Appropriation is a very useful concept in contemporary art and essential to appreciating contemporary collage art.

 

I like to make funky figure collages with papers and text cut and pasted from magazines like W, Elle. Vogue, and ArtForum. I thumb through the magazines and tear out pages when the right image strikes. Everything becomes a magazine mash-up.

 

nancy nikkal, sex celebrity, collage 2016

 

The image nearby is my collage titled Sex Celebrity. This work is part of a new series with female images done in collage with various cut and pasted papers. Some of the papers are straight out of the magazine. Some are painted with acrylic. Some papers are purchased in an arts and crafts store. I like to mix and match and create works that combine image, color, pattern and texture. Most of all, I am fascinated by celebrity culture and Pop Art. My goal is to create images that are edgy, sexy and provocative.

 

The image you see is a collage on a 12×16 inch panel showing two x two females. Everything is an image: some more, some less real. The colors in this collage are creamy white, grey-black, green and tiny touches of pale blue and red.

 

The large female image is a close-up of a face, eyes closed as if in a swoon. She seems ensconced in a reverie in a garden setting, surrounded by green. She’s a beauty. Her eyes are decorated and glittery. There’s a large, expensive diamond jewel floating near her nose. The jewel looks like a delicate flower or a garden bug. I’ve seen expensive jewels in fashion magazines. They’re highly crafted with multiple stones. A beautiful woman deserves a beautiful diamond. I embellished the image, but it’s straight out of the magazine.

The smaller female image in my collage is a figure in a couturier outfit and her breasts are exposed. You see a lot of that in the fashion magazines currently. She’s standing in front of the large face image. There’s a third image in black and white located on the lower left side. It may be a print by Pablo Picasso torn from an art magazine. I took it because it was the right size and in black and white. There’s a fourth image on the right side that’s a face and facing left. If you look carefully, you can see eyes, eyebrows and hair. The face is made with striped green paper. I like stripes. I like to combine abstraction, reality and fantasy.

 

I cut and pasted all the papers. There is no actual glitter and no jewel – just papers to simulate jewels and glitter.

 

Appropriation in Art

I recommend the book titled Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a little book with a lot of big ideas. The author says: remix and reimagine to discover your true path. It sounds like collage.

Appropriation in art is defined as the act of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The artist’s job is to decide how much image transformation is necessary. Some artists feel guilty for stealing an image. I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. There is so much to steal now. Images are everywhere. I think it’s how you use them that makes a difference.

 

nancy nikkal, flat chested, collage 2017

The image nearby is a magazine collage I created on a 14×11 inch paper substrate. I gave it the title FlatChested. I think she is. She’s high fashion and very thin. The image is inspired by the concept Exquisite Corpse where the parts don’t have to match. Each of the 3 parts comes from a different magazine page. I liked the pink background in the middle section and the model’s long, graceful hand. Her eyes were made up with glitter and that was also appealing. I liked the wild, dark hair in the top section that has a mustard yellow background. I liked the pattern where the hair is separated by a part in the middle. The width worked well with the cut-off hat in the pink section. I liked the dot patterns in the black and white bottom section. Everything worked well. I didn’t have to add glitter because the model already had glittery eye makeup. I changed her mouth and shortened her torso. Colors are gold, pink, black and white. Her skin color is caramel brown. The papers come from W magazine. There are only 4 pieces in this collage –  three horizontal rows of cut and pasted magazine papers and a mouth from a model image in black and white (from the same magazine).

 

 

My students often ask me about copyright infringement and appropriation. One student this winter had to overcome – and actually did overcome – her resistance to appropriating magazine images. I persuaded her. We talked about it all through the winter term at the Pelham Art Center where I teach contemporary collage to adults. Her career is print publishing so I understand her resistance to appropriating images. I really like her 3 portrait images. Each one is very different. See them below.

 

student portrait collage with papers & glitter

 

The image nearby is the 1st portrait collage Ilene created in class. Her papers included stamped drawing paper (dots) for the face, chevron-striped paper for the dress, decorated papers from magazines and painted paper for hair, eyes, nose and mouth. The collage is on 14″x11″ Bristol paper (substrate). Ilene spent a lot of time cutting papers for the hair, eyes and mouth. Notice one eye is light brown and the other eye is a black and white pattern. Ilene added green glitter eye makeup last. Her background is grey magazine paper with a printed gallery name as vertical text. I remember Ilene asked me if she should cut, cover or leave the vertical text. I said yes – leave it in – it’s not too prominent. Ilene’s 1st collage has a lot of directional movement with pattern and cut papers. The grey dots in the face are tilting down right. The vertical text is parallel to the right edge.

