March 29, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
May 30, 2014
Every Child is an Artist
Pablo Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
In March 2014, I “taught” after-school collage workshops to 4th and 5th grade students at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). The project at the 3rd workshop was a Sunny Face collage. The image below is my workshop sample. Notice there is a yellow circle that sits on top of a teal blue circle. The kids cut out the circles first. Notice the triangles with wavy stripes that are placed around the circumference of the paper circle. Kids got the striped paper pre-cut into 2″ x 4 ½ inch strips. I showed them how to cut across the strips in zigzags to create tall, thin triangles. The striped papers were bright neon colors: green, blue, yellow, fuchsia pink, and purple. Notice there are 3 small 5-point stars pasted at the top. Two students wanted to include stars. See collages by Kenyatta and Akeem below. I’ve included a lesson plan: 7 Steps to Create a Sunny Face Collage (see below). See image of striped papers directly below the 7 Steps lesson plan.
I make a sample collage for each project because it gives students a visual jumping off point for how to begin. Another reason I make a sample collage is it’s important for me to learn the best way to structure the project for kids so they can get to work quickly and complete the collage before the end of the workshop. This project involved multiple steps. The workshops last only one hour.
I set out prepared materials at every student’s seat. There are about 20 kids at each workshop. When they arrive they see papers, markers, glue sticks and scissors at every place. They can start quickly. I reproduce black and white photocopies of the sample collage and put one in front of every two students. I show the sample collage to everyone, and explain how to proceed. I tell them I do not expect them to copy my sample. They never copy. They look at my sample and they look at what other students are doing, and they always create something new.
I wanted students to paste letters on the sunny face in their own words. Notice the letters on my sample spell out “Good morning Sunshine. Notice the pasted paper letters on the image below spell out “Enjoy Artful Mornings Passions Songs Explore Today Music.” The image below is the prototype for my sample collage. I gave it a title: “Shine On” and am pretty sure I found the image at pinterest.com. The students created their own words with photocopied letters I supplied.
Notice “Shine on” is made with a single yellow circle with a watercolor blue background. I counted 24 cut and pasted triangles around the circle. Notice all the papers are different solid colors, stripes and patters. The edge of the yellow circle includes small cut and pasted letters. I think it’s difficult to read the words because the letters are so small.
Notice my sample collage (top) did not have any background. I asked the students to add color to the 8 ½ x 11 inch white cardstock they used for their collage background paper. They didn’t have time to create a watercolor background. I showed them how to hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and decorate their background with multi-colored lines done with a sweeping motion. I love how every student created a different background with the markers, and how they were so focused as they worked. It was a great beginning. See all the different images below.
The image above is by Rosella. She’s a very dedicated young artist. Notice her multi-color background – curved, concentric stripes in blue, yellow, purple and pink. Notice her sunny face has 2 rows of triangle rays around the circle. She cut and pasted larger striped triangles first, and then added smaller triangles from a polka dot patterned paper as a second row. Notice how collage papers became a face with eyes (eyeglasses?) and a red and green nose. Notice the words “Happy Day” became a smiley mouth, and how she used collage letters to create a signature at the top.
The image above is by Omarion, who designed a background with free-hand scribbly lines, first in yellow Sharpie marker, then in blue. Notice that the blue lines over yellow lines make green lines.
Notice the bottom circle is black and the top circle is yellow. Omarion cut and pasted 11 striped triangles around the circle. Some are tucked under and some are over the yellow circle. Notice the collage squares with black on white letters that spell “freedom of speech.” See Omarion’s signature in cursive that matches the loopy shaped lines in his background design. I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing as he made the collage.
7 Steps: Lesson Plan for the Sunshine Project
(1) Use cardstock for the substrate (bottom collage layer). Refer to the collage sample with the blue colored background. Hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and make patterns on the white cardstock.
(2) Prepare 2 circle outlines: 5” diameter on blue paper and 4” diameter on yellow paper. Cut out 2 circles.
(3) Cut preprinted striped paper in 2”x4” strips (see below). Cut triangles from paper strips: zig zag from bottom to top and back. Notice the pattern in all triangles show the same horizontal direction for all pieces. Match colorful papers to Sharpie marker colors in the substrate.
