I created the collage seen nearby as a sample for a class I teach at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. My collage is on a 14×11 inch Bristol paper substrate. It’s designed as an abstract grid and includes a bottom and a top layer. The bottom layer is the image below – a large page from W magazine that shows a model sitting in a field of flowers, holding a flower in his hand. The magazine image was almost as big as the 14×11 inch substrate. I glued it down and added a top layer made with small papers from art magazine that show stripes, round letter forms, half circles and bullseye shapes. There’s also a drawing with concentric circles with two lines that criss-cross the circle. Almost all of the top layer papers were printed text in black on white or white on black.
This image is the bottom layer of the collage. After I glued it down, I payed attention to the visual relationship between the new pieces and bottom image. I added papers so they touched and overlapped, paying attention to contrast and connecting patterns. I included papers with high contrast and some with low contrast. I didn’t cover the entire first layer but you have to look closely to see where the bottom layer image peeks through. I added 4 tiny red collage papers last.
Black and White Are Colors
I think black and white are colors just like red, purple, blue, green and yellow. Black and white are potent because they are at opposite ends of brightness (in the value scale). I like high contrast. It can be dramatic. We pay attention to opposites and high contrast.
I showed my finished collage to the class. I showed an iPhone image of the magazine paper that was covered and underneath. I asked my students to go through the W magazines we have in class, tear out a page with a large black and white image and glue it to the Bristol paper substrate as the first step. Their second step for this collage was to look through art magazines and find papers for the top layer. WE all used the same magazines, but you will see they selected papers with a lot more red.
See images below of black & white and red collages done by students in my classes at the Pelham Art Center.
The image at left is by Chris Timmons. She used stripes, dots and circles in black white and red. You can see part of an image from her bottom layer. It’s a face partially covered by a red half-circle in the center of the collage. Chris added a second face on the right edge of the collage, facing sideways to balance the horizontal white on black stripes.
The image at left is by Ilene Bellovin. She used red, grey, black and white horizontal strips for collage over her bottom layer. Notice there is a sense of a figure in this collage where the image peeks through the paper strips.
The image at left is by Leslie Cowen. You can see a building face with fire escapes. That image is her bottom layer in the collage. Leslie cut and pasted a vintage image of Jackie Kennedy in the upper right. Notice there is a cartoon drawing in the lower center that looks like eyes. Notice Leslie pasted in text in white on red, white on black and black on white throughout her collage to add to the rhythm of the diagonals in the fire escapes.
The Magic of the Color Red
Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people. Red captures our attention. It’s one of the most visible colors, second only to yellow. The history of languages reveals that red is the first color after black and white (all languages have words for black and white). If a third hue exists, it is red. When using red, where it’s placed and what it’s next to makes a big difference. I tell my students to use red as an accent color because a little bit of red goes a long way.
Here are more images in B&W and Red by students in my collage classes.
The image at left is by Estelle Laska. I believe the background layer in the collage is an image of a woman in a white dress. Estelle always makes narrative collage with a story and here she shows us her love of fashion illustration with collage she found of vintage drawings of ladies with long gowns and round hats. Estelle even included paper text with the words Fearless Fashion in the lower center of her collage, and used a red letter “A”, red quotation marks (on the right side), and a large open donut shape cut from red paper.
The image at left is by Harriet Goldberg. I can see part of the image of a building facade in the lower layer in the collage. Harriet cut two drawings with the letter “X” and pasted them in the upper and lower portions of her collage. Above the lower “X” he pasted a drawing of a cute face. It’s the same drawing that Leslie Cowen used in her collage. Harriet added red paper over the lips in the drawing, and cut and pasted 10 more red magazine and painted papers over her collage in a horizontal and vertical pattern to mimic the design in the buildings behind.
The image at left is by Paulette Coleman. I think Paulette likes to work on a square substrate and probably cut it down from 14×11 inches to 11×11 inches. She used the white substrate as a background, and then pasted various magazine papers in red, black and white on top. There’s a rhythm of squares, dots and stripes that move horizontally, vertically and diagonally throughout. Notice the portrait of a face in profile on the lower left. Notice the sliced image of a red titanium red balloon by Jeff Koons on the lower right. Notice how reds balance the four corners of this collage.
The image at left is by Nelly Edmonson. You can see she used a duplicate (copy) image of the building facade with fire escapes. Harriet Goldberg used the same paper for her background. Nelly added red netting on the upper left to give a pink cast to the collage. You can see the pasted image of the building behind the red netting. Nelly strategically placed small red papers into the image of the building in the bottom layer. Notice the b&w face on the right. A lot of the papers mimic the diagonal patterns in the building fire escapes and lead your eye back into the image on the bottom layer.
Finally, here is an abstract painting by Joseph Albers (German-born American, 1888-1976), titled The Interaction of Color. This painting shows variations in the color red. Albers was an artist, educator and wrote extensively about color. Each painting consisted of either three or four squares of solid colors nested within each other to show how colors change when they are placed next to other colors. Read more about Joseph Albers here.
Read more about the color red here.
Creating a collage in two layers is challenging. You are working against an image. Working with black and white makes you focus on value and contrast. Adding the color red, makes you selective in where you place the color.
Would you like to make a collage in black and white and red? Email me and ask for a free PDF for this project.
Your comments are welcome.