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
January 20, 2017
Albert Einstein said: Creativity is intelligence having fun.
Do you know that art enhances problem-solving skills? Art encourages creative thinking. It will make you feel good. Making art boosts self-esteem.
Making art is good for your health. It focuses your mind and pushes your worries aside. My collage students at the Pelham Art Center say the 2½ hours spent in class seem to fly by because they are totally absorbed in their art-making projects. They’re in “the zone.”
Pablo Picasso said: Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
I teach CREATE with COLLAGE at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. Winter classes meet Monday nights, Jan 23-March 20 – 7:00-9:30 pm. 7 classes (no class Feb 20). This post shows sample collages for the 1st class.
The sample collage nearby may look simple, but it’s also a creative challenge to combine colors, text, and pattern into a pleasing design. It’s guaranteed that each student’s collage will look different from the others. The triangles are cut from magazine papers. They face in different directions and papers overlap. Some papers are dark and some are light. Some have white text on a dark background. Some have dark text on a light background,
Collage is about Serendipity
In class I discuss how papers move as you handle them, so the design can change as you lift papers and glue them down. Some students worry that their plan for a collage will change as papers move. It does. The best part of making collage is serendipity. I say: if you like, trace the outline of the design or take a photo with your phone. Or – go with the flow. Be happy as you move papers and glue.
The image nearby shows tall triangles that are arranged so papers touch the edges of the rectangle substrate. The substrate is the bottom layer for the collage. In this case, the substrate is a heavy art postcard I collected at a NYC Chelsea gallery. I always ask for postcards at art galleries. The paper is a perfect substrate for a small collage – and it’s free!
Notice two triangles (on the bottom) each include a slice of a face – one is a man and another is a woman. Once you notice the faces, you cannot stop looking at these triangles. Notice the lower section of the collage has a dark skinny triangle facing downward that points to the two dark triangles with faces. Every other triangle is light, yellow or white with text. The red triangles mimic the red tones in the faces and lips.
I will offer the class a 2nd project with triangles in a grid. I like the idea of theme and variation.
The image nearby is a sample collage with a horizontal grid. There are 20 rectangles. Each rectangle has contrasting dark and light right angle triangles that faces up and down.
The dark triangles are cut from black painted papers. The light triangles are cut from magazine papers with dots, text and patterns.
Be inspired. It’s not copying. It’s Theme & Variation
The image nearby was made by a student in class last fall. I brought the sample triangle grid to class and asked everyone to create a collage with dark and light contrasting triangles in rectangles. I said their collage didn’t need to look at all like the sample collage, but I encouraged them to create a grid pattern.
Many students tell me they dislike the idea of copying. I say: don’t worry. You can’t even copy yourself.
Notice this student’s collage doesn’t look at all like the sample I made. She added light teal-blue paper to her substrate before she added the rectangle grid with cut triangles on top.
I think her design and colors are gorgeous. It’s an amazing collage.
I am happy that my collage classes became a creative community. The class experience builds confidence, trust and success. That’s the goal. Each member in class develops a visual style that’s personal, and everyone cares for each other.
Many people believe you have to be a painter or sculptor to be a real artist, or that if you are not a born artist it makes no sense to make art. Not true. Creativity is for everyone. The art of collage is ultimate creativity.
Make Art and Build Your Brain Power
Read more about how creating with art stimulates brain power – and how anyone can do it. See: Be Brain Fit by Deane Alban.
I welcome your comments. Email me for a free PDF for tips and a materials list for the triangle collage project.
Ask me about the class projects I design that include collage with figures, and faces, collage with landscape, and collage abstraction. I can custom-design a workshop for you and your group.
See my newest triangle paintings and collages with painted papers online here.
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).
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.
January 23, 2014
The Journal as Art
I’m reading the book Drawing from Life: The Journal As Art, by Jennifer New (Princeton Architectural Press, New York).
It’s a beautiful book with text and drawings by 31 artists who keep a journal. Chapters include Observation, Reflection, Exploration and Creation. The preface states: journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life.
A journal can be a diary, sketchbook and notebook. It can include anything and everything. It’s a place to play and explore images and ideas.
DO A DRAWING FROM NATURE
At the beginning of the book Drawing from Life, I found the image above – a line drawing of oak leaves with a live twig and oak leaves placed on top of the drawing by Maira Kalman. The artist says she likes to gather information while she walks. She is the author of 13 children’s books and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker magazine. I’m intrigued by her drawing.
