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
March 7, 2017
I posted a recent blog titled Hearts for Valentine’s Day, dated Feb 13, 2017
The first image shows magazine papers in red, painted papers, and papers with text in black, red and white. I cut the papers and created hearts in halves to show that two halves pieced together would make a single heart. I believe relationships are about how we connect. We start apart and we come together. Collage is about putting things together.
I included some of the backstory in the blog about Valentine’s Day, and showed collage versions of Valentine’s Day cards with heart images.
The image nearby is a Valentine card I created with hearts and a figure from a fashion magazine. The model is seated on a plush red sofa and the hearts are floating above her head – larger than life. See more traditional cards with hearts in the Hearts for Valentine’s Day blog post.
The Art of Collage is about Cut and Paste
I always look online for what people say about collage. Frequently it’s described in terms like cut and paste. I believe we live in a cut and paste world. That’s a big reason why collage is so contemporary.
I found an article online from the Financial Times – Visual Arts (March 3, 2017 by Emme Crichton-Miller) titled Cut and paste: the art of collage – works of fragmented reality come together in two concurrent shows in New York and London. The exhibit is in New York to April 15 and in London March 10-May 13. It’s a fascinating article and references historic and contemporary collage. Read about it here.
My studio practice is painting and collage, but I make collage differently than most collage artists. I paint papers for collage and cut and paste them into geometric grid patterns. I put the papers together in ways that emphasize color relationships.
The image nearby is titled Blue & White Diptych and is made with painted papers in shades of blue, cut into triangles and pasted on 2 wood panels. Together, the panels are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. Notice how the triangles move left to right and go from lighter to darker as they move within the collage.
The image nearby is titled Blue Triangle Diptych, and done as two panels that are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. The right panel is an acrylic painting, 24×16 inches, that looks like a collage. The left panel is a collage with painted papers, 24×16 inches that has a triangles done with layered paint. Some of the underpainting shows through. The colors in the painting are blue, green, pale sienna, white, black and grey. The left panel has only right angle triangles made with two pieces each. The right panel has triangles with all different angles and shapes. I did the painting and collage separately. By chance, I put them together, and decided they speak to each other and belonged side by side. If I flip the panels left and right, they look different, so it’s important to keep them exactly as they are.
I work with acrylic paints and mix all my colors. Everything I do is about color – even black and white are colors because they are mixed. My current studio focus is about triangles and the colors blue, white and black. My previous focus was grids and the series titled Metro. I wanted to learn to love the color green. That meant a serious focus on one color. When I paint, no color is straight out of the tube pure. Nothing is exactly red or blue, yellow or green. Nothing is exactly white or black. I play with the basic colors and paint colors in layers to show how they interact visually. If you want to learn to paint papers, see my video tutorial Painting Papers with Nancy Nikkal. Please also see my green paintings and collages in the Metro Series.
Are you fascinated with color? I see color, not just as art, but as everything in my everyday life – in the city and in the parks, in plants and trees, the ocean, the sky, in cinema, television and magazines I read, the flowers I arrange, the clothes I wear, the design and furnishings, paint on the walls at home, table settings, even the food on my plate. Color is everywhere.
Here’s an extra – a little information about the science of color: In physics, a color is described as visible light and has a specific wavelength you can measure. Black and white are not considered colors because they do not have a measurable, specific wavelength. Black is described as the absence of light. White light (seen through a prism) contains all wavelengths of visible light and reveals the entire color spectrum. If we discuss paints and dyes, we understand what we see is a reflected wavelength. So there’s a science to paints and dyes also.
Thank you for reading, and for your comments – Nancy
September 3, 2014
Sharing Ideas and Information
I belong to an artist’s collective. We meet in each other’s homes or studios once every 4-6 weeks. We discuss current studio practice, and critique works in progress. We know each other well. Our meetings always include great food and conversation. We share tips on new materials, museum and gallery shows to see, lectures to attend, books to read, and workshops we offer or attend.
If you don’t have an artist’s group of your own, I recommend you find one or start one. The group dynamic should be cordial and respectful. Enthusiasm and energy are a wonderful bonus.
