September 3, 2014
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.
August 4, 2014
I am always inspired when I read a book by a creative artist. For example: Twyla Tharp’s book THE CREATIVE HABIT Learn It and Use It For Life is not just for dancers and choreographers. Every chapter will boost creativity in whatever your field. When I read these books, I always find something I can apply to my collage studio practice or apply when I design projects for collage workshops.
Her chapter titled “Scratching” talks about how to get ideas and how to explode ideas. She says you can scratch in the footsteps of mentors and heroes, but must not copy or your work is derivative. Try to interpret the idea into a new idea and “scratch” in unexpected places to get a new slant on the expected. She says: link A to B to C to come up with “H.” She adds: scratching is the ability to identify A, and then get to B and C. So – don’t stop with one idea.
A class project in black and white and 3 primary colors
I love class projects that explore collage with unique media, or explore images in collage based on other media.
The image above is titled “Cucaracha” (1948). It’s painted sheet metal and wire, 17” wide, private collection, by Alexander Calder (American 1898-1976). He is famous for his mobiles and stabiles – metal sculptures that move in space. His work is about movement and change. Very often his metal sculpture is painted in primary colors – red, blue and yellow. Notice how the mobile parts hang together from tiny chains. Notice how the sculpture casts a shadow as it stands on the ground.
I asked students to make collage inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobile Cucaracha – a 3D metal sculpture interpreted as 2D paper collage. I asked the class to juxtapose print text with cut and pasted papers – one collage on top of another collage – to create a dialogue between the parts and show movement. Black and white magazine text would be the bottom collage layer. Cut and pasted red, blue, yellow and black papers would be the 2nd layer on top of the black and white text. I found the Cucaracha image in the book CALDER CREATURES Great and Small, published by E.P. Dutton, Inc., NY in association with the Hudson River Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The 2 images (above and below) show 2 different views of the same sample collage I created for the class. I deliberately cut shapes that looked like the 3D shapes – to show students how collage can look like sculpture. The top image is a close-up view and shows unglued yellow and black paper and blue and red round shapes overlapping in the middle of the page. The image below shows the same unglued shapes in another configuration on top of the text collage. When I move the papers, the design changed. I moved papers several times. I wanted to show the class how the image changed each time the papers moved. Calder’s art is all about movement and change. Collage is also about movement and change. And if you don’t like the collage, you can remove the paper and start again.
LESSON PLAN: BLACK AND WHITE AND PRIMARY COLORS
Step 1: Make a collage with magazine text.
Cut and paste magazine text to create a design. It’s black and white, can be clean and crisp, and creates a graphic pattern with letters. It looks easy but it took almost 1 ½ hours for students to create a collage with just text. I asked students to glue a long, thin strip of black paper diagonally across the page before they started to glue text. I told them it was important to have the text strips meet the black paper “antenna” and leave a tiny space between the edges. Notice I created a pattern with text.
Step 2: Make a second collage with painted papers on top of the text collage.
This was fun and much faster. I told students to cut papers into shapes and that their shapes didn’t have to resemble the sample shapes I prepared. Everyone cut unique shapes. They didn’t want to copy the Calder image. Some students created a narrative collage related to words in the magazine text. Almost everyone told me they loved the idea of having text as a bottom layer in the collage.
Following are student images. Notice every collage is created with the same painted papers. Notice every collage image is unique.
In Dee’s image above, notice how her shapes balance well against the text design underneath. Notice one blue square extends beyond the substrate bottom edge. Notice 2 red triangles, 1 red circle, 2 yellow curvilinear line shapes and 2 black thin strips in a “V” shape protruding from the blue square. The shapes are geometric and simple and contrast beautifully with the clean design of text collage. Dee wrote she liked the way fitting the print into the background made her think about space. That was a positive. Negative: Dee prefers working on a large substrate – I gave the class a 7 1/2”x8” art card for the substrate. She doesn’t like working with primary colors. Calder’s mobile image isn’t a natural inspiration for her because she likes softer Impressionist art. Positive: the text is in motion and the painted paper shapes are engaged. I think her collage is bold, clean and well designed.
In Louise’s image above, you can try to read the text, but the image is marching on top and is the primary focus. Notice the thin black strip is a criss-cross “X” placed diagonally across the page. Notice the black and white text in the background creates a grid of blocks with white negative spaces. Louise pasted a pale yellow round shape within the “X” and placed a tall red right angle triangle with torn edge on the bottom right side of the substrate. She added more cut and pasted red papers: a tiny square, a tiny circle, one small red equilateral triangle and a thin, curved red paper with personality – all touching the black “X” in the middle. She added a semi circle and a tiny pale blue square touching the red square. She added new papers: 2 irregularly shaped triangles in speckled magazine paper pasted on top of black paper shapes. The painted papers show movement. The text papers show direction. Louise said she liked working with magazine text and thinks she may use it again as a starting point. She says there is no narrative story in her collage. I think her collage has so many interesting components.
