September 22, 2016
Two of the collage artists I admire most– Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – created collage with painted papers.
The image above shows the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) sitting in a wheelchair in his studio in Nice, France (1952). He had recovered from cancer surgery. Notice there are a lot of cut papers on the floor. Following his surgery, Matisse discovered his genius for collage. He called it his second life, and he is world-famous for collage. Studio assistants painted white papers for Matisse with Linel gouache, a water-based paint. The colors are gorgeous. See more images here.
We painted papers as a warm-up for the collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center. The image above is a beautiful mix of blue and hot pink acrylic paint – painted on a page torn out of ARTForum magazine. Can you notice there is text below the paint? It was applied so you can see some of the magazine paper below.
I tell the class I do the same warm up exercise when I arrive at my studio. It gets me into a creative groove. It’s also a lot of fun to do. See my video online at my website – Painting Papers with Nancy Egol Nikkal. Email me and ask for a free PDF step-by-step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers.
The image above is a beautiful mix of blue, pink and orange paints, done by a student in class. It shows an etched, swirling pattern, created with a palette knife while the paint was wet.
When we paint papers in class, I set out coated paper plates with acrylic paints and a little acrylic medium to thin the paints for each student. I demonstrate how to use a plastic palette knife to mix the paints, move colors around, and spread the wet paint onto the magazine paper. I encourage everyone to allow some of the magazine paper to show through the paint.
All my collages include painted papers, torn from contemporary art magazine pages like ARTForum and ART News. FYI: I do read the magazine articles. I do tear out pages that are perfect for collage and then I tear out more pagers to paint. There are always enough pages.
10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PAINT PAPERS:
It’s eco-friendly – it’s recycling magazines
It’s economical because magazines have so many pages
The process is quick and easy and you can create a lot of papers in a short time
Painted papers are very arty when you allow some image to show through
The different ways you apply paint shows personality, style and creativity
You can create layers, pattern and texture
You can create papers in all the colors you want
Painted papers are strong and easier to work with in collage
Painted papers are washable and durable
Painted papers can be repainted and you can create a new palette of colors
Two more reasons: Painted papers are beautiful and become a personal statement in every collage you make.
The image above is a painted gouache cutout titled Blue Nude II (1952). Notice it’s all blue painted papers. It was included in the exhibition “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (Oct 22, 2014-Feb 10, 2015). I visited the MoMA exhibit 3 times. There were more than 100 cut-outs, as well as a video that showed Matisse cutting painted papers with a long scissor while an assistant held the paper as he cut. Read about the exhibition here:
Thank you for your comments below. Tell me if you saw the MoMA exhibit Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Were you amazed at his collage technique and the colors in his painted papers? I was/am.
Link here to my post Painting Papers for Collage (October 2012) with images and more about Henri Matisse. He said he painted with scissors. He called his works gouache decoupes.
For fun: Ask me why I paint papers from contemporary art magazines. If you like, email me to get a free PDF with a step by step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers (inspired by a famous contemporary artist).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please add your comments. Try the flower collage project with tissue papers, and let me know if you create with painted papers.
February 19, 2013
Thursday, Feb 14 was Valentines Day. I hope everyone was able to share the love.
I was in NYC that day walking on Fifth and Madison Avenues from Grand Central Terminal to 34th Street. All the shops, department stores, and restaurants had red heart-shaped helium-filled balloons and red flowers in tubs in their windows or just outside on a sidewalk table.
People were walking hand in hand. Some were carrying flower bouquets to take to the office or home. I saw a little boy holding flowers wrapped in clear plastic. He held the flowers in one hand and held his father’s hand in another. I imagine he was bringing flowers home to his mother.
NYC was one big Valentine.
The image below is one of four collages I am sharing in this blog. All four images are titled Barneys because the collages exist in a Barneys New York shoe and boot catalog.
I received the catalog in the mail, and thought it was a perfect way to recycle consumer media with collage. The catalog is still a work in progress. I sometimes show the catalog to my students when I discuss how important it is to recycle postcards, catalogs, books and junk mail. It’s so easy to add images to existing backgrounds. And the paper is free.
Being in NYC on Valentines Day made me think about sharing the love, and that made me think about important blog advice from a great source – Alyson B. Stanfield and her Art Biz Blog. She offers great tips on marketing (and more).
I’m an expert at collage and want to share my ideas about the art of collage. In 2009 I started to write my blog. I was a newbie at blogs.
