Art Inspired

October 21, 2014

PINTEREST is an image bonanza for me. I’m almost always inspired by what I see even though typical Pinterest images are not about art (most images are about fashion, babies, craft and food). I always look for artsy images, and I’ve noticed, the more time I spend at Pinterest, the more art images seem to appear in email links.  I have a pin board titled the Art of Food. Everything is presented like a work of art. See images I collect – portrait collage, mixed media, and more. See collage by great artists I admire: Henri Matisse and Romare Bearden. Read an earlier post about Pinterest here.

EVERYONE LOVES FLOWERS

abstract Pinterest flowers in a landscape

Pinterest flower

I found this image at Pinterest and designed a collage project for my fall 2014 class  at the Pelham Art Center.

I created a sample collage with a similar image to explore how difficult it would be to make. Notice the flowers are decorative, abstract and include patterned papers in lively colors. Notice it’s organized in a vertical format with tall stems and flower tops in circles.

It looks like an easy project that would appeal to everyone, no matter what their skill level. I brought my sample to class – along with a copy of the printed Pinterest image.

Look closely at the Pinterest image. The green papers for the flower stems and leaves are probably thin tissue or wrapping paper. It looks like the papers were not glued down flat. Thin tissue papers are hard to cut, place and glue. Gift wrap papers are easier to cut and paste. I teach how to glue papers down flat. I experimented with both tissue paper, gift wrap, plus medium weight hand-painted papers.

640_flower stems on black background

step 1 and 2 sample collage

 

The image here shows the beginning of the sample collage I prepared for the class. What you see is 9″ x 12″ green construction paper painted with black acrylic. If you look closely, you will notice some green shows through the black paint. The green paper flower stems are also done with acrylic paint on construction paper. Notice the flower stem papers are striped. I created stripes in 2 layers of paint and scratched in lines. Each class member got the black paper as their substrate – bottom collage layer. Each class member got painted papers in greens and yellow greens to cut into curvy flower stems and leaves.

I always create a sample for the class so I understand and can discuss the steps necessary to make the collage. My image is similar but different, presented for instructional purposes. I never assume anyone will copy the image. They never do. I discuss how to create personal papers for collage. I almost always have the class work with painted papers. The paint makes the papers strong and easy to cut and glue, plus the surface and colors are hand made and personal.

 

I added tissue paper flowers to the sample collage (see below), and decided to emphasize how to work with tissue paper in collage.

640_close up flower collage

close up finished sample collage

The image here shows a close up view of the finished sample collage, and how I cut and pasted leaves and flowers onto the stems. Notice the flowers are circles and ovals that overlap leaves and stems. I cut flowers  from painted, printed and tissue papers. Notice how the black and yellow dot paper connects visually to the black background paper.

I did an in-class demo to show how I paint construction paper with a small 2” wide sponge paint roller and acrylic paint. The roller applies paint in an even film and you can reuse the paint roller if you immediately wash it with soap and water. I did an in-class demo to show how to use white PVA glue to collage with medium weight papers, and how to use white fluid acrylic medium to create collage with delicate tissue papers.

640_fall 2014 PAC demo tissue paper flower collage

tissue paper class demo collage

 

 

The image at right shows a tissue paper collage I created during class as a demo. Notice how overlapping tissue  papers create subtle color variations – probably because of the way the acrylic medium was applied. Thicker glue application connects papers closer to the layer below. Thinner glue application leaves a little air pocket so the paper dries closer to the original color. FYI: The process of gluing tissue papers down is not difficult. Place papers one at a time exactly where you want and carefully brush acrylic medium over the top and beyond the edges slightly. Add papers one at a time. The glue seeps through the thin paper to the bottom layer and will dry clear.

 

Following are student images from the 1st class, and my comments about each collage.

640_Bernice 1st fall 2014 class

class collage by Bernice

The image at left is by Bernice. I think she really liked how the black background showed through the tissue papers and created surprise textures. Notice 5 flowers on tall stems. Each flower is different, left to right – yellow, yellow, black and yellow, blue and green. Notice how the black and yellow center flower seems to disappear into the background and only the yellow dots show.

This collage is done in a horizontal format, but strong diagonals keep it dramatic and dynamic.

 

640_Carol 1st fall 2014 class

class collage by Carol

The image at right is by Carol. She has a strong love of natural images and landscape. It shows.