 

 

 

student collage, assorted papers & glitter, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 2nd portrait collage Ilene created in class. It’s much more abstract and the eyes, mouth, chin and hair are made with cut triangle papers. The papers come from magazine pages but do not show a model’s image. There’s a lot of dynamic energy in the way Ilene placed the cut papers. Notice some of the magazine papers are solid black, beige, yellow, blue and magenta red. Notice a few of the cut papers have stripes and crosshatched line drawing that adds texture. I love the spaces around the triangles. Ilene used a minimum number of papers but still gave us a sense of modeling the shape of a face. Notice the shading in the red papers for the lips. The way Ilene cut the papers gives a sense of volume. Notice the nose and tiny hands (each within a contrasting triangle) are actual magazine images – the only ones in this collage. Hooray for appropriation! I believe Ilene made the hands and nose small to make them less obvious as swiped magazine images. Notice the magenta-red lips are larger than either hand.

 

 

student collage, exquisite corpse portrait, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 3rd portrait collage Ilene created in class based on the concept Exquisite Corpse. I believe I made my collage FlatChested (above) during the class to demonstrate how to cut magazine papers in angled, horizontal strips, using different models for each piece. Ilene’s portrait includes a woman’s eyes, ears and hairline on top and a man’s mouth, chin and neck below. She included a black round hat for the top strip in the collage, and found decorated papers in swirly patterns and bright colors for the bottom strip. I know she loves this portrait collage. I really like the contrast of one face in color and another face in black & white, and really like that one half of the face is male and the other half is female. Ilene selected images with care so that the expressions in the eyes and mouth co-mingle.

 

 

 

EXQUISITE CORPSE at PINTEREST

See 72 pins (images) for the Exquisite Corpse at my Pinterest site. Some of the images are historic examples. My students love Exquisite corpse as a class project and I set up Pinterest boards so they can check out images online. Read more about the Exquisite corpse here.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Today, appropriating and remixing images and media is common practice for visual, audio, and performing artists. Appropriation is a strategy. Visual artists would not be able to create the mash-up of  images we create without all the images online and in magazines. They’re available, plentiful and we find them. Please share your thoughts. Do you swipe images and use them in collage? Do you re-mix other media? Tell me if you love the Exquisite Corpse.

Thanks for sharing – 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.

Do you use PINTEREST?

I’m passionate about Pinterest because it’s so visually inspiring.  I collect Pinterest images for the collage classes I teach. I design collage projects inspired by Pinterest images, and encourage my students to visit my “boards” online.

Julia Child quote

Julia Child quote

The image above – a quote by Julia Child – says: “Find something you’re passionate about AND stay tremendously interested in it.” That’s good advice for a fulfilling, creative life. I was drawn to the pin immediately for the words and also for the white on black design. It’s pinned to a board titled black and white that includes paintings, drawings, sculpture and more by great contemporary and 20th century artists. See images here. Join Pinterest if you aren’t a member. My last post – CHILDREN MAKE ART – was about an after-school workshop project with cut and pasted papers at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). I found the sunshine image at Pinterest and designed the project with all papers included. See the 7 step lesson plan for the sunny face collage here.

Collage by Rosella

Collage by Rosella

See Rosella’s collage above. She was one of twenty 4th and 5th grade students at the one-hour workshop. Notice she created a background with multi-color Sharpie markers that contrast with her collage papers. She created a collage face with cut and pasted papers for the nose and eyes, and cut triangles for sun rays. Papers are bright yellow, pink, purple, lime green, blue and crayon red. Notice all the stripes and polka dots. Rosella is a very dedicated artist and included a lot of collage papers and details. See the original Pinterest sunshine inspiration and more kid’s images here.   The image above shows another Pinterest pin – a sunny face – with text: “Make My Day.” The sunny face is on top, but the emphasis is on the colorful block letter text on a yellow background.  Notice the letters are triangles, rectangles and semi-circle shapes. Each shape is a distinct color: green, purple, red, teal blue, and orange. Notice the colors change as shapes overlap. Everyone – kids and adults – loves to play with letter shapes. I will design 2 projects. The kids’ workshop will emphasize overlapping shapes and how the colors change when the shapes overlap.  We’ll explore color transparencies with tissue paper. I will design the adult’s workshop so people explore re-contextualizing the words “Make My Day” and play with vintage Hollywood, and Clint Eastwood images as Dirty Harry.