The 1st lesson was titled Who I am Writing For. I wrote about a friend (Sylvia) who loves design and creates jewelry. Sylvia says I should include more personal content. If you want to read the blog, here’s a link to that post…
The 6th lesson was titled “Cure Yourself of Blog Envy” and asked us to find blogs that inspire us – in my case – artist’s blogs where the content and images are presented beautifully.
I included a link to Gwyneth’s Full Brew. The artist writes “… I am documenting the intersection of art-making and art-seeing, daily life in New York City and…my drawing surface of choice since 2007 is the cardboard coffee cup.” Gwyneth Leech has had incredible exhibition success with her up-cycled coffee cup installations. She also takes wonderful photos of NYC and documents great places for a cup of tea or coffee.
At Blog Triage, I learned the best blogging serves your reader and includes links to useful information. The course included 20 assignments. Assignment #10 was titled “Show Some Link Love” – about including good links.
I always remind myself to share the links and share the love.
The image below is another one of four collages titled Barneys pasted inside the catalog. One page is about night and the other page is about day. The red lips are a huge kisser.
Sending comments is another way to share the love.
I got email recently (Feb 10, 2013) from Douglas Beaudry. He has a blog titled The Bearing Edge and designs and sells skate-influenced custom jewelry (wrist cuffs made with leather fashioned with recycled derby and skateboard bearings) – really cool.
He commented on an old blog that I posted November 30, 2010 in which I asked and answered a question.
Question: How Are the Best Blogs Like a Great Collage?
Answer: The best blogs are good looking, engaging, multi-media, explore new ideas, and like the best art, invite you to share the experience!
That’s my concept for really good collage. Collage is layered.
Douglas Beaudry commented: What a great blog post and certainly served to clear my brain a little bit.
I thanked him for the compliment. I don’t know how my post cleared his brain.
I re-read the blog How Are The Best Blogs…. Basically – it included a lot of links and was all about sharing links.
The original blog included a link to the artist Robert Rauschenberg who had an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC. I included a link to a Nov 26, 2010 NY Times Holland Cotter review of the exhibition. Both links are repeated here. The Gagosian Gallery link connects to works by Rauschenberg. The NY Times link is so well written it is still valuable to read. Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He has influenced so many artists who followed.
The Barneys 4 collage seen below is in black and white and in color over a background that turned from amber yellow to bronze. I used magazine images that were printed in color and black and white. The models are a mix and match of men and women. I wanted the focus on the eyes. They are looking at me and you.
If you think you want to update or improve your blog (or want to start to blog), I recommend the self-study Blog Triage workshop. Check it out… There are so many ways to do a blog, depending on the audience you are writing for.
Following are comments about the media I use.
My substrate (background for the collage) in these 4 works was a high fashion Barneys New York catalog I got in the mail. I wish I could get more. I only got one.
I added text and line drawings because I love words, letters and graphic patterns and love to mix drawing, pencil, ink and printed media.
I thought about how to marry the old image with the new image and how the content changed with the overlays.
I thought about how the 2 pages had to work together and how all the pages had to work as you leafed through the catalog.
Collage is about juxtaposition.
I love juxtaposing images and making it into a commentary on our consumer culture. I wanted the images to become edgy.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. If you have questions about collage, you can email me.
January 24, 2013
Next week I will teach a workshop in paper collage at Iona Collage in New Rochelle, NY.
I will be a substitute for their regular teacher, and I want the class project to be fun, quick and easy to do – and engage them in making a collage right there.
I will provide each student with a 6 x 9 inch exhibition postcard for them to work on.
They will use magazines for source media, and work with scissors and glue sticks to cut and paste papers. I will show sample postcards with collage that I prepare for them.
I will talk about the history of collage (and will not talk too much) while they are working on their project.
Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are credited with the invention of modern collage (1912-1914). The English word collage comes from the French words papiers colle (glued paper), a term coined by the Cubists. People who paste paper may also paste photos, fabric and 3D materials like wood, plastic, metal etc.
Many books on contemporary art describe COLLAGE as a medium of surface planes that explore sub-surfaces. Many books also discuss collage as a medium that comments on waste and rampant consumer consumption. A lot of collage is about politics and identity. It’s always about narrative and media.
Basically, I want to say that there is so much potential collage media out there to recycle into art. I think the idea of recycling and consumer consumption will appeal to this age demographic.
How about creating cards with collage?
I think we all have too much paper in our lives. But, I also think every piece of junk mail is a potential substrate (base) for collage, or can serve as paper to cut and paste onto something else.
Do you get postcard announcements for consumer goods in the mail? Do you get glossy multi-page home goods and fashion catalogs in the mail? It’s all potential collage media.
In my collage classes, I talk about 3Rs – reuse, repurpose and recycle.
