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.
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.
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.
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.
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.