I love that you can see through the photo of the leaves to the beautiful drawing below. It’s simple and elegant. I feel the gesture of the lines in contrast to the actual leaves and bark.
In an interview, Kalman says she always has a sketchbook with her and is drawing all the time.
I decided I have to make more time to draw.
So many people say they can’t draw a straight line. Actually – anyone can draw a straight line if they use a ruler. No excuses! If you are an artist or wannabe, I say: get comfortable with drawing because it’s really important.
If you don’t know how to draw something (example: leaves), trace the outline of the leaves and transfer the image onto drawing paper. Another way to approach drawing is find a drawing and copy it. Turn the image upside down and start to draw. You will be amazed at how good your drawing will look when you copy from an upside down image. Your confidence will rise. You can start to draw from what you see – example – a view on a walk, your desk, your room, etc.
Look at something and make an abstract drawing – gestural lines and shapes in response to the image you see. Collect images and make a sketch while you look at the image.
I think it’s fun to doodle with lines, move the pen and watch the image grow. I like to draw from my imagination.
The image above is the 7th drawing in my journal. It’s my favorite drawing so far. The journal is exploring an imaginary fishy world with waves, floating food, and underwater critters. Do you see the snail and the fish in this one?
The journal papers are 10×8 inches. The drawing is small and the collage papers are tiny.
I started the collage with horizontal strips of BFK Rives art paper. I drew with pen and ink on the cut paper and then glued them into the journal. Notice the irregular sides. That’s intentional. I found magazine papers with printed text, tiny dots, a spoked wheel, and stripes. Since the drawings are high contrast pen and ink, I looked for collage papers in a range of grey to black tones. I drew spirals with pen and pencil with softer edges.
I titled the image above White Paper Waves. The cut paper on the bottom of the collage was a scrap leftover from another collage project. I love the pencil outline around the cut out waves. As soon as I found it, I knew I would use it.
I titled the image above Fishy Tails.
Recently I decided I want to cut the collage papers into open shapes with space in the middle. I use a fine scissor. I want the paper to become another line – collage as drawing that can be glued on top. The image below is a cut paper sampler for the next drawing.
PLAYING WITH LINES
I started the journal because I wanted to play with thin and thick, straight and wavy lines. I wanted to create new images that explored the image that came before. My journal is a journey via drawing and collage. I want to see how the images change. It was very important to use certain papers. I discovered I like some papers much better than others. It will influence what I use and what papers I collect.
My journal is spiral bound with a heavy black paper cover and includes medium weight drawing paper. I’m particular about size. It has to feel right in my hand. The pages have to be receptive to pen and ink and bear the weight of glue and papers.
Some artists do a drawing every day. Experts say drawing is good for relaxation, concentration and observation.
If you want to learn to draw, find an online tutorial, a how-to book, or take a class at an art center.
Buy a notebook with blank pages and fill it with drawings. Write comments, keep notes on what you observe. Draw from life. Look at what’s around you. Doodle with thick and thin lines. Create open and solid shapes. Add patterns and stripes. Fill in with cross-hatch lines. If you like – embellish with paint and collage.
Buy pencils and pens. B pencils are softer and darker (2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B). H pencils are harder and lighter (HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H). I do not like H pencils and never use them. I like 3B, 4B and 5B. Higher B pencils (6-8B) are too soft, dark and smudgy for me. Permanent ink pens come with a range of ink tips. I like them all. I especially like the pens with a brush tip.
I love the blog post “the 90 cent solution to becoming organized, creative and successful” by Pat DePuy at Mainstreethost.com (December 18, 2013).
What is the 90 cent solution?
It’s a notebook (a journal) that you buy. Typically it’s unlined papers in a bound book.
Experts say it works best when what you enter is handwritten – when you print by hand or use script/cursive – never mechanical wordprocessing.
Experts say keeping a notebook improves your memory. There’s documented evidence that the ideas you record by hand get acted on and become more successful.
Because your notebook/journal is handwritten, you remember with much more detail when you review what you wrote.
Advice to everyone: keep a notebook. Artists: fill your journal with images you find and drawings you make. Add comments on what inspires you, what you did and why you like it, and what you will do next (what will change, what will stay the same).
Please contact me. Do you draw? If not, why not? Do you keep a journal? Can you describe it? Thank you for reading and your comments.