are large.

 

Sarah Crowner, new paintings in the studio

Sarah Crowner, new paintings in the studio

I found an interview with Sarah Crowner (ArtForum, 9/05/11) where she said she’s always using art history as a medium, cutting it up and trying to reengage it.

Click the link and read the interview here. The image nearby is from the online ArtForum interview and shows a view of Sarah Crowner’s studio and new work.

 

 

Your comments – please

Are you inspired to reassemble your art? Do you make the trip to MASS MoCA? Would you cut up a painting and make it into a collage?

 

Happy HolidaysMerry ChristmasHappy New Year.

 

Nancy

 

Artist, collagist with painted papers, author, and blogger

Email to visit my studio: nancy@nikkal.com

 

 

 

 

 

Painting Papers for Collage 2

September 22, 2016

Two of the collage artists I admire most– Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – created collage with painted papers.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

The image above shows the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) sitting in a wheelchair in his studio in Nice, France (1952). He had recovered from cancer surgery. Notice there are a lot of cut papers on the floor. Following his surgery, Matisse discovered his genius for collage. He called it his second life, and he is world-famous for collage. Studio assistants painted white papers for Matisse with Linel gouache, a water-based paint. The colors are gorgeous. See more images here.

Painted Papers

Painted Papers

We painted papers as a warm-up for the collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center. The image above is a beautiful mix of blue and hot pink acrylic paint – painted on a page torn out of ARTForum magazine. Can you notice there is text below the paint? It was applied so you can see some of the magazine paper below.

I tell the class I do the same warm up exercise when I arrive at my studio. It gets me into a creative groove. It’s also a lot of fun to do. See my video online at my website – Painting Papers with Nancy Egol Nikkal. Email me and ask for a free PDF step-by-step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers.

Etched Painted Paper

Etched Painted Paper

The image above is a beautiful mix of blue, pink and orange paints, done by a student in class. It shows an etched, swirling pattern, created with a palette knife while the paint was wet.

When we paint papers in class, I set out coated paper plates with acrylic paints and a little acrylic medium to thin the paints for each student. I demonstrate how to use a plastic palette knife to mix the paints, move colors around, and spread the wet paint onto the magazine paper. I encourage everyone to allow some of the magazine paper to show through the paint.

All my collages include painted papers, torn from contemporary art magazine pages like ARTForum and ART News. FYI: I do read the magazine articles. I do tear out pages that are perfect for collage and then I tear out more pagers to paint. There are always enough pages.

10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PAINT PAPERS:

It’s eco-friendly – it’s recycling magazines

It’s economical because magazines have so many pages

The process is quick and easy and you can create a lot of papers in a short time

Painted papers are very arty when you allow some image to show through

The different ways you apply paint shows personality, style and creativity

You can create layers, pattern and texture

You can create papers in all the colors you want

Painted papers are strong and easier to work with in collage

Painted papers are washable and durable

Painted papers can be repainted and you can create a new palette of colors

Two more reasons: Painted papers are beautiful and become a personal statement in every collage you make.

 

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

The image above is a painted gouache cutout titled Blue Nude II (1952). Notice it’s all blue painted papers. It was included in the exhibition “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (Oct 22, 2014-Feb 10, 2015). I visited the MoMA exhibit 3 times. There were more than 100 cut-outs, as well as a video that showed Matisse cutting painted papers with a long scissor while an assistant held the paper as he cut. Read about the exhibition here:

Thank you for your comments below. Tell me if you saw the MoMA exhibit Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Were you amazed at his collage technique and the colors in his painted papers? I was/am.

Link here to my post Painting Papers for Collage (October 2012) with images and more about Henri Matisse. He said he painted with scissors. He called his works gouache decoupes.

For fun: Ask me why I paint papers from contemporary art magazines. If you like, email me to get a free PDF with a step by step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers (inspired by a famous contemporary artist).

Art Inspired

October 21, 2014

PINTEREST is an image bonanza for me. I’m almost always inspired by what I see even though typical Pinterest images are not about art (most images are about fashion, babies, craft and food). I always look for artsy images, and I’ve noticed, the more time I spend at Pinterest, the more art images seem to appear in email links.  I have a pin board titled the Art of Food. Everything is presented like a work of art. See images I collect – portrait collage, mixed media, and more. See collage by great artists I admire: Henri Matisse and Romare Bearden. Read an earlier post about Pinterest here.

EVERYONE LOVES FLOWERS

abstract Pinterest flowers in a landscape

Pinterest flower

I found this image at Pinterest and designed a collage project for my fall 2014 class  at the Pelham Art Center.

I created a sample collage with a similar image to explore how difficult it would be to make. Notice the flowers are decorative, abstract and include patterned papers in lively colors. Notice it’s organized in a vertical format with tall stems and flower tops in circles.

It looks like an easy project that would appeal to everyone, no matter what their skill level. I brought my sample to class – along with a copy of the printed Pinterest image.