What about the holiday cards you received this year? Don’t throw them out. Recycle the castaways and use collage to create your own work of art. Cover the base with a little collage or cover it with a lot (but leave a little of the original card peeking through) to show the juxtaposition of the old with the new media.
Free Paper Bonanza
Last year I was gallery hopping in Chelsea (NYC). It was the closing day for the exhibition at one gallery, and I noticed a pile of really good, heavy weight exhibition announcement cards sitting on top of the counter where the gallery people sit. The cards were an elegant graphic (text) printed on lovely white stock.
As soon as I found out it was the last day for the exhibition, I asked if I could have the cards. They said yes.
Theme and Variation
I like the idea of theme and variation. I start with the same base image. It can be an exhibition postcard (from my exhibitions) or a greeting card I’ve reproduced from my collage paintings.
Do you make your own cards? Do you reproduce your images into cards? Use the cards as a base for multiple collages. The new little collages can become the inspiration for new large works.
All the images included in this post are my tiny collages made with magazine papers on top of my printed 2013 New Years card. The card is a reproduction of a large painted paper collage I did last year. The card is small, about 4×6 inches. I added up to 10 collage pieces (very tiny pieces) per card. The imagery on the original was very geometric, so I planned to use rounded shapes and circular lines as a counter-balance to the straight edges. I did about 20 collage on cards and sent the cards to people who send me hand-made cards.
I found a very interesting interview online titled “What’s New With Collage?” by Hrag Vartanian who interviewed Charles Wilkin at Hyperallergic.com (Oct. 25, 2011)
Wilkin curated an exhibition in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (NY) titled All That Remains, at the Picture Farm Gallery.
Vartanian asked: “What do you think is unique about collage today, if anything?”
Wilkin said: “One of the exciting things about collage is its primary use of discarded paper media which ultimately keeps it in motion, constantly changing like a chameleon. A quick look at the diversity of styles, concepts and technique found in contemporary collage proves it’s moved well beyond simply cut paper and glue.
He added: “I suspect many artists find it alluring for not only its immediacy but its unique and inherent nature to reinvent the familiar into something mysteriously new.”
Thanks for reading. Please let me know how you recycle papers into art with collage.
July 19, 2012
When projects are unfinished, it’s good to continue.
So we continued with Collage All Mixed Up – the previous class project at the Pelham Art Center where I teach Thursday evenings.
The class is titled Embellish An Image: Play with Collage. We have a project each week, sometimes determined by me, sometimes suggested by one of the class members. Sometimes we don’t finish the project during the class.
We cut and tear. We glue. We layer. We play. We experiment. We embellish. We get very involved and forget about time. Then we finish the project at home or we continue the following week.
Here’s a bit of information: when you make art over a period of time, when there’s a break and you return to the work, the second sweep will often change the look of the work. It can become a new work (different from the earlier work) and that’s ok.
MIX IT UP MULTI MEDIA
The image below shows a work that includes drawing and collage that was completed over 2 weeks. It was embellished with drawing.
The central figure is in 3 parts all mixed up: the feet are male athlete’s feet. The body is a fashion figure in a pink jacket. The face is a lovable white dog (a poodle?).
The drawn lines connect everything, including a connection to the trailing flower stems in the paper collage piece at the bottom. There is a wonderful sense of white space and hand drawing.
This image truly expresses the charm and personality of the person who created it.
The project Collage All Mixed Up (the Exquisite Corpse) is really my attempt to introduce my students to Surrealism, an art movement that began in the early 1920s.
Surrealism includes collage. Many famous artists of the 20th century were Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Andre Breton (a poet known as the founder of Surrealism).
The Surrealist writers and artists met in cafes, played collaborative drawings games, and developed automatic drawing as a means to express the subconscious. Works included unexpected visual (or literary) juxtapositions or materials and imagery via collage. Read about surrealism.
LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS
The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. The first week the student spent her time locating papers and cutting them out precisely. She never got to gluing things down – which served her well, because she added papers the second week, and found new ways to use the papers, and the work changed dramatically.
I talked to the students about how collage can be multi-layered. I think placing a background collage layer is a good way to start a collage. The background can be a large single piece or multiple pieces of paper. The papers can be found in books, prints or magazines, can be fabric, can be photographs or photocopies, can be painted papers, drawings or prints.
The main image that sits on top of the background collage will be more interesting and seem to have more depth.
Notice the image above. Papers were collected from art and fashion magazines. The images are layered. Notice the yellow and black papers that sit under the model’s legs – to create contrast so you see the figure. Notice how the student cut diagonal patterns along the edge of the background papers and tore edges on other papers to move your eye around. The colors are all related, and there’s a lot of energy in the design.