Notice how she cut her flower shapes. Notice she also tore papers in a way to create white edges that contrast beautifully with the papers below and the black background. She layered painted papers and tissue papers. The green flower stems show vertical stripes – these are the same painted papers I brought to class. In Carol’s collage, verticals compliment horizontals, balanced by gentle diagonals and negative spaces between stems and petals. Notice how a single band of thin dark green tissue paper is placed under flowers in the middle section, and how 2 dark thin green tissue paper strips cover 2 flowers and leaves at the top.

There is a sense of gentle motion. Everything is connected. It feels like a waterscape.

 

class collage by Vivienne

class collage by Vivienne

The image on the left is by Vivienne. Her paper format is vertical. The collage design is horizontal. Vivienne always selects  collage papers in colors and shapes that express a beautiful visual design. Every paper is cut, placed and glued with care. Notice the lively texture in the teal, brown and green tissue papers glued at top, middle and bottom where the black substrate shows through. Notice how she created positive and negative space around her cut and pasted papers. Notice how the green flower stems curve, touch and overlap. Colors are coral pink, yellow, teal, green, brown, black and orange. Every shape holds its own space. Horizontals balance verticals.

It’s active, decorative, and elegant.

class collage by Jennifer

class collage by Jennifer

The image at right is by Jennifer.  Colors are yellow, pink, green and red against a black background. Each circle has a unique shape, color and pattern. Some are wider. Some are taller.  Some are nearer; some are further behind. The space is horizontal and not too deep. All collage papers overlap. Leaf stems tilt gently. Notice Jennifer’s flowers have large center discs (eyes) created with paper that’s printed in black with yellow dots. Every paper is cut or torn to create rippled or soft edges. The green leaf stems have a yellow under-layer that glows against the black background.

The design is animated, papers are textured, and the colors are fun to see.

Jennifer took the class images with my cell phone camera. She did a really good job and I thank her.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please add your comments. Try the flower collage project with tissue papers, and let me know if you create with painted papers.

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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.

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).

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Dead and Alive, 1943, Museum of Modern Art/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

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).

Robert Motherwell, View from a High Tower (1944-45), Private Collection/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

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.

Robert Motherwell, Jeune Fille (1944) private collection/Dedalue Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Robert Motherwell, Jeune Fille (1944) Private Collection/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

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…

Robert Motherwell, 9th Street Exhibition (1951) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963, Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Robert Motherwell, 9th Street Exhibition (1951) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963, Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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.

Get Creative with Collage

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.

Nick Cave, Art Journal

Nick Cave, Art Journal

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.

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

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.

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

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.

Read about the exquisite corpse in a class project I taught at the Pelham Art Center.  My post “All Mixed Up” includes many images by students – each student created a unique figure in collage.

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.

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

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.

What can you do with Collage?

Two weeks ago at the Pelham Art Center, I talked about collage projects during the fall term. Many of the projects included recycling and repurposing papers. The class is titled Embellish An Image – Play With Collage.

Almost every class project I teach involves working with paper. We also work with found media and fabric. Everyone likes the idea of recycling junk mail, catalogs, magazines and cards. We say – don’t throw anything out because you can find a way to use it.

I stress 3Rs: Recycle, Renew, Repurpose.

If you doodle, do drawings, paintings, or prints, you can use the drawing, painting or print in your collage, either as the base for the collage (it’s the substrate) or as collage papers on top. It’s easy to start a collage when you build on top of something else.

The image below is my collage with pen and ink drawing in a series titled Strata. It’s on 8×8 inch paper. I made 16 different drawings and added collage to each one. I showed the images to my class and explained that strata is about horizontal layers. In this case the layers are a drawing and papers on top.

See more images at my website.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Strata 13

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Strata 13

I like to combine drawing with collage and I encourage students to add drawing.

A hand-drawn element makes the collage personal. Anyone can do drawing. Doodling is drawing. If you think you can’t draw, try tracing. Gather images and papers you like as inspiration. Do a copy of the image. You can start with a tracing on vellum paper. Draw with pencil, pen and ink, crayon and pastel onto small pieces of paper. Add your drawing to your collage..

Explore Theme and Variation

If you create your own greeting cards, you can use the cards as a base for a collage series.

If you don’t want to cut up the originals cards, take a digital photo or photocopy them if they are small. Make multiples and use the copies for collage media.

If you create a wonderful collage, don’t cut it up. Make multiple copies and use the copies as a base for more collage or as collage media.

Possibilities with Painted Papers

We used wallpaper from a donated book in a recent project. The paper was oversized, strong, and free. Some of the wallpaper was patterned and textured.