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

Portrait Collage, John Szetaker

The image above is by the artist John Stezaker.  I’m a fan of his contemporary portrait collage. Notice he juxtaposed two black and white photos that are probably Hollywood headshots. He cut and pasted the images to make a single composite image. Notice one photo is smaller and is pasted down so the top projects above the photo under. I pinned this image to my board titled portrait collage. See portrait collages here. I’ve included images that range from whimsical to semi-abstract to historic works by the dada artist Hannah Hoch.

Pretty People and Pithy Quotes

Typical Pinterest boards are about food, fashion, and children. Quotes are very popular. Since art is my calling, I collect arty images and pin work by favorite modern artists (Henri Matisse’s photo shows him cutting paper for collage). I organize pin boards as portraits, art journals, mixed media, and geometric shapes, including circles, triangles, stripes, and squares. The flavor is contemporary, geometric and abstract. See all 17 boards here.   I’m very fond of quotes – more and more – and  started 2 boards with quotes. One board is titled “Words to Remember.” One board is titled “Typography in Art.” The image below is all cursive lettering with the statement: “All my BEST friends eat SUNSHINE.” That’s a great comment and makes me smile. Notice the hand-painted letters are black on white and stacked vertically. As a collage project, I would use the quote as a jumping-off point and ask people (or kids) to cut out images that remind them of friends, eating, and sunshine (happiness).   How would you interpret best friends who eat sunshine? Would you include words in the design?  Would your collage be all cut and pasted images? Would you emphasize faces, food or letters? How would you create the letters? Kids like to cut individual letters and paste down one at a time. If you paint letters, I recommend you paint individual letters on medium weight paper, allow the paint to dry, and then paste letters down. Notice the letters are different sizes and some of the letters are lower case and some are capitalized.

Is it a smile or frown?

Is it a smile or frown?

Notice the image above. I see a frown and also see a smile. You decide how you view it. So many people add a smiley face to end sentences in email. This one makes you stop and think. It makes me smile.     The image above is a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez – “No Matter What, Nobody Can Take Away the Dances You’ve Already Had.” This image would be a great collage project for a girl who loves to dance. The collage could include cut and pasted magazine images of dancers and dancer’s shoes. It would be a different collage project for the Carrie Bradshaws (see cable TV – Sex and the City). She collects top designer shoes. That’s a major theme of the show. Pinterest shows a lot of shoes and images of models in high fashion shoes. Women love their shoes. Imagine a collage showing rows and rows of high fashion, outrageously beautiful shoes. You can find those images on Pinterest. That would be a statement.     There is etiquette on Pinterest. The image above says: “If you want to honor someone on Pinterest please credit their work. So much art it not credited. Please put a name to the art.” I found the pin at Diane Dodson Barton’s site and pinned it to my quotes board. She has 29 boards and 10,205 followers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

    The above image is a quote – “Creativity Takes Courage” by Henri Matisse written in his own script.  How wonderful to see the hand of the artist in his own words. A photo of Matisse (in a wheelchair) cutting papers is on the cover of my board titled “Favorite Modern Artists” (79 pins) – including Matisse, Paul Klee, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and more. Every one is inspiration.   I have a Pinterest board and show images of my own art that I re-pin from other people’s boards. I am always surprised to see where the images land, and always happy when I see my name credited. See my board titled nikkal studio collages here.   Please add your comments. Let me know if you love Pinterest – or you prefer Instagram.

Young at Art

May 30, 2014

Every Child is an Artist

 

Pablo Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

 

In March 2014, I “taught” after-school collage workshops to 4th and 5th grade students at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). The project at the 3rd workshop was a Sunny Face collage. The image below is my workshop sample. Notice there is a yellow circle that sits on top of a teal blue circle. The kids cut out the circles first. Notice the triangles with wavy stripes that are placed around the circumference of the paper circle. Kids got the striped paper pre-cut into 2″ x 4 ½ inch strips. I showed them how to cut across the strips in zigzags to create tall, thin triangles. The striped papers were bright neon colors: green, blue, yellow, fuchsia pink, and purple. Notice there are 3 small 5-point stars pasted at the top. Two students wanted to include stars. See collages by Kenyatta and Akeem below. I’ve included a lesson plan: 7 Steps to Create a Sunny Face Collage (see below).  See image of striped papers directly below the 7 Steps lesson plan.