At a recent meeting, I talked about Serendipity, surprise and my fascination with the unexpected. I talked about how I love to design collage workshops, and about a portrait collage workshop I led in 2011 at the Newark Museum. The workshop was inspired by an image I found by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985). Dubuffet’s image was made with insect wings. We don’t do insect wings in museum workshops. We use magazine papers and typical collage media. I said yes when Ellen asked me to share the workshop lesson plan. Sharing is good. I appreciate Ellen’s talent, and know she has a great reputation for her classes and workshops. I sent her a link to my blog post about the Dubuffet butterfly collage workshop. Read it here.
I’m posting this blog to share the project with you. The image below is by Jean Dubuffet. It’s titled Sylvain and is 6″ wide and 10″ tall. It’s all insect wings carefully glued down. Are you disturbed that it’s made with dead insects? Dubuffet wanted to shock you.
I’ve seen contemporary collage with actual butterfly wings. Some are quite beautiful. My workshops don’t include a supply of insect wings or butterfly wings. We use magazine papers cut in butterfly shapes instead.
Notice the Dubuffet portrait (above) has eyes, nose, a mouth and teeth. At the workshop, we worked with magazine reproductions of eyes and mouths.
Here’s a quote by Dubuffet:
“What I expect from any work of art is that it surprises me, that it violates my customary valuations of things and offers me other, unexpected ones.”
Museum mini workshop project lesson plan:
Provide 12×12 inch construction paper in a deep hue (substrate paper)
Provide a free-form profile drawing on 9×12 yellow paper (template)
Provide magazine images of faces, eyes and mouths
Supply scissors, markers, glue, seam rollers and squeegee
Supply magazines so each student can select additional collage papers
Show everyone a color copy of the Dubuffet image. Discuss how the insect collage is made.
Demonstrate how to cut and paste the paper profile, then add eyes and mouth
Demonstrate how to cut and paste overlapping butterfly shapes.
I asked students to study the Dubuffet portrait and decide if they would have eyes and a mouth. I asked them to look at magazines and select papers to cut into butterfly shapes. I asked them to think about how many papers they would use and how close or far apart they would place the papers. I asked it they would glue the papers flat or leave edges projecting.
3 workshop images follow.
Notice the yellow profile in the first image faces right. See the blue outline inside the cut shape. It shows the artist’s hand. The magazine papers are multi-colored. Some are patterns and some are text. The yellow paper profile includes a large smiley mouth and two eyes. I see a sloped nose, multiple lips and chin on the right side, so this face has more than one mouth, one is smiling and one is not. There’s a front view portrait and also a profile. The features are juxtaposed, quirky and fun. I am always surprised when I see this image.
Notice the blue butterfly collage below. There is almost no yellow paper profile to see – only a small section of yellow paper peeks through on top. Notice there’s a single blue eye looking through. Can you find it? It’s surrounded by paper butterflies – a white butterfly on the left, a blue butterfly above, and a black and white butterfly below. This “portrait” is about carefully cut and pasted, layered magazine papers.
See the yellow profile in the collage below. It’s the sample drawing I provided. Notice there’s a magazine image of an eye placed where you’d expect to find an eye. There’s a red butterfly shape that defines the ear and several other butterfly shapes overlapping each other, including cut papers that look like light brown hair. I enjoy this collage for the bubble text that let’s you know this portrait has something to say!
Dubuffet used insect wings to create something unexpected. I wanted the workshop to be about Serendipity and surprise. Every collage was a surprise. The first collage juxtaposes papers to create an unexpected portrait. The second collage creates colors and shapes in layers and obliterates the portrait (except for the eye). You have to look hard. The third collage creates a personal narrative and makes you ask what the artist wants to say.
In a blog dated July 27, 2011 “Art: Learning to See” I wrote – “Becoming an artist is all about learning to see and understanding how you see.
At the end of the Newark Museum mini workshop, one student commented: it was a good workshop – What we did was learn how to see.
How perfect! That’s exactly what I planned.
Please add your comments below. Tell me how you do collage and if you work with magazine papers. Tell me what you think about Dubuffet and his insect portrait.
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.