(4) Glue the large blue circle down on the decorated substrate near the middle of the paper. Glue cut triangles around the blue circle – with the pointy edge projecting outside the circle.
(5) Glue the smaller yellow circle down over the blue circle. Try to cover the uneven edges of the triangle papers.
(6) Decorate the circle “face” with cut papers and pasted letters that create a personal statement or quote.
(7) If you like, add collage to the background. Add your signature.
The image above shows 6 striped paper strips. Each student got 2-4 strips from which they cut the colorful sunray triangles. Most students made 12 – 20 triangles to glue around the blue circle.
Following are 5 finished collages by students at the Williams Elementary School after-school workshop.
The image above is by Kevon. His background is made with scribbly lines (done while holding 2 markers in his hand). The lines go from top left to bottom right and from top right to bottom left. Notice Kevon added 6 cut and colored 5-pointed stars along the side and corners. He cut 14 perfect striped paper triangles, and pasted them down on the larger yellow circle. Notice how the striped colors radiate out in all directions. The colors are in motion. Try to see the 6 stars. They blend into the background and are almost invisible. His text is his signature, done with black on white cut and pasted letters within the gold yellow circle. The more I look at this collage, the more I enjoy it. Kevon’s collage seems simple, but it’s really sophisticated.
The image above is by Bridney. She had fun swirling markers to create overlapping loops in blue, green, purple and hot pink. Notice the light yellow circle is placed off-center and is covered with 12 striped triangles. Notice the colors – pink, yellow, green, blue and purple radiate out into the background created with swirling lines. Everything is in motion, including the cut and pasted letters that becomes Bridney’s signature.
The image above is by Kenyatta. He decided to use yellow-green paper for his substrate, and created a scribbly line background pattern with green and blue markers going from top to bottom on the diagonal. Kenyatta’s sunshine is larger across than all the others in the workshop. Notice there are 15 long, thin triangles for the sun’s rays. Kenyatta is tall and slim. The paper patterns show different directions. Notice the 5-pointed stars are hand-colored with blue, green, yellow and hot pink markers. See how they blend into the background in terms of colors, but also stand out against the background because the lines are facing in different directions. This young artist took great care in cutting shapes and placing every paper in his collage.
The image above is by Akeem. He used Sharpie markers to draw almost parallel lines across his Cardstock background. He started in the upper left and drew alternate blue and green lines diagonally. Akeem glued 2 circles to the background, and placed his cut striped triangles on top so you see how the papers are glued down. The combination of drawing (contrasting lines) and collage is beautiful to see. Notice Akeem cut a 5-pointed star, left it uncolored, and glued it down near the center of the gold yellow circle. He added his signature nearby as a closely spaced collage of block letters, black on white. The whites in the star and signature tie into the white showing through the drawing in the background. There’s a lot of freedom and energy in the way this collage is organized, and that is very exciting to see.
The image above is by Andrew. He drew free-hand crisscross lines that overlap and curve across the cardstock white substrate. He used purple, green, blue, yellow and hot pink Sharpie markers – colors that match the printed striped papers in his collage. Notice he added spatter dots with marker dipped in water. The 2 circles that form the sunshine are cut from light and dark yellow. Triangle rays are cut from striped and from polka dot papers. Andrew wrote “You only Live Once” in red green yellow and black, and signed his name in cursive – all around the circumference of the yellow outer circle.
Before he was finished, Andrew drew black triangles at all the corners. He has an intuitive sense of design – he curved the wide base of his triangles, which repeats all the curved lines in the background, curved stripes in the printed collage triangles, and curved words along the circle inner edge.
Kids make art to express ideas and show their personality. Children are brilliant at color, design and composition. It’s intuitive. All they need is an assortment of inviting materials. I design collage projects to make it easy for them to get engaged.
How do you get the kids engaged? Project must be cute, fun and open to personal expression. Kids need to see the project as a challenge they set for themselves. It’s their choice to make the project as simple or complicated as they want. My challenge is to focus and encourage them, and organize the materials so the project can be completed in a short period of time. I love to see children make art. That’s why I design art workshops for kids.I want to optimize their experience. I want kids to feel proud of their work and how they’ve reached the challenge they gave themselves.
Often my idea for a collage project starts with an image I find online or in a magazine. See Rosella’s sunshine collage and other works by and for young artists at my Pinterest site. Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments.