 

sample collage, Good Morning Sunshine, Nikkal

sample collage, Good Morning Sunshine, Nikkal

 

I make a sample collage for each project because it gives students a visual jumping off point for how to begin. Another reason I make a sample collage is it’s important for me to learn the best way to structure the project for kids so they can get to work quickly and  complete the collage before the end of the workshop. This project involved multiple steps. The workshops last only one hour.

I set out prepared materials at every student’s seat. There are about 20 kids at each workshop. When they arrive they see papers, markers, glue sticks and scissors at every place. They can start quickly. I reproduce black and white photocopies of the sample collage and put one in front of every two students. I show the sample collage to everyone, and explain how to proceed. I tell them I do not expect them to copy my sample. They never copy. They look at my sample and they look at what other students are doing, and they always create something new.

 

 

I wanted students to paste letters on the sunny face in their own words. Notice the letters on my sample spell out “Good morning Sunshine. Notice the pasted paper letters on the image below spell out “Enjoy Artful Mornings Passions Songs Explore Today Music.” The image below is the prototype for my sample collage. I gave it a title: “Shine On” and am pretty sure I found the image at pinterest.com. The students created their own words with photocopied letters I supplied.

 

sample collage, Shine On

sample collage, Shine On

 

Notice “Shine on” is made with a single yellow circle with a watercolor blue background. I counted 24 cut and pasted triangles around the circle. Notice all the papers are different solid colors, stripes and patters. The edge of the yellow circle includes small cut and pasted letters. I think it’s difficult to read the words because the letters are so small.

 

Notice my sample collage (top) did not have any background. I asked the students to add color to the 8 ½ x 11 inch white cardstock they used for their collage background paper. They didn’t have time to create a watercolor background. I showed them how to hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and decorate their background with multi-colored lines done with a sweeping motion. I love how every student created a different background with the markers, and how they were so focused as they worked. It was a great beginning. See all the different images below.

 

Collage by Rosella

Collage by Rosella

 

The image above is by Rosella. She’s a very dedicated young artist. Notice her multi-color background – curved, concentric stripes in blue, yellow, purple and pink. Notice her sunny face has 2 rows of triangle rays around the circle. She cut and pasted larger striped triangles first, and then added smaller triangles from a polka dot patterned paper as a second row. Notice how collage papers became a face with eyes (eyeglasses?) and a red and green nose. Notice the words “Happy Day” became a smiley mouth, and how she used collage letters to create a signature at the top.

 

Collage by Omarion

Collage by Omarion

 

The image above is by Omarion, who designed a background with free-hand scribbly lines, first in yellow Sharpie marker, then in blue. Notice that the blue lines over yellow lines make green lines.

 

Notice the bottom circle is black and the top circle is yellow. Omarion cut and pasted 11 striped triangles around the circle. Some are tucked under and some are over the yellow circle. Notice the collage squares with black on white letters that spell “freedom of speech.” See Omarion’s signature in cursive that matches the loopy shaped lines in his background design. I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing as he made the collage.

 

 

7 Steps: Lesson Plan for the Sunshine Project

 

(1) Use cardstock for the substrate (bottom collage layer). Refer to the collage sample with the blue colored background. Hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and make patterns on the white cardstock.

 

(2) Prepare 2 circle outlines: 5” diameter on blue paper and 4” diameter on yellow paper. Cut out 2 circles.

 

(3) Cut preprinted striped paper in 2”x4” strips (see below). Cut triangles from paper strips: zig zag from bottom to top and back. Notice the pattern in all triangles show the same horizontal direction for all pieces. Match colorful papers to Sharpie marker colors in the substrate.

 

(4) Glue the large blue circle down on the decorated substrate near the middle of the paper. Glue cut triangles around the blue circle – with the pointy edge projecting outside the circle.

 

(5) Glue the smaller yellow circle down over the blue circle. Try to cover the uneven edges of the triangle papers.

 

(6) Decorate the circle “face” with cut papers and pasted letters that create a personal statement or quote.

 

(7) If you like, add collage to the background. Add your signature.

 

Wavy Striped Papers

Wavy Striped Papers

 

The image above shows 6 striped paper strips. Each student got 2-4 strips from which they cut the colorful sunray triangles. Most students made 12 – 20 triangles to glue around the blue circle.

