EMBELLISH AN IMAGE: PLAY WITH COLLAGE

July 5, 2012

The summer class I teach at the Pelham Art Center:  Embellish An Image: Play with Collage includes a mix of new students and returning students, ranging in ages from younger than 20 to seventies and above.  It’s a great group. They are all creative and many are very experienced with art and collage.

Because it was the first class for the summer session, I asked the students to introduce themselves and say what they wanted to accomplish in the 8 classes. I wanted them to learn about each other and what they each expected. It’s important for the students to hear about each other’s goals, and sharing is important for the group experience.

COLLAGE and JEAN ARP

I planned the first class with a learning-to-see project that would be simple and also challenging: a geometric abstraction.

I brought individual sandwich-sized Baggies filled with tiny pre-cut papers, one Baggie for each person.  See the image below with the papers, a metal ruler, a pair of scissors, a pencil and an eraser. You can see how small the papers are in relation to the ruler and pencil.

IT LOOKS EASY…LOOKS ARE DECEIVING

The collage project is inspired by a work of art titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance by Jean (Hans) Arp. Arp’s collage includes 22 papers. Arp (French, born Germany – Alsace, 1886-1966) created many collages titled Squares (Rectangles) Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. See more images.

I wanted the class to pay attention the different shapes and sizes of the papers. If the papers were different, they would create a totally different work of art.

I showed a sample (reproduction) of Art’s collage. See image below. The original collage, completed in 1916, is about 10 x 5 inches.

Jean Arp, Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance

We discussed a little bit about Arp and the art movement called Dada. They all knew something about it.  I suggested that Arp didn’t arrange his papers by chance even though the title of his work says so (and Arp did multiple collages with that title).

I tossed a few loose papers onto the table to demonstrate that the papers didn’t – couldn’t – land in the same order as the sample collage I showed them.

We talked about how to begin placing the papers. I created a sample collage with the same papers that were included in the Baggies. See the image below.

Paper Sampler

I said the class project would be fun and challenging and test their ability to look carefully (it really was all about developing that skill).

I showed them the gluing technique I use: white PVA glue applied with a bristle brush, papers pressed flat with a plastic squeegee. I showed them how I applied the glue and used a piece of waxed paper as a barrier sheet between the collage and the squeegee as the papers are glued down.

I said they should study the collage by Arp and notice the spaces between the papers, the angles if they varied, where the papers touch, and if they overlap.

The papers in the Baggies ranged in color from white to warm grey and green grey to black, representing  5 different tonal values. Each person got a watercolor-weight paper substrate in a contrasting white.  The substrate is the bottom collage layer.

I showed the students that some of the papers in my sample collage were shaded with a pencil and some of the pencil markings were lightened with the eraser – all to create texture and tonal variations.

I brought artists pencils – 3B, 4B, 5B, and 7B. They tried out the different pencils and selected the pencil they wanted to use. B is a soft lead pencil. The higher the number, the softer the lead and darker the line. I also brought pencils H and HB, which are harder lead and make lighter lines. Nobody wanted to use these.

See samples of the collages created in the class below. Each collage is inspired by Arp’s collage, but each one is unique because each student decided to be original as they finished assembling the papers. Many took the collage to the next level and cut and pasted extra papers to embellish their image.

The images above include extra papers, curvy, cut shaped papers, and 3 dimensional cut papers.

Here’s more:

We all need creative time. The collage class is about play (it’s titled Play With Collage), but it’s really  about personal expression, developing an eye, and building confidence with each success.

I believe PLAY IS SERIOUS WORK.

I checked out “Adults Need to Play, Too (online) and found a link to many articles, including an article in Scientific American magazine titled The Serious Need for Play.

They say life flows with greater ease if we allow ourselves some time for play every day.

They say it makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. Read more…

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