In Vivienne’s image above, notice the juxtaposition of shapes in text with shapes in painted papers is dynamic and also narrative. I think there’s a story above and beyond the words. Notice how much care she took with selecting text papers for her collage bottom layer. The colors in the magazine text range from dark letters on creamy white, to grey black on light pink white, to blue black on a range of pale grey whites. It’s a beautiful text collage with so much variation in the colors and design. Notice Vivienne created a unique shape in red painted paper. I think it looks like a boat. She has 2 thin black strips projecting up from the red shape on the right side, and one thin blue strip projecting from the red shape on the left side. She has a yellow strip at the end and a yellow triangle on the right. There are 3 overlapping triangles – yellow, blue and yellow – that move down onto the red shape like sails. There is a wonderful sense of harmony and gentle rhythm in this collage.
In Claudia’s image above, notice she included text in different sizes and fonts. The text strip “IF YOU LOOK” is prominent in the upper right side. Claudia overlapped her text papers. You can’t read text easily (rows are crunched) and it makes you look more carefully. Notice Claudia created a “V” design with jagged black strips. Notice the left side of the “V” touches a color block that is yellow, red and, blue – one paper on top of another. In the lower third of her collage, notice there is a horizontal black and white band across the entire width of the collage and it overlaps 3 red triangles that look like sails. Another blue on yellow shape (mostly yellow) sits below. The text ‘IF YOU LO0K” tells you to look “IN.” This collage is very layered, very colorful, and very well designed.
In Sheila’s collage above, notice she kept the Mondrian “Boogie Woogie” image that was printed on the art card beneath. Her text strips are glued around the Mondrian image and go to the edge of the card substrate. Her cut and pasted paper shapes go beyond the substrate edges. Sheila said the Mondrian image on the art card influenced her colors – so the project with painted papers in red, yellow, blue and black was a good fit. Notice some shapes overlap; some shapes nest between shapes. Sheila titled her collage “Joyful Explosion.” Notice you can read the text – it’s about Alexander Calder and his mobiles. This is another well-designed collage. Its abstract and about modern art. There’s a strong relationship between the text blocks and paper collage shapes, and a gentle connection to the boogie woogie rhythm implied in Mondrian’s work.
In Irene’s collage above, notice that the pattern of painted paper shapes mimics the pattern of pasted text shapes. All the text is slightly oblique and tilted like the paper shapes in red, blue, yellow and black. I love the fact that Irene left part of the top section of the substrate uncovered to create a horizontal white shape. Did you notice there’s a tiny section of text at the top that’s upside down? Notice that red peeks through the black strip (the right sideof the “V”), I asked the class to leave a tiny space next to the black strip. Irene’s paper shapes are bold and geometric. She cuts into her blue triangles and creates “V” shapes that repeat the “V” of the black strips and the “V” of the yellow strip and yellow triangle. There’s overlapping and repetitive shapes that move in unison along the “V” line. There is a subtle dialog between the upper and lower collage that keeps moving and keeps you looking.
In Carol’s collage above, notice how she created text in overlapping blocks and layered painted papers that became a flying bug on top. The “V” of the bug’s antenna covers the “R” in the word “Creature Comfort.” Carol commented: I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black “V” shaped pieces that were to be placed on the first collage text layer. She added: Calder made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me. I struggled with the background, not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. Notice the body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a fringe in blue underneath the head. Two black skinny legs are showing. Carol said: this project was a delightful revelation to me, and I think I’ll do more collage with text and image from now on.
Every color and shape emphasizes directional pattern. There is a strong sense of harmony between the lower and upper collage. They talk to each other. I wonder if there is a pun intended in the text “Altitude Slickness.” Where did the “L” is slickness come from?
Thank you for reading and I welcome your comments.
July 5, 2014
I planned to write about an art project I designed for an adult collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY, working with pasted papers painted in bright, primary colors. Not exactly 4th of July Red White and Blue – but Red,White, Blue and Yellow (and black). I will write about the project in my next post. The image that inspired the project was a mobile by Alexander Calder. The image below is by Carol (a teaser for the next post).
