The Collage Experience at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, NY

I belong to an artist’s collective called the Power of 13. We are 13 mid-career artists who meet informally once a month or every 6 weeks to chat and catch up on what we’re doing in the arts. We are painters (contemporary and traditional), printmakers, a fine art photographer, mixed media artists, and sculptors. We network, share tips, critique works in progress, and look for exciting places to see contemporary art and show our works as a group. We have a lot to share – and that is what is so exciting about being part of the group.

I’m a contemporary collage artist and tend to see everything in terms of collage and installation.

 

Nikkal, Curvy Geo Stretch

The image nearby is a new collage I created titled Curvy Geo Stretch. It’s done with black and white painted papers and is framed and 14×14 inches. I call it Stretch because of the light black shapes that shift to the left – or to the right, depending on the way you want to see it.  My collage is hanging above a 5-foot wide marble fireplace in the 1st gallery at the Barrett Art Center. Sitting nearby on the mantle is a classical 26 inch high bronze sculpture of a violin. On 2 adjacent walls are various paintings and  collages. The installation is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new – art and architecture – and the mix of works by 6 members in the group. There are 64 works by 13 artists in the exhibition, including paintings, collage, mixed media, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to show works by the Power of 13 Collective at the Barrett Art Center.

Penny Dell curated and organized this show. I helped Penny install everything. It took us more than 2 days. All the individual works show well together, and the collective spirit is strong.

 

The opening reception was April 22. If you are in Dutchess County on Saturday, May 20th, please come to the closing reception at 55 Noxon Street, Poughkeepsie, from 2-4 pm. Read about the Barrett Art Center: http://www.barrettartcenter.org

 

Edna Dagan sculpture

 

The 2nd image at left is a close up view of Edna Dagan’s sculpture with my grid collages in the background. Both are installed in the front gallery at the Barrett Art Center. In Edna’s sculpture, you see a cherub and part of a violin. This work is about 26 inches tall. Edna has 4 sculptures in the exhibition, and all are about music with a violin done in cast metal. My 2 collages are painted papers on paper. Framed sizes are 32×28 inches. I especially like the close up photo of the sculpture juxtaposed with the slightly out of focus view of my grid collages.

 

 

 

 

 

The Barrett Art Center

The image nearby shows the Barrett Art Center. Image is courtesy of their website. The building is narrow and long with 2 galleries, meeting room, office and kitchen on the 1st floor, and more galleries and classroom spaces on upper floors. The building is named for Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. who was born in Poughkeepsie, NY on 9/12/1902 and was an artist interested in the social and the societal value of art. He formed the Dutchess County Art Association, mounting exhibitions for local artists, giving them a means of showing and selling their work during the Depression era. He studied art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and worked as an artist in NYC. He returned to Poughkeepsie in 1929, and moved back into the current Barrett House where he was born.

 

2nd gallery view

In the image at left, I’m standing in the doorway in the 2nd gallery space with a view of the hallway behind me. Penny took the photo the day we installed the art. Notice that the space is relatively small and there’s a lot of art to see. It doesn’t seem crowded because the ceilings are high – and that makes you feel you’re in a larger space. In this photo, you see 5 small mixed media works by Alice Harrison hung vertically on the left. On the short wall to the left of the doorway is a mixed media painting in pink and green acrylic by Ruth Bauer Neustadter. Above the painting are several wall-mounted wire and hand-made paper sculptures by Penny Dell that skip across the wall left to right above and across the ornate doorframe behind me. Penny’s wire sculptures are light and etherial, yet fill the space and create a special kind of energy. They’re white on a white wall, but cast shadows and draw your eye upward. Notice the top wood blocks on the doorframe with carved acanthus leaves. Notice, on the right – a funky green mixed media sculpture by Susan Lisbin perched on a white wood pedestal and, on the back wall are 3 more works by Susan, including a color-field skinny abstract in green painted on found sheet metal. Once again, you see the juxtaposition of contemporary art, greens and reds, blacks and whites with vintage architecture.

 

Penny Dell wrote:

…Seeing the show allows viewers an opportunity to puzzle out connections between works and artists who through the years have continued to meet regularly. Read more of Penny’s comments about the collective and the exhibition here:

 

Hallway installation

 

 

The image at left shows me in the front hallway at the Barrett Art Center (photo by Penny Dell). I’m standing below and she’s standing at the top of the stairs – looking down at me. The image shows the art installed on both sides of the narrow hallway. Notice the antique floors – wide plank old wood – and, in the top left portion of the photo you can see the decorative carved wood trim on the 2nd floor landing. I’m a big fan of the details you find in older homes. This one was build in 1842. We were told to hang art on the staircase wall because there would be a constant flow of traffic up the stairs to a second floor gallery and classroom studios. It was a challenge to get the last pieces hung so high up the staircase, but all the works hang well together in the hallway and add another dimension to the exhibition.

 

 

Crowded hallway at the reception for Power of 13

 

 

Here’s another image of the hallway installation, taken during the April 22nd opening reception. Notice the beautiful Victorian light fixture (in addition to the track lighting), and notice the high ceiling in relation to the people. The woman standing on the left is over 5’10” tall.

