July 8, 2018


My Favorite Color is Blue

I wrote about the color blue recently because it’s my new favorite color. My post included a lot of images by modern artists who work with the color blue, including Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. I included a link to an article in the Huffington Post titled Blue is the New Orange written by Katherine Brooks (12/6/16) with many, many art works where blue was the dominant color, including art by Degas, Picasso, Yves Klein, Monet, Renoir, Matisse Rothko and more.


Yves Klein IKB 241

Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962 is my inspiration for the color blue.  I would love to be able to do a painting with collage that is totally blue. See the image here by Yves Klein. He created his own acrylic paint that is called International Klein Blue (IKB). He worked with a paint dealer to create a matte version of French Ultramarine Blue paint. The color is electric.


Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964

Andy Warhol did an almost totally blue flower painting. See it here – four flowers in electric blue on a black background with a few thin green lines as stems and leaves. It’s an acrylic and silkscreen print with pencil on linen. It has a simple title: FLOWERS (1964). This image was included in the Huffington Post article.


Getting to Be More Blue


Nikkal, Blue Triangles

The image nearby is my acrylic painting on canvas, just completed. Notice it’s standing on 2 containers (also blue), leaning against the wall in my studio.  My painting is not all blue, but getting there. I won’t change this one (I frequently re-paint finished paintings), but I have a feeling that as I do new paintings there will be more and more blue, and less and less of other colors. My goal is total blue like the artist Yves Klein. My painting is 48×48 inches square, and acrylic on canvas. It has a lot of sharp edges and I didn’t use tape for every outlined edge. My triangles are black, white, blue and gray. Some are a yellow tan color blending into white. The patterns are a play of advancing and receding geometric shapes that are competing for space. I’m still creating color relationships. I will title this painting Triangles in Blue, Grey, Yellow, Black and White.


True Blue Affinity

Blue is the most popular color in art, and is favored by men and women alike. Here’s another fact: two of the greatest modern artists – Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn also painted with blue, and Richard Diebenkorn loved Matisse’s blue so much that he used the same blue. The color is Ultramarine Blue.


Matisse/Diebenkorn at SFMoMA

In 2017 there was an exhibition titled Matisse/Diebenkorn at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10/23/16-01/29/17). It travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (3/11/17-05/29/17). There’s an exhibition catalog with the same title. The images within the catalog are gorgeous. The image above shows two paintings. The one on the left is by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and titled The Blue Window, 1913, oil on canvas, 51×35 inches (MoMA). The one on the right is by Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922-1993) and titled Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas, 72×72 inches (New Orleans Museum of Art).


How Blue Are You?

I asked my students at the Pelham Art Center (Pelham, NY) to create a collage with painting and papers, and be inspired by the way Matisse and Diebenkorn used the color blue. I showed them images of paintings in the museum catalog. Their collages had too many colors and not enough focus on the one color I wanted: blue, so I asked them to do a second class project and we started with a solid blue painted background. Everyone taped their 14×11 inch Bristol substrate and applied blue acrylic to the entire paper background.  I helped them mix a blue color and they applied the paint with either a palette knife or a sponge roller. As soon as the paint dried, they added found collage papers from magazines or their own stash of papers. See four (4) collage paintings by students in my class Create with Collage below.


Jane Regan, collage

The image above is by Jane. You see the gorgeous blue back ground and the collage on top. Notice the shiny top additions. I think it’s cellphone over pasted papers. The work is 14″x11″ with papers, acrylic, and other media on paper.


Harriet Goldberg, collage

The image above is by Harriet. I flipped the image horizontal. I think it looks good. Notice the background is painted blue and there are a lot of collage papers. The work is 11″x14″ with magazine and painted papers, acrylic on paper.


Anne Haley Enright, collage

The image above is by Anne. She made the painted area smaller than 14″x11″ and square. You can see the blue acrylic in the center of the composition. Anne likes to extend the borders with collage. It’s a spiral design and has a lot of rhythm.


Paulette Coleman, collage

The image above is by Paulette. You can see the entire background is painted blue. She created a narrative collage with text and magazine cutouts with figures. There’s a lot of drama and personal story here.


I hope you enjoyed all the blue. Stay tuned. There will be more blue soon. Your comments are always welcome.


make it good

July 5, 2014


I planned to write about an art project I designed for an adult collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY, working with pasted papers painted in bright, primary colors. Not exactly 4th of July Red White and Blue – but Red,White, Blue and Yellow (and black). I will write about the project in my next post.  The image that inspired the project was a mobile by Alexander Calder. The image below is by Carol (a teaser for the next post).

Carol Frank, collage

Carol Frank, collage

Here are comments Carol wrote: Nancy – I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black vee-shaped pieces that were to be placed in a particular spot on the page. Calder also made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me.  I struggled with the background not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. The body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a blue fringe underneath the head. There are black skinny legs–two are showing. It was a delightful revelation to me. I think I’ll do more with text and image from now on. Thanks Nancy. Carol


Challenge is Always Good


Today I want to share comments by Seth Godin in his blog post titled “Is better possible?” I recently signed up to receive his blog (well written, timely and always brief and to the point). Today’s post is about challenge. Seth Godin says most people are comfortable with saying “no” to the question is better possible? It’s the easiest and safest thing to do – to accept what you’ve been given, and assume you are unchangeable. He says, when you assume that you are unchangeable, you give up responsibility for outcomes. Don’t do it to yourself. Don’t do it to others,


I always say challenge is good for you (and me). Godin says we are afraid of challenges because we fear the possibility of the outcomes. Read what he wrote here.