Each person painted a page with blue and green acrylic and created a background for a landscape collage that included an island surrounded by water and sky. Each person worked with a palette knife and used 2 greens, and mixed blue and white. The painted wallpaper became the substrate (the bottom layer). Some students added gloss acrylic medium to the paint. It made the paint more transparent and gave the colors depth in layers. After the painted wallpaper substrate was dry, students added various collage papers.

The image below is by Marlene Furtick.  She added magazine papers and papers she painted in a previous class.

Painted Paper collage by Marlene Furtick

Painted Paper collage by Marlene Furtick

Many collage artists use heavyweight watercolor paper or museum board as a substrate. It’s expensive. Sometimes the paper warps or buckles because of the water in glue or in paint. Wallpaper is a good substrate because it is typically coated and will not absorb water and will not warp or buckle.

Everyone Loves Painting Papers for Collage

Painting papers is a way to create collage media. You can paint on magazine pages, scrap paper, fabric, newspaper and wallpaper You can photocopy or scan and print the painted papers and create multiples. You can also use the original painted papers as a substrate. I always encourage students to create a painted substrate. It’s a great way to begin a collage.

For another class project, we worked with medium weight scrap paper that was plain white, and painted it with gouache (opaque watercolor).  Students used a 1 inch wide soft straight-edge (bright) brush and worked with diluted paint applied as a single color. Students painted more than one color on separate papers.

The image below is by Joyce Dutka, and shows the worktable and oil pastels nearby.

The papers are painted with gouache.

Joyce Dutka collage

Painted Paper Collage by Joyce Dutka

I encouraged Joyce to add drawing to her collage papers because doodles and drawing give the work more personality. It also added color, pattern and texture

Joyce cut her papers into shapes and embellished the papers with oil pastels. The project was inspired by the artist Henri Matisse, who worked in collage at the end of his career. Matisse called his collages paper cutouts.

We used fabric for collage in a recent class. The fabric was donated. Students cut up the fabric and glued it down onto canvas I supplied. We worked with carpenter’s wood glue because it is heavier than white PVA glue.

Carol Frank created the image below. It’s upholstery fabric and paper on natural unprimed canvas. The project is called Strata. Carol placed the horizontal strips so some edges were under and some edges were over others.

Fabric and Paper Collage by Carol Frank

Fabric and Paper Collage by Carol Frank

Here are more ideas for collage projects:

Explore black and white and red. Find magazine images and newspaper text. Play with shapes and line. Cut words into strips. Turn them upside down and on edge.

Find a large magazine image you like and glue it down on Bristol or another heavy paper. Select an image that is big enough to cover the paper substrate.  Add collage elements all over to create something that looks new and different.

Explore a grid design. Cut up 6, 9 or 16 small blocks of medium weight paper. The blocks can be 2×2, 3×3 or 4×4 inches. Add drawing or collage to each block. Organize and glue the blocks on a heavy Bristol or watercolor substrate. When you rotate the blocks as you place them, you get different patterns.

Play with layers. Work with thin paper over thicker papers. Let the edges peep through. Cut and open out top layers to reveal layers beneath.

Cut out text from books and magazines. Draw or write on cut papers. Glue Japanese washi papers on top to reveal line and text underneath.

Play with colors and tone. Work with a selected palette of collage papers that you create, collect or purchase. Choose colors that show contrast in color saturation (pale to bright) and in value (dark to light).

Play with edges. Cut and tear collage papers. Overlayer so edges peek through. Cut papers into curved shapes. Glue papers to create rhythm and pattern.

Explore examples of art by artists you admire. Copy (interpret) a painting, but do it in collage.

Interpret the style of 2 artists. Do a collage that includes elements of both.

I will teach 10 classes on Monday evenings (7-9) at Pelham, starting in January 2013. Contact me if you want to join the class.

Thank you for your comments. Please take the survey nearby and tell me what you like.

Landscape Collage

November 8, 2012

How do you start a collage? It’s a question I’m asked a lot.

I say I like to create the background first. I also like to paint papers for collage.

Recently the class I teach at the Pelham Art Center asked to do another painted paper collage project – a landscape collage inspired by Romare Bearden (1911-1988).

The image below is by Bearden, titled Purple Eden (1987) 10.5×13 inches.

Romare Bearden, Purple Eden

I wrote about Bearden and the workshop in a post titled Caribbean Fantasy Island Collage.