The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. Some of the collage was glued down the first week, but most of the time the first week was spent finding the right magazine papers.
I like to stress design principles in the class – like repeating shapes in various sizes (scale) and finding papers in a range of colors that show different hues and values. The variations make the composition much more interesting. Finding papers with pattern and drawing adds more interest.
COLLAGE TO TELL A STORY
We talked in the fist class about a narrative approach to collage. I suggested students pick a word or a phrase and find text and images, then create a story collage. It’s another good way to begin.
Notice how the blues and reds range from subdued to saturated color, from opaque to gradient and patterned color. The round objects, the wheel in red and blue, the fish and the sunlit water (see the tilted blue square on the left) lead your eye around and through the composition. Like the neon orange fish, you are traveling through the space. That’s good. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of the various elements, lots of layering, and many words to tell the STORY.
THE POWER OF ONE COLOR
The image below shows a work that was completed in a single class session.
The collage was made with magazine papers, hand made black and white striped paper and text. It’s multi-layered and includes a lot of different paper elements. This student especially likes to make abstract art with bold color, high contrast, and geometric design. I told her I liked the juxtaposition of cut and torn papers, curved and straight shapes. There’s a lot of movement under, over, around, across, off the edge and back in again. Stripes make it work even better.
The image below is a voyage to an exotic place. The student found papers that suited her green sensibility (at the time of the class) as well as papers that included patterns and stripes to go with the hand-made black and white striped paper I brought to the class. This collage has multiple layers of paper. The striped paper is part of the under layer of the collage. The cut and torn magazine papers create geometric abstraction, suggest natural landscape and also include peekaboo graphic images that surprise.
Did you notice that everyone did a different work? I love that. In my next blog (for the next project) I will include images by more class members.
Please post you questions, if you want to know more about the papers, resources or projects.
July 12, 2012
The Exquisite Corpse was the theme for last week’s collage class – Embellish An Image Play With Collage – at the Pelham Art Center.
What is the Exquisite Corpse?
It’s a multi-part poem or image.
The Exquisite Corpse was very popular in the early 20th century with Surrealist poets and visual artists.
Exquisite Corpse is a collective collage (a group project) with words or images. In France, it’s called Cadavre Exquis.
If the collage was poetry, each person wrote a phrase on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal what they had written, and passed the paper to the next player to add a new phrase.
If the collage was visual art, each person drew on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal their drawing, and passed the paper to the next player. No one was allowed to peek until the game was completed and the project was complete.
The image below is in 4 parts and from Tammy Christel’s Jackson Hole art blog (Abstract Art in Wyoming at the J.H. Muse Gallery).
An Exquisite Corpse image could be disconcerting – and it was meant to be. The Surrealists held the view that human nature is irrational fundamentally. Surrealist artists include Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Andre Masson. Read more…
See the image below by Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976). Ernst titled his collage Santa Conversazione (1921) and assembled the collage with fragments of images from encyclopedias, commercial catalogs and photographs. He included birds and a button. The juxtaposition of images and the title make the work confrontational and give it the Surrealist edge.
I brought the book ALL MIXED UP by Carin Berger to inspire the class. It’s a mix and match book.
The image below shows one layout page in the book with the words Robot Balances Playfully opposite illustrations. The author says the book allows you to create over 13,000 characters. I like the selection of words. I think they can jump-start the creative collage process.
ROBOT BALANCES PLAYFULLY
I did my own sample collage called Robot Balances Playfully. See image below.
I had an image of machinery – a meter? It always knew it would become a face.
I played with the size of the original, scanned and reduced it so it would fit on the paper background (it’s the inside lining of a business envelope). I cut out a mouth from a Vogue Magazine model’s face. I cut out 2 eyes (actually they were breasts in a Picasso abstract painting reproduced in a recent issue of Art in America Magazine).
That became the top section – a Robot’s face.
I found an image of a seesaw online and added color to the black and white background. I like the fact that it’s graphic. It became the middle section and represents the robot’s midsection – and the word Balances.
I found an image of clown’s shoes online and added them to papers for the bottom section. The clown’s shoes stand in for the word Playfully.
Even though the class asked to do the Exquisite Corpse project, they didn’t do it and they didn’t finish the class project.
Finding images and cutting out images was time consuming (it takes a lot of time to find the right images). Many of the images were the wrong scale – too large.
I spoke with students about how to begin their collage and recommended placing background papers first to define the 3 separate segments. I thought it would help get organized.