January 23, 2014
The Journal as Art
I’m reading the book Drawing from Life: The Journal As Art, by Jennifer New (Princeton Architectural Press, New York).
It’s a beautiful book with text and drawings by 31 artists who keep a journal. Chapters include Observation, Reflection, Exploration and Creation. The preface states: journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life.
A journal can be a diary, sketchbook and notebook. It can include anything and everything. It’s a place to play and explore images and ideas.
DO A DRAWING FROM NATURE
At the beginning of the book Drawing from Life, I found the image above – a line drawing of oak leaves with a live twig and oak leaves placed on top of the drawing by Maira Kalman. The artist says she likes to gather information while she walks. She is the author of 13 children’s books and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker magazine. I’m intrigued by her drawing.
I love that you can see through the photo of the leaves to the beautiful drawing below. It’s simple and elegant. I feel the gesture of the lines in contrast to the actual leaves and bark.
In an interview, Kalman says she always has a sketchbook with her and is drawing all the time.
I decided I have to make more time to draw.
So many people say they can’t draw a straight line. Actually – anyone can draw a straight line if they use a ruler. No excuses! If you are an artist or wannabe, I say: get comfortable with drawing because it’s really important.
If you don’t know how to draw something (example: leaves), trace the outline of the leaves and transfer the image onto drawing paper. Another way to approach drawing is find a drawing and copy it. Turn the image upside down and start to draw. You will be amazed at how good your drawing will look when you copy from an upside down image. Your confidence will rise. You can start to draw from what you see – example – a view on a walk, your desk, your room, etc.
Look at something and make an abstract drawing – gestural lines and shapes in response to the image you see. Collect images and make a sketch while you look at the image.
I think it’s fun to doodle with lines, move the pen and watch the image grow. I like to draw from my imagination.
The image above is the 7th drawing in my journal. It’s my favorite drawing so far. The journal is exploring an imaginary fishy world with waves, floating food, and underwater critters. Do you see the snail and the fish in this one?
The journal papers are 10×8 inches. The drawing is small and the collage papers are tiny.
I started the collage with horizontal strips of BFK Rives art paper. I drew with pen and ink on the cut paper and then glued them into the journal. Notice the irregular sides. That’s intentional. I found magazine papers with printed text, tiny dots, a spoked wheel, and stripes. Since the drawings are high contrast pen and ink, I looked for collage papers in a range of grey to black tones. I drew spirals with pen and pencil with softer edges.
I titled the image above White Paper Waves. The cut paper on the bottom of the collage was a scrap leftover from another collage project. I love the pencil outline around the cut out waves. As soon as I found it, I knew I would use it.
I titled the image above Fishy Tails.
Recently I decided I want to cut the collage papers into open shapes with space in the middle. I use a fine scissor. I want the paper to become another line – collage as drawing that can be glued on top. The image below is a cut paper sampler for the next drawing.
PLAYING WITH LINES
I started the journal because I wanted to play with thin and thick, straight and wavy lines. I wanted to create new images that explored the image that came before. My journal is a journey via drawing and collage. I want to see how the images change. It was very important to use certain papers. I discovered I like some papers much better than others. It will influence what I use and what papers I collect.
My journal is spiral bound with a heavy black paper cover and includes medium weight drawing paper. I’m particular about size. It has to feel right in my hand. The pages have to be receptive to pen and ink and bear the weight of glue and papers.
Some artists do a drawing every day. Experts say drawing is good for relaxation, concentration and observation.
If you want to learn to draw, find an online tutorial, a how-to book, or take a class at an art center.
Buy a notebook with blank pages and fill it with drawings. Write comments, keep notes on what you observe. Draw from life. Look at what’s around you. Doodle with thick and thin lines. Create open and solid shapes. Add patterns and stripes. Fill in with cross-hatch lines. If you like – embellish with paint and collage.
Buy pencils and pens. B pencils are softer and darker (2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B). H pencils are harder and lighter (HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H). I do not like H pencils and never use them. I like 3B, 4B and 5B. Higher B pencils (6-8B) are too soft, dark and smudgy for me. Permanent ink pens come with a range of ink tips. I like them all. I especially like the pens with a brush tip.
