Making it Mine

When I take a class, I follow the same rule that Cooking Man does when he experiments with a new recipe. First, do it exactly the way the recipe says to do it, even if  you have a better idea. Once you have tasted it, you can make changes that make sense to you. But unless you follow instructions first, you will not be sure of what went wrong. Or right.

In the collage class I took, we received clear, explicit directions. I followed them as I heard them. Then, when the class was over, I went into the studio and made the information mine and made collages using the information, but making it with my esthetic.

Here are three collages I made in class:

collagetoomuchWe were told to cut five figures. I interpreted this as figurative, although they were supposed to be random. After we pasted them down, an additional step was to add five more, using different colors. Because I had made a figurative piece, the result was quite busy.

collagetreeThis was the homework piece. We were to create a collage titled “tree” using only items found in our kitchens. This posed an interesting problem, as I was staying in a hotel. I used a paper grocery bag, a coffee filter (using the pleated seam) and a Lipton tea bag to create the leaves.  I cut the bag to size and had a large seam right through the middle. That didn’t work for me visually, so I cut two more pieces (OK, tore them with a straight edge) and placed one over the seam and another near the bottom to create balance.

collagerobertUsing the works of Robert Motherwell, we were to take the idea of the piece and create our own faux-Motherwell. I wanted to use a limited palate, and fretted a lot about the lines (and my old nemesis, the straight line). If the first piece was too busy, this one was a bit spare, but I can live with spare.

Once I got home, I wanted to explore the idea of the bird in the first image, rather than the whole, busy composition.

collage2Using a photograph of bird feathers from art quilter and book contributor Diane Becka, and a piece of Monsoon Paper, I created a different kind of collage.

collage1The original figure in the busy collage intrigued me. I wanted to explore it some more. So I created a collage using both the figure and the piece I cut out of the figure, leaving the meaning to be interpreted by the viewer.

collageshadowI can see this idea developing into a series, so I did another, also on Monsoon Paper. This is called “Shadow.” I’m liking this enough to create a serious series of figures under the Moon and Sun.

-Quinn McDonald is exploring Monsoon Papers and collage. She’s a writer, but these have, as yet, no words to go with them. Visual literacy is its own kind of vocabulary.

Taking a Collage Class from David Addix

Every artist should take art classes; every teacher should take classes, too. I did both this week by taking David Adix’s fun and interesting collage class in Tucson.

Adix shows a basket made of found pieces of wire and metal.

Adix shows a basket made of found pieces of wire and metal.

David is a collage and assemblage artist, and he brought a lot of his work for us to see. I was absolutely taken by his assemblage “Chancel,” and his sculpture of a human figure made of telephone wire. (Take a peek at his website and the process video to see more of his work.)

He started class by leading us through seven warm-up exercises, each one exploring an aspect of collage:  positive and negative space, torn and cut paper, color, and composition. I found myself wanting to follow directions more than do something that was pleasing to my aesthetic. That was a surprise. I also followed directions too strictly–David said move out of your color comfort zone and I moved so far I had no idea what to do with the colors I chose. Lesson learned: it’s fine to explore beyond your comfort zone, but if you move into a zip code with colors you loathe, you won’t make art, you’ll feel you visited cruel and unusual punishment on yourself.

Adix2A fun exercise was to create our own table name tags using only torn letters. The two “Ns” at the end of my name always leads to scrutiny when I do table tents, so I used an upper case and lower case. Doing anything with people’s names is a smart idea–people have given a lot of thought to their names and are familiar with them. Great place to start.

AdixconfettiIn this exercise, we studied deliberate and random elements. Cutting up the colored strips and letting them fall created an eye-pleasing result.

After a lot of interesting challenges and some deep work, we spent most of the second day doing design work. My favorite segment was creating a spatial design out of our initials–we could rotate them, make them upper- or lower-case, and any size relationship. The only rules were cutting them out of black paper and arranging them on an envelope we had previously glued down. We then added a color to one of the negative spaces.

From left to right, the letters are LKP, PKM, and QCM.

From left to right, the letters are LKP, PKM, and QCM.

The variety of the results was wonderful and inventive.

Adixletters2The work, lined up against a wall, looked ready for an exhibition.

This class was not only time well spent, it was challenging, interesting and a perfect break in a hectic schedule. Thanks, David!

-Quinn McDonald is returning to collage as her art medium. And she’s doing it with more information and learning.