 

Following are 5 finished collages by students at the Williams Elementary School after-school workshop.

 

Collage by Kevon

Collage by Kevon

 

The image above is by Kevon. His background is made with scribbly lines (done while holding 2 markers in his hand). The lines go from top left to bottom right and from top right to bottom left. Notice Kevon added 6 cut and colored 5-pointed stars along the side and corners. He cut 14 perfect striped paper triangles, and pasted them down on the larger yellow circle. Notice how the striped colors radiate out in all directions. The colors are in motion. Try to see the 6 stars. They blend into the background and are almost invisible. His text is his signature, done with black on white cut and pasted letters within the gold yellow circle. The more I look at this collage, the more I enjoy it. Kevon’s collage seems simple, but it’s really sophisticated.

 

 

Collage by Bridney

Collage by Bridney

 

The image above is by Bridney. She had fun swirling markers to create overlapping loops in blue, green, purple and hot pink. Notice the light yellow circle is placed off-center and is covered with 12 striped triangles. Notice the colors – pink, yellow, green, blue and purple radiate out into the background created with swirling lines. Everything is in motion, including the cut and pasted letters that becomes Bridney’s signature.

 

Collage by Kenyatta

Collage by Kenyatta

 

The image above is by Kenyatta. He decided to use yellow-green paper for his substrate, and created a scribbly line background pattern with green and blue markers going from top to bottom on the diagonal. Kenyatta’s sunshine is larger across than all the others in the workshop. Notice there are 15 long, thin triangles for the sun’s rays. Kenyatta is tall and slim. The paper patterns show different directions. Notice the 5-pointed stars are hand-colored with blue, green, yellow and hot pink markers. See how they blend into the background in terms of colors, but also stand out against the background because the lines are facing in different directions. This young artist took great care in cutting shapes and placing every paper in his collage.

 

 

Collage by Akeem

Collage by Akeem

 

The image above is by Akeem. He used Sharpie markers to draw almost parallel lines across his Cardstock background. He started in the upper left and drew alternate blue and green lines diagonally. Akeem glued 2 circles to the background, and placed his cut striped triangles on top so you see how the papers are glued down. The combination of drawing (contrasting lines) and collage is beautiful to see. Notice Akeem cut a 5-pointed star, left it uncolored, and glued it down near the center of the gold yellow circle. He added his signature nearby as a closely spaced collage of block letters, black on white. The whites in the star and signature tie into the white showing through the drawing in the background. There’s a lot of freedom and energy in the way this collage is organized, and that is very exciting to see.

 

Collage by Andrew

Collage by Andrew

 

The image above is by Andrew. He drew free-hand crisscross lines that overlap and curve across the cardstock white substrate. He used purple, green, blue, yellow and hot pink Sharpie markers – colors that match the printed striped papers in his collage. Notice he added spatter dots with marker dipped in water. The 2 circles that form the sunshine are cut from light and dark yellow. Triangle rays are cut from striped and from polka dot papers. Andrew wrote “You only Live Once” in red green yellow and black, and signed his name in cursive – all around the circumference of the yellow outer circle.

Before he was finished, Andrew drew black triangles at all the corners. He has an intuitive sense of design – he curved the wide base of his triangles, which repeats all the curved lines in the background, curved stripes in the printed collage triangles, and curved words along the circle inner edge.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Kids make art to express ideas and show their personality. Children are brilliant at color, design and composition. It’s intuitive. All they need is an assortment of inviting materials. I design collage projects to make it easy for them to get engaged.

 

How do you get the kids engaged? Project must be cute, fun and open to personal expression. Kids need to see the project as a challenge they set for themselves. It’s their choice to make the project as simple or complicated as they want. My challenge is to focus and encourage them, and organize the materials so the project can be completed in a short period of time. I love to see children make art. That’s why I design art workshops for kids.I want to optimize their experience. I want kids to feel proud of their work and how they’ve reached the challenge they gave themselves.

 

Often my idea for a collage project starts with an image I find online or in a magazine. See Rosella’s sunshine collage and other works by and for young artists at my Pinterest site. Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your comments are always welcome

I am always pleased to receive comments and questions on the blogs I write, especially when they require me to dig deeper and locate information and learn something new in the process.