I love the blog post “the 90 cent solution to becoming organized, creative and successful” by Pat DePuy at Mainstreethost.com (December 18, 2013).
What is the 90 cent solution?
It’s a notebook (a journal) that you buy. Typically it’s unlined papers in a bound book.
Experts say it works best when what you enter is handwritten – when you print by hand or use script/cursive – never mechanical wordprocessing.
Experts say keeping a notebook improves your memory. There’s documented evidence that the ideas you record by hand get acted on and become more successful.
Because your notebook/journal is handwritten, you remember with much more detail when you review what you wrote.
Advice to everyone: keep a notebook. Artists: fill your journal with images you find and drawings you make. Add comments on what inspires you, what you did and why you like it, and what you will do next (what will change, what will stay the same).
Please contact me. Do you draw? If not, why not? Do you keep a journal? Can you describe it? Thank you for reading and your comments.
December 18, 2013
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive
My favorite work by Robert Motherwell is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).
I love the work for the color, texture, painterly surface, the look of the layered papers, and Motherwell’s exuberant approach to his collage practice. It is mixed media to the max. It looks so contemporary.
What a treat to see this and other works by this artist when I entered the Thannheiser Galleries at the Guggenheim Museum (through January 5, 2014) at 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street, NY.
I did not expect to see so many – 50 plus collages and related drawings in ink and paint from the period 1943-1951. I did not know Motherwell created that many works in collage media. Every work is large in scale (especially for collage and drawing).
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was created with cut and pasted papers, ink and wood veneer on paper board (28 x 35 7/8 inches). Some papers are printed and embellished with more paint. The paints include oil and gouache (opaque watercolors).
Motherwell layered painted papers in the same color family (see the light blue section in the lower center part of the collage). Notice the paint drips.
Motherwell painted his papers in his favorite colors: black and white, ocher and pale blue.
He used flat light blue paint and faded pink paint for his background and some of the overpainted papers.
He painted red and black splotches and (faded) red and blue drips behind the child-like stick figures that imply two bodies (dead and alive) riddled with bullet holes.
Motherwell liked to work with fine-art drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle color variations. He liked commercial coated papers, especially in bright colors, because they reminded him of the colors he saw in Mexico (during a 6 month stay with artist Roberto Matta).
View from a High Tower (above) was completed in 1944-45. It is 29 x 29 inches, tempera, oil, ink, pastel and pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper and printed map on paperboard (private collection).
I recommend the exhibition catalog for the four excellent essays. The first essay is about Motherwell’s early career with Peggy Guggenheim (titled The Theorist and the Gallerist, written by exhibition curator Susan Davidson). Another essay is about Motherwell’s life-long fascination with themes of violence, revolution and death (titled Bloodstains and Bullet Holes, by Megan M. Fontanella). The third essay is about how he stretched the boundaries and the possibilities of paper as a vehicle for visual ideas (titled Motherwell’s Risk, by Brandon Taylor). The last essay is about his materials (titled Motherwell’s Materials in the 1940s, by Jeffrey Warda).
Jeffrey Warda’s essay (page 56) mentions that all the commercial papers Motherwell used faded and the strong pink is now a pale flesh tone.
Holland Cotter wrote a review for the NY Times (A Painter’s Cut-and-Paste Prequel: Robert Motherwell Early Collages at the Guggenheim, Dec. 3, 2013).
Cotter’s final paragraph asks slyly if Motherwell relinquished his role as sole creator of his work (a defining feature of Abstract Expressionism) because gravity, chemistry and light deserve equal billing as collaborators since the works have changed color, texture and form. My comment: Change is good.
Embellish the Media
I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto the papers, painted out papers, added lines, dots, drips and splotches. The surface is dense and yet there is incredible freedom in the process, and so much energy in the execution. I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below, and contrasted hard-edge cut papers with soft-edge torn papers.
The image above is titled Jeune Fille (1944). It’s 24 x 19.5 inches, oil, ink, gouache, pasted drawing paper, colored paper, Japanese paper, German decorative paper and fabric on canvas board (private collection).
Motherwell was an explorer – adventurous and exuberant in his practice. Everything in the exhibition looks cutting-edge and even edgy. That is why this show is so important.