Here are comments Carol wrote: Nancy – I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black vee-shaped pieces that were to be placed in a particular spot on the page. Calder also made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me. I struggled with the background not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. The body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a blue fringe underneath the head. There are black skinny legs–two are showing. It was a delightful revelation to me. I think I’ll do more with text and image from now on. Thanks Nancy. Carol
Challenge is Always Good
Today I want to share comments by Seth Godin in his blog post titled “Is better possible?” I recently signed up to receive his blog (well written, timely and always brief and to the point). Today’s post is about challenge. Seth Godin says most people are comfortable with saying “no” to the question is better possible? It’s the easiest and safest thing to do – to accept what you’ve been given, and assume you are unchangeable. He says, when you assume that you are unchangeable, you give up responsibility for outcomes. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t do it to others,
I always say challenge is good for you (and me). Godin says we are afraid of challenges because we fear the possibility of the outcomes. Read what he wrote here.
I design collage art projects that give students a challenge. Last Monday they made amazing multi-layer collages in a 2-hour session. The first layer had to include strips of cut and pasted black and white magazine text in a pleasing design. They had to select the text. I brought a sample collage where the entire background was text that didn’t line up in horizontal rows. The class spent about half the time on the first layer, and organizing magazine text became its own design challenge. The second step was to create an over layer with papers in primary colors cut in unique shapes. I provided the red, yellow, blue and black painted papers and did a quick demo on ways to place shapes over the text. I showed them overlapping shapes, shapes spread out, and shapes clustered together in different arrangements. Collage is always about layers and juxtaposing images (and shapes). The class rose to the challenge and I knew they would. Kids in elementary school can do this project, time permitting. Kids love a challenge and everyone loves primary colors.
Here’s more from Seth Godin’s post. He concludes with: “We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher. I share his post because when you stretch boundaries, you grow, gain confidence, and you feel good that you took the chance and reached the goal.
What is your goal? Whatever it is, make it creative. Make it good.
June 18, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
November 8, 2013
We haven’t got enough PAPER
I teach a collage class at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. We have a new collage project each week. Almost every project has paper as the primary media.
We are half way through the fall term and have run out of magazine papers – our primary source for collage. I supplied the magazines at the beginning of the class term, and the students have depleted the supply. We need more magazines.
I would like the students (or a donor) to replenish the supply. I don’t want junk magazines. Cheap paper is a waste of time. It’s very hard to create collage with cheap paper. It curls when you apply glue. It’s hard to cut and tear. It doesn’t hold up over time. It looks cheap.
I want students to work with quality magazines papers that are printed with rich color, offer strong graphic design, and use creative text. Replacing the ArtForum magazines would cost me much more than I want to spend. I would like every student to donate or find a donor neighbor. So many people toss away magazines or put good magazines into recycling bins. Collage artists recycle. We need good magazines.
Magazines I like include art, photography, internet, home decor, fashion, garden design, nature and more. The paper quality is important. ArtForum, ArtNews and Art in America have good paper. I like Vogue, Elle, Elle Design, W and Interview magazine. National Geographic is excellent for paper quality, color, nature and animal images.
I will ask my friends and neighbors for donations. I would like my students to do the same.
I’m a snob for good paper. In my own collages, in addition to magazine papers, drawings, and my painted papers, I use artist hand-made imported printmaking papers because I love the range and contrast of whites. A lot of my white papers go in as the background layer in a collage.
Good Paper is Expensive. Good paper makes a Good Collage.
Another Way: Create Our Own Papers for Collage
In recent class projects we created large collage papers with multiple small magazine papers. See the first image – a grid collage above. It’s a substrate for a figure collage. In another class, we created a crazy quilt collage with overlapping patterned papers. See my sample image below in red, black and white. I will add another layer.
In a third class, we created a background collage for a landscape. We used pieced papers from a lot of different magazines.
I asked the students to keep the originals and reproduce multiple copies in black and white and color. The copies become the resource media for additional collages: as collage paper and as a paper substrate (bottom layer). Papers can be reproduced from the original as needed. If the original collage is copied digitally, it can be reproduced in a copy shop in very large format. You can play with the image and color in PhotoShop.
I like to include drawing with collage. See the 3rd image above that I made on artist paper and stamped all over with a bird pattern. I cut and paste small sections whenever I want line drawing in the collage.
I included two images that are computer scans of a rug (advertisement) from a design magazine. I like the diamond pattern and needed one to be positive (black on white) and one to be inverse (white on black).
4 Goals for the Class
Create projects that create (generate) papers. Create projects that repurpose and embellish papers. Discuss how to sort and organize collage media. Discuss why it’s important to collect, create, reproduce and build inventory for collage – because it saves time and money, it makes your media personal (you can pick the colors you like), and it’s much better to have all your papers available when you are ready to work .