Duh Chuen Wang Priefnitz commented on the Dec. 18, 2013 post Robert Motherwell and Contemporary Collage, and asked about Motherwell using Japanese rice paper in his collage practice.

It’s true. Motherwell incorporated Japanese rice papers into his collages.

I re-read the exhibition catalog Robert Motherwell Early Collages, especially the chapter by Jeffrey Warda on papers and materials that Motherwell used in the 1940s (pp 55-67) and learned the Japanese papers were called unryu. See an image of the paper below.

Japanese Unryu Paper

Japanese Unryu Paper

Unryu is one of the most popular papers from Japan, and is commonly referred to as mulberry paper. It contains strands of fiber that are added to the sheet to create contrast and texture. Tear Unryu Paper in any shape you desire and you create a soft, feathered edge. The name translates as “dragon paper” and refers to the long fiber swirls that are unpulped, unbeaten kozo fibers. Unryu paper can be tissue thin or thick enough to support a print. The long fibers are typically made of kozo, but can be gampi or hemp. See what the papers look like at NY Central Art Supply.

Motherwell Modified Collage Papers

Jeffrey Warda wrote Motherwell modified his papers with ink and paint – always exploring how the papers changed as he applied new paint or ink layers. Unryu is especially strong and can withstand manipulation with water media.

It made me think about what I saw at the exhibition, and how the surface of the collage papers were wavy and the edges were irregular.

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

My favorite Motherwell collage (seen above) is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).  It includes gouache, ink, oil and pasted German decorative paper, colored paper, Japanese paper and wood veneer on paperboard (size: 71.7 x 91.1 cm – 28 x 35 7/8 inches), collection, the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA.

Please notice how Motherwell created a geometric background with rectangles and circles in layers of paint in dusty blue, faded pink. creamy white and yellow with 2 abstract black stick figures painted over. Notice papers on top of papers. See red black and tan paper on the right side. This is his German decorative paper. Motherwell added splotchy dot patterns with pale red, pink blue and black.

In the catalog essay, Warda tells us Motherwell loved to work with fine quality artist drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle textures. We learn Motherwell selected commercially printed decorative papers for their bright colors because the papers reminded him of long visits to Mexico with artist Roberto Matta. Warda also discussed how Motherwell experimented with Japanese rice (unryu) papers to see the response he got from ink and paint stains he applied to the thinner Japanese papers.

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage

 

The image above is a detail of the collage Joy of Living (1943) and shows how the green ink puddled and spread.  Notice the  wavy irregular texture of the green paint. We don’t know how many layers of water media, ink and paint Motherwell applied and reapplied because he wanted to see how the paper changed as it absorbed each new application of ink or paint. Please note also that the colors faded and some changed over the years. Warda shows examples of color changes.

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

The image above is a full view of Joy of Living (1943). The collage on paperboard includes Japanese paper, colored paper, construction paper, printed map and fabric, ink, gouache, oil, crayon. Collection: the Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA (size: 110.5 x 85.4 cm – 43 ½  x 33 5/8 inches)

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

The image above, titled View from a High Tower (1944-45), is collage with tempera, oil, ink, pastel, pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper, and printed map on paperboard. Size: 74×74 cm – 29 z 29 inches (private collection). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Notice the torn edges of various collage elements and the wavy, buckled edge of the large light grey paper on the left side. Texture is an important visual element – almost as important as the geometric patterns with straight and wavy edged papers in red, brown, blue, white, yellow, green, black and grey.

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

The Motherwell image above is titled Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage). It’s collage with oil, ink, charcoal, pasted Japanese paper, colored paper, drawing paper and fabric on paperboard (101.6 x 76.2 cm –  40 x 30 inches). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA. Motherwell love to paint with a light blue and variations on yellow ocher.

Motherwell produced nearly 900 works with collage during his lifetime, and said collage influenced his paintings.

Read the exhibition catalog essays. They give critical insight into how Motherwell began working in collage, and how important it was to his creative practice.

Final Thoughts

The Guggenheim Museum exhibition was an opportunity to see and share Motherwell’s love affair with paper and collage.

On Feb. 6, 2014 I gushed: I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto so many different papers…I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below…

I was excited because I had never seen so many Motherwell collages in person before the exhibition.

Please add your comments below. Tell me what you think about the papers Motherwell used. Do you work with Japanese papers? Do you paint your papers for collage?

I noticed a familiar image at the beginning of Karen Rand Anderson’s blog–Look/see: A Little Book with a Big Punch.