Read my comments (below) on how Motherwell got the exhibition that launched his career in 1943 – see FINAL THOUGHTS – Who you know…
Motherwell was a scholar and a founder member (who wrote about) the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s – also known as the New York School – and (no surprise!) Motherwell’s collages are filled with the gestural energy prerequisite for Ab-Ex painters.
Read more about Abstract Expressionism at the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (Metropolitan Museum of Art) website.
The image above is titled 9th Street Exhibition (1951). It is pasted papers with gouache and ink on paper, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Donazione/Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963.
Read an excellent overview of Motherwell’s life and career (with images and links) at Wikipedia.
Also see the the humorous (and informed) post about the Motherwell/Guggenheim exhibition (11/13/13) by Ariel at Collage Volupte called How Robert Motherwell Lost His Dada Cred – its about Motherwell’s connection to Dadaism and Surrealism.
At the end of the post, Ariel writes about an old parlor game called Exquisite Corpse – played by Dadaist poets and visual artists in Europe in the period between World War I and World War II.
Motherwell was fascinated with dada, Surrealism, and automatic drawing.
FYI: Roberto Matta introduced Motherwell to a version of the exquisite corpse game at his NY salon. Motherwell attended the salons regularly in the early 1940s. Read more about the history of the Exquisite Corpse.
FYI: As a game, the exquisite corpse can be played by poets or visual artists. Players add words or images (drawings or collages) in turn. The first player writes or draws, folds the paper and passes it on to the next player. The final image or poem is supposed to be a surprise. Usually there are three or four players but, depending on how the paper is folded, the number can be more or fewer players.
FYI: Pancho Villa is an historic Mexican Revolutionary general, celebrated for his extraordinary feats in battles in the Mexican War for Independence. He was never defeated. He was assassinated in 1923 when he tried to run for political office in Mexico. Many streets throughout Mexico are named for him.
WILL YOU BE IN NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS?
Try to see Robert Motherwell: Early Collages at the Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89 Street before it closes January 5, 2014.
The exhibition catalog is excellent for the essays, but not for the images. You have to see the works in person. I can remember how bold and colorful the works are. I saw them. I will remember. The catalog colors and resolution is disappointing (it may be because the catalog was relatively inexpensive). The Motherwell exhibition archive and the number of images may change. Best to get to the Museum and see the works in person. If you are a collage artist and if you love collage, you must see this show.
Who you know and how you build relationships with the right people is critically important. It also helps to be a brilliant artist in the right place at the right time.
Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was an intellectual who wanted to be a painter.
Motherwell got his BA in philosophy and French at Stanford University (CA) and started his PhD in philosophy at Harvard University. He left Harvard, went to Columbia University (NY), met and was mentored by Meyer Schapiro (art history professor with an extraordinary reputation and contacts) who advised Motherwell to quit philosophy and focus on painting.
Meyer Schapiro introduced Motherwell to European emigree artists in NY, including Andre Masson, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. It was helpful that Motherwell was fluent in French, had studied literature and philosophy, and had been to Paris.
Motherwell became good friends with Chilean Surrealist artist Roberto Matta who introduced Motherwell to automatic drawing and Surrealism (which influenced Motherwelll’s artistic practice for the remainder of his life).
Matta also introduced Motherwell to Peggy Guggenheim who invited him (with William Baziotes and Jackson Pollock) to create collages for her upcoming collage exhibition at her gallery Art of This Century in New York.
According to Peter Plagens’s Wall Street Journal review (Robert Motherwell and the Exuberance of Invention, Wall Street Journal, Dec 5, 2013), Peggy Guggenheim wanted to juxtapose the work of pioneering European modernists with younger American artists just beginning to push into Abstract Expressionism. She asked the Americans to create collage for the Art of this Century show.
How could the young artists say no – they had to create the work – they wanted to be included in a show with European masters like Jean Arp, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.
Motherwell’s collages were a huge success in the Art of this Century show. Peggy Guggenheim organized a solo collage show for Motherwell the following year.
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was in the second show and immediately purchased and is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art NY.
Please send me your comments. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.
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.
April 26, 2013
I exhibited original collage paintings at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show at Pier 94 in NYC from March 21-24, 2013.
I planned my booth (M135) and designed it to be all about bright colors – hot pinks, warm reds, greens, blues, darks and whites to make the colors ping.
Every piece of art – every painting and collage that I hung in the booth was selected for its color in order to attract an audience. And it did.
