Get Creative with Collage

September 11, 2013

How do you feel creative?

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

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

KEEP A JOURNAL

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

ADD CUT OUTS

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

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

Nick Cave, Art Journal

Nick Cave, Art Journal

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T WORK ON IT. TAKE A BREAK.

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

USE THE JOURNAL AS A TOOL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEME AND VARIATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

COLLAGE GIVES YOU INCREDIBLE FREEDOM

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

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

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

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

HOW I START A COLLAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

ART IS NOT JUST FOR ARTISTS. EVERYONE IS CREATIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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4 Responses to “Get Creative with Collage”

  1. Neala Markowitz Says:

    A really good post – so useful and a very good marketing tool. Neala

  2. Christina MacQuarrie Says:

    I love the artwork shared, very inspiring. I feel the valuable advise offered on how to collage is wonderful.


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