Please add your comments and suggestions on how to hunt and gather materials for art projects. Thank you for sharing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
February 19, 2013
Thursday, Feb 14 was Valentines Day. I hope everyone was able to share the love.
I was in NYC that day walking on Fifth and Madison Avenues from Grand Central Terminal to 34th Street. All the shops, department stores, and restaurants had red heart-shaped helium-filled balloons and red flowers in tubs in their windows or just outside on a sidewalk table.
People were walking hand in hand. Some were carrying flower bouquets to take to the office or home. I saw a little boy holding flowers wrapped in clear plastic. He held the flowers in one hand and held his father’s hand in another. I imagine he was bringing flowers home to his mother.
NYC was one big Valentine.
The image below is one of four collages I am sharing in this blog. All four images are titled Barneys because the collages exist in a Barneys New York shoe and boot catalog.
I received the catalog in the mail, and thought it was a perfect way to recycle consumer media with collage. The catalog is still a work in progress. I sometimes show the catalog to my students when I discuss how important it is to recycle postcards, catalogs, books and junk mail. It’s so easy to add images to existing backgrounds. And the paper is free.
Being in NYC on Valentines Day made me think about sharing the love, and that made me think about important blog advice from a great source – Alyson B. Stanfield and her Art Biz Blog. She offers great tips on marketing (and more).
I’m an expert at collage and want to share my ideas about the art of collage. In 2009 I started to write my blog. I was a newbie at blogs.
The 1st lesson was titled Who I am Writing For. I wrote about a friend (Sylvia) who loves design and creates jewelry. Sylvia says I should include more personal content. If you want to read the blog, here’s a link to that post…
The 6th lesson was titled “Cure Yourself of Blog Envy” and asked us to find blogs that inspire us – in my case – artist’s blogs where the content and images are presented beautifully.
I included a link to Gwyneth’s Full Brew. The artist writes “… I am documenting the intersection of art-making and art-seeing, daily life in New York City and…my drawing surface of choice since 2007 is the cardboard coffee cup.” Gwyneth Leech has had incredible exhibition success with her up-cycled coffee cup installations. She also takes wonderful photos of NYC and documents great places for a cup of tea or coffee.
At Blog Triage, I learned the best blogging serves your reader and includes links to useful information. The course included 20 assignments. Assignment #10 was titled “Show Some Link Love” – about including good links.
I always remind myself to share the links and share the love.
The image below is another one of four collages titled Barneys pasted inside the catalog. One page is about night and the other page is about day. The red lips are a huge kisser.
Sending comments is another way to share the love.
I got email recently (Feb 10, 2013) from Douglas Beaudry. He has a blog titled The Bearing Edge and designs and sells skate-influenced custom jewelry (wrist cuffs made with leather fashioned with recycled derby and skateboard bearings) – really cool.
He commented on an old blog that I posted November 30, 2010 in which I asked and answered a question.
Question: How Are the Best Blogs Like a Great Collage?
Answer: The best blogs are good looking, engaging, multi-media, explore new ideas, and like the best art, invite you to share the experience!
That’s my concept for really good collage. Collage is layered.
Douglas Beaudry commented: What a great blog post and certainly served to clear my brain a little bit.
I thanked him for the compliment. I don’t know how my post cleared his brain.
I re-read the blog How Are The Best Blogs…. Basically – it included a lot of links and was all about sharing links.
The original blog included a link to the artist Robert Rauschenberg who had an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC. I included a link to a Nov 26, 2010 NY Times Holland Cotter review of the exhibition. Both links are repeated here. The Gagosian Gallery link connects to works by Rauschenberg. The NY Times link is so well written it is still valuable to read. Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He has influenced so many artists who followed.
The Barneys 4 collage seen below is in black and white and in color over a background that turned from amber yellow to bronze. I used magazine images that were printed in color and black and white. The models are a mix and match of men and women. I wanted the focus on the eyes. They are looking at me and you.
If you think you want to update or improve your blog (or want to start to blog), I recommend the self-study Blog Triage workshop. Check it out… There are so many ways to do a blog, depending on the audience you are writing for.
Following are comments about the media I use.
My substrate (background for the collage) in these 4 works was a high fashion Barneys New York catalog I got in the mail. I wish I could get more. I only got one.
I added text and line drawings because I love words, letters and graphic patterns and love to mix drawing, pencil, ink and printed media.
I thought about how to marry the old image with the new image and how the content changed with the overlays.
I thought about how the 2 pages had to work together and how all the pages had to work as you leafed through the catalog.
Collage is about juxtaposition.
I love juxtaposing images and making it into a commentary on our consumer culture. I wanted the images to become edgy.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. If you have questions about collage, you can email me.