Materials for Painted Paper Collage

I brought paints, palette knives, and papers to the Pelham Art Center for the class to create a collage background (substrate). The papers were torn from a donated  wallpaper book, and were perfect because they were sturdy, large, and FREE. The wallpaper had a pebbly surface that added a nice texture.

I demonstrated how to work with the palette knife. The acrylic paint was not mixed. It was right out of the tube. I showed them how handle the palette knife and apply the paint in varying thicknesses, to scrape paint into thinner layers, and overpaint layers to achieve depth.

We spent one class painting the background paper and painted additional papers for trees, plants, leaves and clouds. We created the media for the collage that would be assembled the following week.

The image below is my sample painted background.

Sample background

The plan was to create an image of an island surrounded by water with a light blue sky above.

To start, I painted the entire paper with yellow green acrylic paint and let it dry. I painted a 2nd layer with blue acrylic directly over the green and created the shape of water surrounding the island. I scraped some of the paint thin to let the green underlayer show through. I mixed white acrylic paint with a tiny amount of blue and painted the horizon line above the island for the sky.

Everybody in the class did their own variation of the island, surrounding water, and sky. They took the painted papers home to dry. I asked them to collect and bring in magazine papers to add to their collage the following week.

The images below are the finished collages. Each one is unique. Each is 16 x 20 inches.

Painted Paper Collage by Carol Frank

Carol added birds and fish and painted paper waves in the water. I said her palm trees were windswept.

Painted Paper collage by Joyce Dutka

Joyce added a mysterious, magical forest within her island landscape, plus many birds and critters she brought to class.

Painted Paper collage by Sheila Benedis

Sheila always does totally abstract collage and creates art books. For her project (seen above), I persuaded her to make her work more like a forest landscape with a hint of trees. The papers extend beyond the rectangle of the painted paper. I took the image on a brown masonite board.

The images below are by Marlene and Lorraine Furtick.

Painted Paper collage by Marlene Furtick

Painted Paper collage by Lorraine Furtick

All the color variations in the painted papers were created by layering paint and scraping into underlayers.

I think the works are truly amazing, especially since the projects were completed in 2 class sessions and a total of 4 hours.

Does the idea of creating your own collage media inspire you?  Romare Bearden painted collage papers with watercolor and called his works collage paintings. Henri Matisse had studio assistants paint his collage papere with gouache. I paint a palette of papers for each collage. You can too.

Please send me your comments.

Painting papers for collage

October 25, 2012

I like to create my own media for collage with watercolor, gouache and acrylic paint. Painting allows me to create multiple sheets of paper in the colors, patterns and texture I want for each collage.

I apply paint to recycled magazine papers and other paper media. I like to work in mixed media collage, and include hand-made papers, decorative papers, my own drawings and prints to the painted papers, and often paint papers to match colors of other papers.

See my online tutorial on painting papers.

I teach classes at the Pelham Art Center and one recent class was devoted to painting papers for collage  (with acrylic paint and also with gouache paint).  Everyone wanted to make custom color papers.

I told the class that two of my favorite collage artists – Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – worked with painted papers. Bearden painted his own papers, typically in watercolor. Matisse had studio assistants paint his papers for him in gouache.

acrylic paint on paper

The image above is acrylic paint on drawing paper, done by one student  in the Pelham collage class.

We worked with a plastic palette knife. Almost every student I meet has no experience or almost no experience painting with a palette knife. I tell them it’s so easy to get really good results with this technique.

Everyone worked with the same size plastic palette knife and selected and squeezed out the acrylic paint colors. I supplied a variety of acrylic paint brands, including Golden Paints and Liquitex.

assorted papers painted in acrylic

It’s a simple technique

The image above is a selection of 9 papers done with palette knife and acrylic paints by one student in the Pelham collage class.

I did a simple class demonstration, showed them how to set up their palette of paint colors on a disposable paper plate (plastic coated), and very quickly the students started to paint with the palette knife to make their own painted papers. They created an amazing variety of colors, designs and textures.

I showed them how to apply paint over a film of acrylic medium I applied to white drawing paper. After that, I showed them how to apply acrylic paint directly with the palette knife onto magazine pages.

I like to paint on magazine papers – to recycle pages from art magazines like Artforum, and fashion magazines like W because the pages in those magazines are heavier than typical magazines. I don’t recommend using news magazines for painting papers, because the paper is thin and curls when you apply paint or glue, and is difficult to work with in collage.