I design collage art projects that give students a challenge. Last Monday they made amazing multi-layer collages in a 2-hour session. The first layer had to include strips of cut and pasted black and white magazine text in a pleasing design. They had to select the text. I brought a sample collage where the entire background was text that didn’t line up in horizontal rows. The class spent about half the time on the first layer, and organizing magazine text became its own design challenge. The second step was to create an over layer with papers in primary colors cut in unique shapes. I provided the red, yellow, blue and black painted papers and did a quick demo on ways to place shapes over the text. I showed them overlapping shapes, shapes spread out, and shapes clustered together in different arrangements. Collage is always about layers and juxtaposing images (and shapes). The class rose to the challenge and I knew they would. Kids in elementary school can do this project, time permitting. Kids love a challenge and everyone loves primary colors.


Stretch Boundaries


Here’s more from Seth Godin’s post. He concludes with: “We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher. I share his post because when you stretch boundaries, you grow, gain confidence, and you feel good that you took the chance and reached the goal.


What is your goal? Whatever it is, make it creative. Make it good.


Let Me Do It My Way

November 3, 2010

I teach collage to teens and adults. In July I was really worried that my workshop Mo-Jo lost its luster. Some students told me they didn’t understand the class projects; some told me they weren’t happy with their own work. People have different skill levels. I thought everyone was doing great work, but the group dynamic felt flat.

We did a different collage each week inspired by a famous modern artist. What if everyone just wanted to play with paint and papers, make their own collage, and not have to think too hard about any famous artist or his/her styles and media? Was I being too controlling?

Everyone wants choices. That’s the new paradigm.

The image at left is called “Serendipity.” It’s inspired by a print by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985).

Serendipity has movable pieces – I made it that way. The eyes, nose, mouth, hands and hat are not glued down. The face changes as pieces get moved around, and when pieces are turned over, the texture and colors are different on the reverse side. Collage (and serendipity) is all about welcome surprises. You may like the back of the piece better than the front!

An art teacher in my class at the Pelham Art Center (Pelham, NY) loved the Serendipity project. She worked in her own style – and riffed on the sample for the project.

My new mantra: Don’t try and direct people – especially young people.

Young people don’t want to hear you talk. I learned this from pre-teen girls who visited my studio recently.

The visit was organized by the STRIVE program in New Rochelle, NY. The adult leader told me to speak about what it was like to be an artist. I didn’t get too far into my talk. A girl raised her hand, pointed to my printmaking press and asked – Can I make a print? How direct. What a great interruption!

All the girls wanted hands-on, so I got out a Plexiglas® plate and let them brayer layers of purple ink onto the plate. I shared my oil pastels so they could draw multi-colored squiggles and hearts and write their names (backward) on the plate. I set the inked, embellished plate on the press bed, placed a sheet of good paper over the plate, put protective papers on top, then the press blankets, and then each girl took a turn with the star wheel and moved the image through the press (back and forth), and everyone got a mini turn at the star wheel.

I recently led a workshop for young adults at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ. (invited by Rosalind Nzinga Nichol, who teaches the class at the College). The assigned theme was narrative portrait collage. I planned to start with a short talk and then a demonstration. I changed the plan. They already knew what a narrative portrait collage should look like. We started by searching for magazine images.

The collage nearby is remarkable for the way it’s assembled. I observed the student as he looked through countless magazines to find exactly the images he wanted. We all thought it was great.

The image below is titled Girls Just Want To Have Fun. The figure is in multiple pieces and its organization is very sophisticated. Each letter is a magazine cut out, placed perfectly.

I spoke only a little at the workshop, gave quick instructions on how to tear pages out of magazines, and how to cut out images and leave a tiny border. I brought photocopies of hats, stripes and patterns in black and white and colors to share. While they were tearing and cutting up magazines, I walked around and showed samples of narrative portraits and talked about layering background papers and figure images.

I showed everyone how to apply glue up to the edges, and demonstrated how to get papers glued down clean and flat using a wood seam roller and plastic squeegee.

Let Me Do It My Way – again – Let Me Do It My Way

I like the fact that the words “Let Me Do It My Way” can mean two things. That was my intention. It can refer to me directing (it’s my way!). It can also refer to you ignoring my directions and doing it your own way.

I have a lot of information to share about collage. Now I understand I need to accommodate people when they want to push away from my ideas and explore their own ideas.

I wrote this blog for Lesson#2 at Blog Triage, an on-line workshop for artists coordinated by Alyson B. Stanfield and Cynthia Morris.

Lesson #2 was about finding your own “voice.” It asked us to develop a topic  and edit and post a blog that best represented our voice.

I know my voice – I’m conversational. I am in love with words (and images!), and love everything in layers. I actually am a member of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM is based in Albuquerque, NM).

A friend says I should make things simple (simple is better). Another friend says I should say everything in fewer words.

The issue in this blog is the struggle of independence vs. control. That’s why I titled is “Let Me Do It My Way. I believe there should never be a power struggle when it comes to making art.

Did you think this was an engaging topic?

Do you think people prefer (do you prefer) to learn by jumping right in and doing it – or do you think people prefer (do you prefer) direction from a teacher (or another person) who’s planned the project?

This subject is very important to me. It took me a while to figure it out. Now I know that most people prefer to jump right in.

Were you inspired by the workshop student images in this blog? They are similar to those created by adults in my Conjur Woman Portrait Collage workshops (inspired by Romare Bearden, African American, 1911-1988).

Did you check out the link to Jean Dubuffet? He is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His work is known as Arte Brut.

Rosalind Nzinga Nichol, professor at Bloomfield College wrote about the workshop and added a nice compliment in her blog PAPERGIRL. Thank you Rosalind. I love paper too. She is a wonderful artist and teacher.

Thank you for reading this long blog, and for adding your comments below.