I think it is much easier to begin a collage with background papers and then add images. They all wanted to work on the stark white substrate paper.
A COLLAGE CALLED TROUBLE
The 3 images below are collages in a series titled Trouble. Each is a variation on the preceding one, and each has one element in common – the torso (middle section) is the same.
I found background papers in art magazines. I found figures, faces, hands and shoes in fashion magazines. I found text everywhere. I resized images to get the right scale. I scanned composite images, printed them on good paper, and added more collage in smaller or larger scale.
The image above includes a grid of drawings in the background with the figure and text collaged over.
I am reading a book now titled Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, by David Hopkins (Oxford University Press). It’s an historic overview and a good read. The author says for many people Dada and Surrealism represent not so much movements in 20th-century art history but “modern art” incarnate – a defining modernist sensibility. Artists assembled new structures from bits of paper (Kurt Schwitters, 1887-1948) or from pre-existing objects (Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968).
In 21st -century America, supersaturated with imagery and concept, Duchamp and the readymade aesthetic still rules.
July 5, 2012
The summer class I teach at the Pelham Art Center: Embellish An Image: Play with Collage includes a mix of new students and returning students, ranging in ages from younger than 20 to seventies and above. It’s a great group. They are all creative and many are very experienced with art and collage.
Because it was the first class for the summer session, I asked the students to introduce themselves and say what they wanted to accomplish in the 8 classes. I wanted them to learn about each other and what they each expected. It’s important for the students to hear about each other’s goals, and sharing is important for the group experience.
COLLAGE and JEAN ARP
I planned the first class with a learning-to-see project that would be simple and also challenging: a geometric abstraction.
I brought individual sandwich-sized Baggies filled with tiny pre-cut papers, one Baggie for each person. See the image below with the papers, a metal ruler, a pair of scissors, a pencil and an eraser. You can see how small the papers are in relation to the ruler and pencil.
IT LOOKS EASY…LOOKS ARE DECEIVING
The collage project is inspired by a work of art titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance by Jean (Hans) Arp. Arp’s collage includes 22 papers. Arp (French, born Germany – Alsace, 1886-1966) created many collages titled Squares (Rectangles) Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. See more images.
I wanted the class to pay attention the different shapes and sizes of the papers. If the papers were different, they would create a totally different work of art.
I showed a sample (reproduction) of Art’s collage. See image below. The original collage, completed in 1916, is about 10 x 5 inches.
We discussed a little bit about Arp and the art movement called Dada. They all knew something about it. I suggested that Arp didn’t arrange his papers by chance even though the title of his work says so (and Arp did multiple collages with that title).
I tossed a few loose papers onto the table to demonstrate that the papers didn’t – couldn’t – land in the same order as the sample collage I showed them.
We talked about how to begin placing the papers. I created a sample collage with the same papers that were included in the Baggies. See the image below.
I said the class project would be fun and challenging and test their ability to look carefully (it really was all about developing that skill).
I showed them the gluing technique I use: white PVA glue applied with a bristle brush, papers pressed flat with a plastic squeegee. I showed them how I applied the glue and used a piece of waxed paper as a barrier sheet between the collage and the squeegee as the papers are glued down.
I said they should study the collage by Arp and notice the spaces between the papers, the angles if they varied, where the papers touch, and if they overlap.
The papers in the Baggies ranged in color from white to warm grey and green grey to black, representing 5 different tonal values. Each person got a watercolor-weight paper substrate in a contrasting white. The substrate is the bottom collage layer.
I showed the students that some of the papers in my sample collage were shaded with a pencil and some of the pencil markings were lightened with the eraser – all to create texture and tonal variations.
I brought artists pencils – 3B, 4B, 5B, and 7B. They tried out the different pencils and selected the pencil they wanted to use. B is a soft lead pencil. The higher the number, the softer the lead and darker the line. I also brought pencils H and HB, which are harder lead and make lighter lines. Nobody wanted to use these.
See samples of the collages created in the class below. Each collage is inspired by Arp’s collage, but each one is unique because each student decided to be original as they finished assembling the papers. Many took the collage to the next level and cut and pasted extra papers to embellish their image.
The images above include extra papers, curvy, cut shaped papers, and 3 dimensional cut papers.
We all need creative time. The collage class is about play (it’s titled Play With Collage), but it’s really about personal expression, developing an eye, and building confidence with each success.
I believe PLAY IS SERIOUS WORK.
I checked out “Adults Need to Play, Too (online) and found a link to many articles, including an article in Scientific American magazine titled The Serious Need for Play.
They say life flows with greater ease if we allow ourselves some time for play every day.
They say it makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. Read more…