Look closely at the Pinterest image. The green papers for the flower stems and leaves are probably thin tissue or wrapping paper. It looks like the papers were not glued down flat. Thin tissue papers are hard to cut, place and glue. Gift wrap papers are easier to cut and paste. I teach how to glue papers down flat. I experimented with both tissue paper, gift wrap, plus medium weight hand-painted papers.

640_flower stems on black background

step 1 and 2 sample collage

 

The image here shows the beginning of the sample collage I prepared for the class. What you see is 9″ x 12″ green construction paper painted with black acrylic. If you look closely, you will notice some green shows through the black paint. The green paper flower stems are also done with acrylic paint on construction paper. Notice the flower stem papers are striped. I created stripes in 2 layers of paint and scratched in lines. Each class member got the black paper as their substrate – bottom collage layer. Each class member got painted papers in greens and yellow greens to cut into curvy flower stems and leaves.

I always create a sample for the class so I understand and can discuss the steps necessary to make the collage. My image is similar but different, presented for instructional purposes. I never assume anyone will copy the image. They never do. I discuss how to create personal papers for collage. I almost always have the class work with painted papers. The paint makes the papers strong and easy to cut and glue, plus the surface and colors are hand made and personal.

 

I added tissue paper flowers to the sample collage (see below), and decided to emphasize how to work with tissue paper in collage.

640_close up flower collage

close up finished sample collage

The image here shows a close up view of the finished sample collage, and how I cut and pasted leaves and flowers onto the stems. Notice the flowers are circles and ovals that overlap leaves and stems. I cut flowers  from painted, printed and tissue papers. Notice how the black and yellow dot paper connects visually to the black background paper.

I did an in-class demo to show how I paint construction paper with a small 2” wide sponge paint roller and acrylic paint. The roller applies paint in an even film and you can reuse the paint roller if you immediately wash it with soap and water. I did an in-class demo to show how to use white PVA glue to collage with medium weight papers, and how to use white fluid acrylic medium to create collage with delicate tissue papers.

640_fall 2014 PAC demo tissue paper flower collage

tissue paper class demo collage

 

 

The image at right shows a tissue paper collage I created during class as a demo. Notice how overlapping tissue  papers create subtle color variations – probably because of the way the acrylic medium was applied. Thicker glue application connects papers closer to the layer below. Thinner glue application leaves a little air pocket so the paper dries closer to the original color. FYI: The process of gluing tissue papers down is not difficult. Place papers one at a time exactly where you want and carefully brush acrylic medium over the top and beyond the edges slightly. Add papers one at a time. The glue seeps through the thin paper to the bottom layer and will dry clear.

 

Following are student images from the 1st class, and my comments about each collage.

640_Bernice 1st fall 2014 class

class collage by Bernice

The image at left is by Bernice. I think she really liked how the black background showed through the tissue papers and created surprise textures. Notice 5 flowers on tall stems. Each flower is different, left to right – yellow, yellow, black and yellow, blue and green. Notice how the black and yellow center flower seems to disappear into the background and only the yellow dots show.

This collage is done in a horizontal format, but strong diagonals keep it dramatic and dynamic.

 

640_Carol 1st fall 2014 class

class collage by Carol

The image at right is by Carol. She has a strong love of natural images and landscape. It shows.

Notice how she cut her flower shapes. Notice she also tore papers in a way to create white edges that contrast beautifully with the papers below and the black background. She layered painted papers and tissue papers. The green flower stems show vertical stripes – these are the same painted papers I brought to class. In Carol’s collage, verticals compliment horizontals, balanced by gentle diagonals and negative spaces between stems and petals. Notice how a single band of thin dark green tissue paper is placed under flowers in the middle section, and how 2 dark thin green tissue paper strips cover 2 flowers and leaves at the top.

There is a sense of gentle motion. Everything is connected. It feels like a waterscape.

 

class collage by Vivienne

class collage by Vivienne

The image on the left is by Vivienne. Her paper format is vertical. The collage design is horizontal. Vivienne always selects  collage papers in colors and shapes that express a beautiful visual design. Every paper is cut, placed and glued with care. Notice the lively texture in the teal, brown and green tissue papers glued at top, middle and bottom where the black substrate shows through. Notice how she created positive and negative space around her cut and pasted papers. Notice how the green flower stems curve, touch and overlap. Colors are coral pink, yellow, teal, green, brown, black and orange. Every shape holds its own space. Horizontals balance verticals.

It’s active, decorative, and elegant.

class collage by Jennifer

class collage by Jennifer

The image at right is by Jennifer.  Colors are yellow, pink, green and red against a black background. Each circle has a unique shape, color and pattern. Some are wider. Some are taller.  Some are nearer; some are further behind. The space is horizontal and not too deep. All collage papers overlap. Leaf stems tilt gently. Notice Jennifer’s flowers have large center discs (eyes) created with paper that’s printed in black with yellow dots. Every paper is cut or torn to create rippled or soft edges. The green leaf stems have a yellow under-layer that glows against the black background.