 

 

 

 

Photography by Pauline Chernichaw

 

Here is a view showing contemporary photography by Pauline Chernichaw in the 1st room gallery with a view to the front hallway exhibition beyond. I think the black and white photos show really well on either side of the doorway. Do you agree? I love the contrast of the horizontal format of the photos – sleek and contemporary – with the vertical door opening and with the color of the woodwork and ornate trim on it. In this photo, the paint trim color looks oyster grey and picks up on the grey tones in Pauline’s photos. However, in hanging these works, I was more concerned with contrasting horizontals and verticals.

 

 

Susan Sinek and her painting

 

 

The image nearby shows Susan Sinek and her figure painting in the 2nd room gallery. If you could see the works on the wall Susan is facing, you would see her prints and figure drawings.

 

I hope you can visit the exhibition and see all the works.

 

 

 

 

About the Power of an Art Collective

The Power of 13 collective has been meeting for years in each other’s homes and studios. Many artist groups (collectives) are larger than we are. Some are smaller. We started the group with 9 (and called ourselves the Power of 9) and then added more members, so changed our name in steps to the Power of 13. We think 13 members is about as big as we want to be.

We are like almost all artist groups in that we are organized to share tips, critique art works and network information. Some groups limit members to a professional category, typically architects, graphic designers, painters or printmakers. We prefer to be informal and friendly. We like the idea of sharing information across media boundaries. We are serious artists. We always share great food and conversation.

We thank Penny Dell for contacting the Barrett Art Center and organizing our group exhibition. Read more about Thomas W. Barrett here:

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you want to meet other artists? Do you want to be part of an artist’s group? If you do, I recommend you check out local art centers, colleges and universities. Go to art receptions. Attend public meetings with artists who speak about their work. If possible, take a class to meet other artists. Ask people how to join a group. Many Chambers of Commerce and arts councils list arts associations. Check out artists’ groups online.

I hope you think the history of the Barrett Art Center is interesting. The Power of 13 collective thanks the Center for this opportunity to exhibit in a unique and beautiful space.

Please write and tell me how you are engaged with the arts. Email me if you want suggestions for how to form an artist’s collective. Thank you for your comments.

Nancy

 

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.

CREATE with COLLAGE

January 20, 2017

Albert Einstein said: Creativity is intelligence having fun.

Do you know that art enhances problem-solving skills? Art encourages creative thinking. It will make you feel good. Making art boosts self-esteem.

Making art is good for your health. It focuses your mind and pushes your worries aside. My collage students at the Pelham Art Center say the 2½ hours spent in class seem to fly by because they are totally absorbed in their art-making projects. They’re in “the zone.”

Pablo Picasso said: Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

I teach CREATE with COLLAGE at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY.  Winter classes meet Monday nights, Jan 23-March 20 – 7:00-9:30 pm. 7 classes (no class Feb 20). This post shows sample collages for the 1st class.

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

The sample collage nearby may look simple, but it’s also a creative challenge to combine colors, text, and pattern into a pleasing design. It’s guaranteed that each student’s collage will look different from the others. The triangles are cut from magazine papers. They face in different directions and papers overlap. Some papers are dark and some are light. Some have white text on a dark background. Some have dark text on a light background,

Collage is about Serendipity

In class I discuss how papers move as you handle them, so the design can change as you lift papers and glue them down. Some students worry that their plan for a collage will change as papers move. It does. The best part of making collage is serendipity. I say: if you like, trace the outline of the design or take a photo with your phone. Or – go with the flow. Be happy as you move papers and glue.

 

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #2

nikkal, sample triangles #2

The image nearby shows tall triangles that are arranged so papers touch the edges of the rectangle substrate. The substrate is the bottom layer for the collage. In this case, the substrate is a heavy art postcard I collected at a NYC Chelsea gallery. I always ask for postcards at art galleries. The paper is a perfect substrate for a small collage – and it’s free!

Notice two triangles (on the bottom) each include a slice of a face – one is a man and another is a woman. Once you notice the faces, you cannot stop looking at these triangles. Notice the lower section of the collage has a dark skinny triangle facing downward that points to the two dark triangles with faces. Every other triangle is light, yellow or white with text. The red triangles mimic the red tones in the faces and lips.

 

 

I will offer the class a 2nd project with triangles in a grid. I like the idea of theme and variation.

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

 

The image nearby is a sample collage with a horizontal grid. There are 20 rectangles. Each rectangle has contrasting dark and light right angle triangles that faces up and down.

The dark triangles are cut from black painted papers. The light triangles are cut from magazine papers with dots, text and patterns.

 

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Be inspired. It’s not copying. It’s Theme & Variation

class project: triangles in a grid

class project: triangles in a grid

The image nearby was made by a student in class last fall. I brought the sample triangle grid to class and asked everyone to create a collage with dark and light contrasting triangles in rectangles. I said their collage didn’t need to look at all like the sample collage, but I encouraged them to create a grid pattern.

Many students tell me they dislike the idea of copying. I say: don’t worry. You can’t even copy yourself.

