Hearts for Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2017

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you send or receive cards, candy or flowers?

Do you know why we associate the day with love and romance?



I made a collage with paper hearts (ab0ve).  It’s a sample and not finished. I would add red glitter and lace. I cut magazine papers and pasted the papers into 7 hearts on a substrate paper with stamped red circles.  Each heart is made with 2 parts. Some hearts are painted with red acrylic. Some show white on black magazine text and some show red on black magazine text. Very important: every heart has two halves that touch. Each heart has a right and a left side to show how two become one.


A very brief history of Valentine day cards

Sending notes and letters for Valentine’s Day started in the 1700s in Great Britain.

Esther Rowland (1828–1904) is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine” She was an artist and businesswoman responsible for popularizing Valentine’s Day greeting cards in America.


The History of St. Valentine’s Day

Historians identify Valentine’s Day with the Feast of Saint Valentine, a martyred Christian saint . FYI: There was more than one Valentine martyred. Read more about the saints Valentine.

In the Middle Ages, people believed birds began mating on February 14. February was the month of love.



In the image above, 2 black doves are facing each other with a red heart outlined above them. The heart connects the two birds and symbolizes the love they share.

The connection to birds and mating goes back to pagan Rome and a holiday called Lupercalia – a purification day to avert evil spirits and accomplish health and fertility. Very pagan.


Link here to see a very witty, entertaining video about the original Roman holiday Lupercalia.




Victorians assembled original valentines from lace, bits of mirror, bows and ribbons, seashells and seeds, gold and silver foil appliqués, silk flowers, and clichéd printed mottoes like “Be Mine” and “Constant and True.” Victorian valentines commonly feature churches or church spires, signifying honorable intentions and fidelity.


You can make your own card. All it takes is birds, words, and hearts. The image above is a contemporary card with glittery encrusted hearts in all sizes.



I created the image above to add to this post. It has new cut paper hearts pasted on top of a fashion magazine page image. Some of the hearts are painted papers with oil pastel embellished on top. Some of the hearts are cut magazine papers. I like the scale of the paper hearts contrasted with the scale of the model sitting on a red sofa.


Did you exchange Valentines cards and candy when you attended grade school? Do you remember the tiny candy hearts in pale pink, yellow and green?

Do you give or receive chocolates in heart shaped boxes?

Hearts dominate. That’s why I chose the collage with hearts for the top image. Valentine’s Day is about connections and relationships and red hearts. I cut the hearts so each was in two halves. They touch to show how important it is to connect.


Do you think this is a good way to show connections? Please send me your comments. Please share images if you make your own Valentine cards. Email me your image.


Painting Papers for Collage 2

September 22, 2016

Two of the collage artists I admire most– Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – created collage with painted papers.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

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.

Painted Papers

Painted Papers

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.

Etched Painted Paper

Etched Painted Paper

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.


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.


Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

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).


April 10, 2012


My workshop – Cherry Blossom Collage with Cut Papers is scheduled for Sunday, April 15, 2012 (10-4) at the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ. Think PINK. The workshop is all about delicate pink flowers and spring.

The timing is perfect. In Metro New York/New Jersey and the surrounding suburbs, the trees are in flower. The colors of spring are all around us.

In preparation for the workshop, I visited NY Central Art Supply at 62 Third Ave., NYC to buy hand made papers from Japan (and Thailand), bark paper, and delicate pink papers for the workshop. NY Central has a world-famous paper department.

I think collage always starts with the paper. Some people like to work with natural papers. Some like to work with decorated papers. I like to paint papers and create a custom palette for collage. I like to work with papers that are hand-made and natural, and also work with papers that are machine made, printed and textured.

I will bring papers, paints and a sample collage to the workshop. I will bring cherry blossom images to inspire. I will bring a sample collage that shows a stylized Japanese landscape with a winding river and trees in blossom (see the image further down this post).

We will build a collage in paper with color, texture and pattern.

A courtesan strolling in the garden

The vintage image above shows a courtesan strolling in the garden in spring. It is included in the exhibition titled Poetic Pastimes: Japan and the Art of Leisure that is currently installed at the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ (through May 6, 2012). The exhibition is the inspiration for the workshop. Image: courtesy the Newark Museum.

Poetic Pastimes is a celebration of the seasons. As you enter the exhibition, you see spring, followed by summer, autumn and winter. The exhibition includes over 150 masterworks from the Museum collection, including prints, paintings, lacquer, textiles, ceramics and more.

Read more about the Museum exhibition…


In Japan, from the time of the Heian Period (794-1185), poets, singers, aristocrats and members of ordinary households would gather around cherry blossom trees to appreciate their beauty.  It became a national pastime in spring, and the cherry blossom tree became a highly revered species in Japan.

Read more about cherry blossoms…

Cherry blossoms are the national flower of Japan.

Newark NJ has the largest and most diverse collection of cherry blossom varieties in the U S – bigger than the national display in Washington, DC.

Here’s a link to the Essex County Cherry Blossom festival in Newark, NJ.