The 2 images below are installed as a diptych – 2 works hung together as one. They are titled Musical Notes 1 and 2.
The work on the left is a painting in acrylic on canvas, 24×24 inches. The work on the right is a collage with acrylic painted papers on a 24×24 inch wood panel. My studio practice is mainly collage, but I love to paint so some works are paintings and some works are painted paper collage. The image above was taken by Marcy Michaud. She wrote a blog about the show and included my image.
When I do painted paper collage, I paint papers first, and then, when the paint is dry, I play with cut paper blocks and organize them into grid patterns. I almost always work with a grid. Sometimes I change the size and shape of the papers as I make the collage. Sometimes I paint back into the papers after they are glued down. The color relationships are the most important part of each work.
The images below are 2 collages with painted papers and assorted magazine papers, framed size 13.5″x16″. The works are titled Color Game Hidden Spaces (top) and Color Game Green & Red (bottom). They were installed on a side wall in my booth.
On the opposite wall, I hung a horizontal framed collage I titled DNA. See the image below. I want people to be attracted to the power of color. It’s painted paper collage on paper, framed: 22″ x29.5″, 2012.
I was asked – why did I title the collage DNA? Answer: The color blocks made me think of uncurled strands of DNA. A little bit. My approach to naming the art was very unscientific. Someone said: DNA would only show in 4 colors. My collage had more than 4. I had 3 greens, 2 blues, a red-purple, a reddish brown and several yellows.
I checked out images of DNA online and learned that the DNA molecules are paired chemicals – hydrogen bonds given the letters A,T, G and C (A pairs with T and G pairs with C). The letters stand for adenine-thymine and guanine-cytosine. Here’s more information…
See the image below (image courtesy the Internet). It’s an uncurled strand of DNA that does look a little like my collage.
I know my collage DNA included too many colors – but I love color.
I found a link to a letter from Francis Crick to his son Michael explaining how he (Crick) and Jim Watson discovered and built a model of D.N.A. It’s a lovely hand-written note from a father to a son. Read more…
VARIETY IS IMPORTANT
People want to see variety, especially at a trade show. So I included about 30 additional unframed works for all the people who visited my booth to look at and hold.
I tucked these smaller unframed collages into 11”x14” clear vinyl slipcases and placed them in an art bin freestanding on the floor. Each vinyl slipcase was numbered to match a price list with titles, image sizes and media for each work.
Many works in the bin combined printmaking, drawing and collage.
The image below is titled Random Squares in a Grid 2 (Brown & White Stripes). It’s collage with assorted papers and acrylic on paper, 11.5″ x 11.5″, 2011.
The image below is titled Random Squares in a Grid 7 (Azo Yellow). Its a collage with assorted papers over painted paper, 11″ x 12″, 2011.
It pleased me that people took time to handle the unframed works. People like to touch. I took the works out of the slipcases so they could see and touch the surfaces.
The image below is a collage of colorful striped papers on top of a silkscreen print card (the card is a print from an original drawing). I like to collage over hand-made cards. The paper is fine printmaking quality, folded like a card, 8″ x 7″, 2013.
The 2 images below are 2 more small collages on top of hand-made cards on printmaking paper, folded, 8″ x 7″, 2013. The cards were very popular at the show, and priced to sell.
It was a good thing that I included the variety I did. Many people loved the pinks and reds of the framed works hung on the walls. Many people were interested in the variety of different works in the art bin.
Please visit my website to see 28 images that were at the show. Click on each image to enlarge and get a better view of the detail and collage layers.
THE WORK CONTINUES
Follow-up is so important after the trade show closes. I am still contacting designers, architects and others, sending information and image files they’ve requested.
A trade show offers incredible opportunities. The networking is amazing.
Please contact me if you want more information. I am happy to answer your questions about how to organize work for exhibit in a large show like the Architectural Digest Home Design show. My booth was located in the “MADE” section with more than 150 designers, artists and craftsmen – from lighting, fine crafted furniture, photography, sculpture and fine art paintings and collage. I think I will participate in the show again next year.
I will probably play with painted paper collage in the studio, and explore the idea of DNA paired as blocks. I am intrigued with mixing art and science. Do you think art and science work well together? Many people do. Thank you for reading and for your comments.