It was the book – seen below – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.

It was an amazing coincidence. I planned to write about Austin Kleon in a follow-up blog to the first Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal.

I took the little book down from the shelf, and began to read.

Austin Kleon book cover

Austin Kleon book cover

What I like best about Austin Kleon is he thinks like a collage artist. He says: next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and juxtapose them (collage is about juxtaposition).  He recommends you keep a swipe file – another term for a notebook or journal.

I opened a favorite link (saved in a desktop file) to his blog dated Feb 10, 2010: 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.

Here are 3 quotes I really like:

Louis Armstrong: “my hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape…My  hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”

Dizzy Gillespie: “You can’t steal a gift. Bird (Charlie Parker) gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”

William S. Bourroughs: “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”

In case you don’t know about Austin Kleon, he does a fabulous TedTalk.

Keep a Swipe File

Many artists keep a swipe file as a book or in a folder.

Typically, my papers are not pasted into a journal but left in a box. The image below includes swiped papers from recent issues of ARTForum, Art in America, and the March 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that is  filled with page layouts that marry fashion and contemporary art. It’s the hot thing now.

magazine papers for collage projects

magazine papers for collage projects

Carry a Notebook and a Pen Wherever You Go

Listen to Austin Kleon. He recommends we carry a notebook and a pen with us wherever we go. He says: get used to pulling it out and jotting down observations. Add comments on what you observe, copy favorite passages out of books, record overheard conversations., and doodle when you’re on the phone.

I’ve started to play on Pinterest. It’s a way to collect images into a digital journal. On Pinterest you “pin” images to “boards.” I love it because it’s totally visual. I’ve created boards in different categories like art journals, paper collage, Romare Bearden, mostly red, and black and white. See all the images on my art journal board.

journal pages by Olenka

journal pages by Olenka

The image above is a lovely drawing and collage on a two-page open notebook by Olenka that I pinned to my art journal board (pinned from sodalicioushop.blogspot.com). I love how the artist played with geometric shapes and calligraphic lines with black ink. I love how the white journal paper was left pristine, and how the artist embellished the drawing with delicate pastel colors, tiny geometric shapes and letters that float inside triangles and circles.

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

The image above is a painting and collage on 2 pages in an open notebook by Jeffrey DeCosta. I love it because it’s not slick. It’s gritty and painterly. The left page has the block numbers and letters. You see 34 in red, and the word SAVE and the number 0 in black. The opposite page is an abstract painting with smudgy black dots covering a background in red, yellow blue and green. Some of the paint migrated to the opposite page. I was drawn to this journal image because I like the way the painted dots and collage letters communicate with each other.

Find more images at my Pinterest art journal board.

untitled, journal pages

untitled, journal pages

The image above is untitled and no artist is given credit (sometimes a problem at PINTEREST). Handwritten words march across two pages in an open notebook. The text creates a negative space (the white paper) that becomes a large letter B on both sides. The journal pages are created with pen and ink in small and large letters. I see the words: “my lack of understanding” and “help” and the tiny hand-written text on the left is not legible. I wonder if it’s all about the letter B.

See all the pinned images on my Pinterest letters board.

A Simple Idea – Observe, Collect and Comment

Keeping a journal is a simple idea: Observe, collect, comment, make art and learn in the process. A journal is a way to keep track of what you’ve swiped from others.

I do the same thing and tell my collage students to collect images and keep notes. If the image is too large for your notebook, scan or photocopy and reduce in size to fit your page. Take pictures with your camera phone so you include your own images. Put everything in folders, or a ring binder, scrapbook, plain notebook or fancy art journal.

Take notes on why you swiped it, what it means, how you think you will use it.

If you like, you can change your mind, reinterpret your images and rewrite comments.

Austin Kleon says: See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.

FINAL THOGHTS

I am troubled because I don’t keep a journal. I have journals that are mostly empty. I collect images, make drawings, write comments, but don’t put them into the journals.

An artist who makes journals suggested I create the journal as loose pages and make the pages into a book. I saw an image that showed a book with pages in all different sizes. It was funky and pages were sticking out in all directions. But it was bound and a book – and it’s a definite possibility.

Another possibility is to collect images on Pinterest boards, and translate (interpret) and draw the images onto journal pages. I like that idea. I can pin and I can draw.

What inspires you? Do you keep a journal? Do you pin images at PINTEREST? Please contact me with your comments and share your pins.