There are cherry blossom trolley tours at Branch Brook Park (admission $5) Saturday to Saturday, April 14-21. Meet at the Welcome Center.  More information…



The image (above) shows the sample collage I created for the workshop. The horizontal background is 11×14 inches ledger paper painted a light spring green. The meandering stream is a collage element in bright blue and the 5 flowering trees with pink cherry blossoms are more cut painted papers. The top and bottom strips are the reverse side of painted papers with additional brown and pink collage elements.

Painting Papers Green


The image (above) shows step one in painting papers. I used Golden Paints “open” acrylics in green gold mixed with Atelier “interactive” transparent yellow. I used Golden satin glaze medium to thin the paints and make them more transparent (you can use any brand of acrylic medium). I used an ordinary plastic disposable plate and a plastic palette knife.  I painted papers in multiple layers.

I cut 2 long, thin strips from the top and bottom of the background paper and painted them deeper green for a border.

Painting papers with a palette knife, and mixing layers of color is fun and easy to do. You can experiment as you paint. If you don’t like a color, paint over it with a lighter or darker color. Leave areas uncovered as you add a new color, or scratch (etch) into the color as you paint. Paint as thick or thin as you like. Acrylic colors dry darker so you will always be surprised.

Blue Stream with Fish and Cherry Blossoms


The image above shows a closer view of the stream with fish, overhanging trees and flowers. I drew the outline of the stream on an 8.5×11 inch piece of Crane’s cotton rag paper. I used a soft lead pencil (4B) and drew and erased several versions until the curved shape of the stream seemed right.

I tore the paper along the curved line by hand with a steady motion (slowly). The cotton paper is easy to tear. As I painted, I etched waves into the blue paint with the tip and side of the palette knife.

The nice part of painting the stream on a separate piece of paper is you can see how the dried color looks against the background color, and if you don’t like the color relationship, you can repaint. You also have the ability to move the paper stream around on the background to exactly the place you want – and can create the best design when you are ready to glue down the papers.

The image above is my line drawing for trees in the collage. I reduced and reversed the image from one tree to make 5 trees, produced a single sheet of paper with all the images and glued the drawings to the back of a sheet of painted rice paper to make it easier to see and cut out trees.

I will bring a stream template and the tree templates to the workshop and people who don’t want to make drawings can use my templates.



The image above shows 4 sheets of painted papers in different colors ranging from yellow green to brown to black. On the top row the yellow green is nickel azo yellow mixed with a small amount of raw umber. The darker green includes the addition of chromium oxide green. The bottom row black is a thin layer of Mars black. The brown is raw umber over nickel azo yellow.

I painted over ordinary copier papers printed in black toner ink. I planned to use the papers for the trees in the collage, but didn’t like the paper and I didn’t like the colors.

The image below shows Golden nickel azo yellow acrylic painted over Japanese rice paper. I like the way the paper accepts the paint and I like the size of the text that shows through.

Painted Japanese Rice Paper

Here’s a link to the color chart for Golden Paints heavy body acrylics. You can see how many different colors are available.


The image below shows the tree patterns I created. I glued them to the reverse side of the painted Japanese rice paper. I was careful as I cut around each tree. Some of the little branches got chopped, but I was able to piece them back together.


Tree Drawings Glued to the Reverse Side of Rice Paper



The image below shows my bristle brush (for gluing), a tiny plastic cup with white PVA glue, and a cut paper tree – all sitting on a piece of waxed paper.  I use the waxy paper as waste paper and as a barrier sheet when gluing. The size of the brush will vary with the size of the papers I glue. The type of glue will vary depending on the type of papers in the collage. For thin paper, I use acrylic medium. For medium weight paper, I use PVA white glue. For thick paper, I use carpenter’s glue.

Notice the multiple pieces in brown and white papers left over from cutting out the tree.  Matisse used every piece of paper in his cut paper collages, and I found a way to use the snippets in the cherry blossom collage.


The image below is pink painted paper (painted on imported Indian paper). The pinks are made with white and deep pink acrylic paint. On the same table is the sample collage with assembled painted papers. Everything is sitting loose, ready to be glued.

Notice the horizontal strips at the top and the bottom of the collage. These are the reverse side of the same paper strips that are painted green (seen in an image above).

I planned to use the green strips but liked the reverse side better. I call it “serendipity” when you find something unexpected that you like better than what you planned. The final plan for the collage includes leftovers from cutting the trees and flowers. I wanted to bring these papers into the borders. Nothing goes to waste.


I will bring hand-outs about the history of Japanese papers – called Washi – to the workshop.

I will bring pink, white, blue, green and yellow acrylic paint and plastic palette knives to the workshop.

I will bring color copies of contemporary cherry blossom designs (simple flowers in an overall pattern like the sample below) for people who want to make a collage that is abstract.

I will bring color images of tree branches in bloom for people who want to make a collage that is naturalistic. Some participants will want to paint background and branches and add cut paper cherry blossoms.

I will bring copies of a courtesan for people who want to include these images.

If you take the workshop, all tools, glue, water media paints and papers are provided so you can create a colorful collage painting. Participants can bring their own decorative papers and make their collage more personal.

The workshop is 6 hours and there is ample time to finish a collage.

More information about the workshop and how to register…


 Your comments are always welcome.