Notice this student’s collage doesn’t look at all like the sample I made. She added light teal-blue paper to her substrate before she added the rectangle grid with cut triangles on top.

I think her design and colors are gorgeous. It’s an amazing collage.

 

Final Thoughts

I am happy that my collage classes became a creative community. The class experience builds confidence, trust and success. That’s the goal. Each member in class develops a visual style that’s personal, and everyone cares for each other.

Many people believe you have to be a painter or sculptor to be a real artist, or that if you are not a born artist it makes no sense to make art. Not true. Creativity is for everyone. The art of collage is ultimate creativity.

Make Art and Build Your Brain Power

Read more about how creating with art stimulates brain power – and how anyone can do it. See: Be Brain Fit by Deane Alban.

I welcome your comments. Email me for a free PDF for tips and a materials list for the triangle collage project.

Ask me about the class projects I design that include collage with figures, and faces, collage with landscape, and collage abstraction. I can custom-design a workshop for you and your group.

See my newest triangle paintings and collages with painted papers online here.

 

Painting Papers for Collage 2

September 22, 2016

Two of the collage artists I admire most– Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – created collage with painted papers.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

The image above shows the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) sitting in a wheelchair in his studio in Nice, France (1952). He had recovered from cancer surgery. Notice there are a lot of cut papers on the floor. Following his surgery, Matisse discovered his genius for collage. He called it his second life, and he is world-famous for collage. Studio assistants painted white papers for Matisse with Linel gouache, a water-based paint. The colors are gorgeous. See more images here.

Painted Papers

Painted Papers

We painted papers as a warm-up for the collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center. The image above is a beautiful mix of blue and hot pink acrylic paint – painted on a page torn out of ARTForum magazine. Can you notice there is text below the paint? It was applied so you can see some of the magazine paper below.

I tell the class I do the same warm up exercise when I arrive at my studio. It gets me into a creative groove. It’s also a lot of fun to do. See my video online at my website – Painting Papers with Nancy Egol Nikkal. Email me and ask for a free PDF step-by-step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers.

Etched Painted Paper

Etched Painted Paper

The image above is a beautiful mix of blue, pink and orange paints, done by a student in class. It shows an etched, swirling pattern, created with a palette knife while the paint was wet.

When we paint papers in class, I set out coated paper plates with acrylic paints and a little acrylic medium to thin the paints for each student. I demonstrate how to use a plastic palette knife to mix the paints, move colors around, and spread the wet paint onto the magazine paper. I encourage everyone to allow some of the magazine paper to show through the paint.

All my collages include painted papers, torn from contemporary art magazine pages like ARTForum and ART News. FYI: I do read the magazine articles. I do tear out pages that are perfect for collage and then I tear out more pagers to paint. There are always enough pages.

10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PAINT PAPERS:

It’s eco-friendly – it’s recycling magazines

It’s economical because magazines have so many pages

The process is quick and easy and you can create a lot of papers in a short time

Painted papers are very arty when you allow some image to show through

The different ways you apply paint shows personality, style and creativity

You can create layers, pattern and texture

You can create papers in all the colors you want

Painted papers are strong and easier to work with in collage

Painted papers are washable and durable

Painted papers can be repainted and you can create a new palette of colors

Two more reasons: Painted papers are beautiful and become a personal statement in every collage you make.

 

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

The image above is a painted gouache cutout titled Blue Nude II (1952). Notice it’s all blue painted papers. It was included in the exhibition “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (Oct 22, 2014-Feb 10, 2015). I visited the MoMA exhibit 3 times. There were more than 100 cut-outs, as well as a video that showed Matisse cutting painted papers with a long scissor while an assistant held the paper as he cut. Read about the exhibition here:

Thank you for your comments below. Tell me if you saw the MoMA exhibit Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Were you amazed at his collage technique and the colors in his painted papers? I was/am.

Link here to my post Painting Papers for Collage (October 2012) with images and more about Henri Matisse. He said he painted with scissors. He called his works gouache decoupes.

For fun: Ask me why I paint papers from contemporary art magazines. If you like, email me to get a free PDF with a step by step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers (inspired by a famous contemporary artist).

Creative Paper Collage

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.

 

Cucaracha, Alexander Calder

Cucaracha, Alexander Calder

 

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.

 

sample collage papers

sample collage papers

 

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.

sample collage, Nikkal

sample collage, Nikkal

 

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.

 

Dee Shaplow, paper collage

Dee, paper collage

 

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.

 

Louise, paper collage

Louise, paper collage

 

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.

 

Vivienne, paper collage

Vivienne, paper collage

 

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.

 

 

Claudia, paper collage

Claudia, paper 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.

 

Sheila, paper collage

Sheila, paper collage

 

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.

 

Irene, paper collage

Irene, paper collage

 

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.

 

Carol, pape collage

Carol, pape collage

 

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?

 

Read my earlier blog  (make it good, July 5, 2014) – with links to Seth Godin’s post about challenges “Is better possible?”.

 

Thank you for reading and I welcome your comments.

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.