 

How to work with acrylic paint:

Use any good brand of acrylic paint. The better brands are usually more expensive because they include more paint pigment. The colors are richer and the coverage is better. I recommend students work with gloss or satin acrylic medium to make the paint thinner. I tell students not to use water to thin the paint.

I often buy art supplies online from Jerry’s Artarama and NY Central Art Supply.

When I am in NYC, I stop by NY Central Artists Supply at 62 Third Avenue. Their paper department is incredible and they ship everywhere.

Dick Blick is another good resource for acrylic, gouache and other art supplies.

Tools for the Workshop

painting tools

In the class demo, I tell students to squeeze out dots or small ½ inch strips of acrylic from the paint tube onto a plastic coated disposable paper plate, and leave some space in the center of the plate so colors can be mixed.

The image above shows a plastic and a metal palette knife, a 1 inch soft paint brush, a paper cup, tubes of gouache paint, a single tube of acrylic paint and the book titled Jazz (about the artist Henri Matisse).

When I paint papers with acrylic, I typically lay the colors down on a disposable paper palette and mix one color at a time. When I paint papers with gouache, I typically mix the paint with water in a small cup so it’s diluted to the proper consistency. For the class, I wanted everyone to be excited by the possibilities of working with different colors and with mixing colors as they painted.

I also mix colors directly on the paper. First, I squeeze acrylic gloss or satin medium from the container directly onto the paper and brush it across, then squeeze dots of acrylic paint out of the tube directly over the medium and move it around with the palette knife to create stripes, patterns and transparencies.

acrylic paint over gloss medium layer

The swirly painted image above is by a student who tried that technique. She applied paint directly over gloss acrylic medium and moved the paint with the palette knife to create transparencies and pattern.

The palette knife can be made of plastic or metal. I supply plastic palette knives. I also work with a metal palette knife. It’s important to wipe the knife clean, especially when changing colors, and never allow the paint to dry onto the knife (acrylic paint can dry quickly).

I urge students to wipe the paint off the knife with a paper towel so that the paint on the knife doesn’t get mixed into water (it they dip the knife into a water container). It’s not good for the environment to pour paint dissolved in water down the drain.

Matisse in his studio in Nice

The image above shows Matisse in his studio in Nice, France in 1952 (this image is included in the book titled the Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse, by John Elderfield, published by George Braziller, NY).

All of Matisse’s collages were created with painted papers. His studio assistants painted his papers for him with gouache.

Matisse said he painted with scissors. He called his works paper cut-outs (gouache decoupes). Read about the Technique of the Cut-Outs…

Henri Matisse, Creole Dancer, 1950, 80×47 inches

The image above, a collage in painted papers, is by Matisse and is titled Creole Dancer (image courtesy the Internet). Notice it is organized as pieced blocks of paper in the background, overlaid with cut out shapes. Notice the painted papers show variations in color saturation and paint density because they are hand-painted.

I tell my students that Matisse did not discard papers that were cut out and that landed on the floor. Notice the image above with Matisse in his studio and all the papers on the floor. Notice his cut-outs were typically curved and organic in shape and referenced nature.

paper collage done in class

The image above is by a student in the Pelham class. She painted papers, and while the paints were drying, she created a collage with colored papers I supplied. Before she glued the papers down, she embellished them with oil pastel drawing to make the surface richer and brighter. Notice the oil pastel sticks in boxes nearby.

The class explored many different techniques with painting papers. They layered colors, wet layer over dry layer, to see how the colors changed. They painted with transparent gouache paint over papers painted with acrylic in patterns. They scribbled wax crayon on white drawing paper (a resist process), and applied acrylic paint in both transparent and opaque layers over to see how the crayon showed through. They all liked that.

I told the class that all the papers they created were usable – nothing was a throwaway. Some were so good they were paintings that could get collage additions and be finished as mixed media works. Some were ideal as unique collage papers and could be reproduced if they wanted multiples for large collage projects.

One student created a palette of papers that coordinated with purchased hand-made papers she brought to class. How clever that she mixed colors to compliment other papers she already had (collage artists collect papers for the next collage).

I showed the class how to twirl wet paint on drawing paper as they painted, and create directional  patterns.

We talked about the art of the cut-out by Henri Matisse. I hope they were inspired.

I’ve  recommended resources for paper and paint above.

Please email me or add comments to the blog if you can share a good resource for paper, paints, and any other media you like to use for collage. Thanks in advance.