The design is animated, papers are textured, and the colors are fun to see.

Jennifer took the class images with my cell phone camera. She did a really good job and I thank her.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please add your comments. Try the flower collage project with tissue papers, and let me know if you create with painted papers.

Sharing Creative Collage

September 3, 2014

Sharing Ideas and Information

I belong to an artist’s collective. We meet in each other’s homes or studios once every 4-6 weeks. We discuss current studio practice, and critique works in progress. We know each other well. Our meetings always include great food and conversation. We share tips on new materials, museum and gallery shows to see, lectures to attend, books to read, and workshops we offer or attend.

If you don’t have an artist’s group of your own, I recommend you find one or start one. The group dynamic should be cordial and respectful. Enthusiasm and energy are a wonderful bonus.

At a recent meeting, I talked about Serendipity, surprise and my fascination with the unexpected.  I talked about how I love to design collage workshops, and about a portrait collage workshop I led in 2011 at the Newark Museum. The workshop was inspired by an image I found by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985). Dubuffet’s image was made with insect wings. We don’t do insect wings in museum workshops. We use magazine papers and typical collage media. I said yes when Ellen asked me to share the workshop lesson plan. Sharing is good. I appreciate Ellen’s talent, and know she has a great reputation for her classes and workshops. I sent her a link to my blog post about the Dubuffet butterfly collage workshop. Read it here.

I’m posting this blog to share the project with you. The image below is by Jean Dubuffet. It’s titled Sylvain  and is 6″ wide and 10″ tall. It’s all insect wings carefully glued down. Are you disturbed that it’s made with dead insects? Dubuffet wanted to shock you.

 

collage by Jean Dubuffet

collage by Jean Dubuffet

 

I’ve seen contemporary collage with actual butterfly wings. Some are quite beautiful. My workshops don’t include a supply of insect wings or butterfly wings. We use magazine papers cut in butterfly shapes instead.

Notice the Dubuffet portrait (above) has eyes, nose, a mouth and teeth. At the workshop, we worked with magazine reproductions of eyes and mouths.

Here’s a quote by Dubuffet:

“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.”

 

Museum mini workshop project lesson plan:

Provide 12×12 inch construction paper in a deep hue (substrate paper)

Provide a free-form profile drawing on 9×12 yellow paper (template)

Provide magazine images of faces, eyes and mouths

Supply scissors, markers, glue, seam rollers and squeegee

Supply magazines so each student can select additional collage papers

Show everyone a color copy of the Dubuffet image. Discuss how the insect collage is made.

Demonstrate how to cut and paste the paper profile, then add eyes and mouth

Demonstrate how to cut and paste overlapping butterfly shapes.

 

I asked students to study the Dubuffet portrait and decide if they would have eyes and a mouth. I asked them to look at magazines and select papers to cut into butterfly shapes. I asked them to think about how many papers they would use and how close or far apart they would place the papers. I asked it they would glue the papers flat or leave edges projecting.

3 workshop images follow.

Notice the yellow profile in the first image faces right. See the blue outline inside the cut shape.  It shows the artist’s hand. The magazine papers are multi-colored. Some are patterns and some are text. The yellow paper profile includes a large smiley mouth and two eyes.  I see a sloped nose, multiple lips and chin on the right side, so this face has more than one mouth, one is smiling and one is not. There’s a front view portrait and also a profile. The features are juxtaposed, quirky and fun. I am always surprised when I see this image.

workshop collage

workshop collage

 

Notice the blue butterfly collage below. There is almost no yellow paper profile to see – only a small section of yellow paper peeks through on top. Notice there’s a single blue eye looking through. Can you find it? It’s surrounded by paper butterflies – a white butterfly on the left, a blue butterfly above, and a black and white butterfly below. This “portrait” is about carefully cut and pasted, layered magazine papers.

 

workshop collage

workshop collage

 

See the yellow profile in the collage below. It’s the sample drawing I provided. Notice there’s a magazine image of an eye placed where you’d expect to find an eye. There’s a red butterfly shape that defines the ear and several other butterfly shapes overlapping each other, including cut papers that look like light brown hair. I enjoy this collage for the bubble text that let’s you know this portrait has something to say!

Dubuffet used insect wings to create something unexpected. I wanted the workshop to be about Serendipity and surprise. Every collage was a surprise. The first collage juxtaposes papers to create an unexpected portrait. The second collage creates colors and shapes in layers and obliterates the portrait (except for the eye). You have to look hard. The third collage creates a personal narrative and makes you ask what the artist wants to say.

workshop collage

workshop collage

FINAL THOUGHTS:

In a blog dated July 27, 2011 “Art: Learning to See” I wrote –  “Becoming an artist is all about learning to see and understanding how you see.

At the end of the Newark Museum mini workshop, one student commented: it was a good workshop – What we did was learn how to see.

How perfect! That’s exactly what I planned.

Please add your comments below. Tell me how you do collage and if you work with magazine papers. Tell me what you think about Dubuffet and his insect portrait.