Category Archives: collage

Why Do You Take Classes?

In the week since I wrote about the Map Play class I took with Valerie Goodwin, I read two posts about art classes. The first by Jane Davies responds to a student’s comments that she wanted to play and have fun at a workshop and then had a meltdown when she was asked to dig deeper.

From Jane Davies’ blog.

Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.

The second, Chris’ Quilting Universe post, Am I Addicted to Taking Classes?, reviews all the quilt related classes Chris has taken and the work that resulted from them. She has taken a wide variety of classes, ranging from year long master classes to online multi-lessons to one shot workshops.

Do you take classes to learn a process or leave with a product? Do you want to learn to make art like that made by the instructor? Do you want a two hour class at a quilt show or a five day immersive course? Do you want a deep dive into one teacher’s methods or a potpourri of many teachers’ approaches?

A further permutation is in-person versus online classes, and a distinction between live online and prerecorded. An additional nuance with any online class is the amount of interaction possible with the teacher and other students. I have taken classes where I had access to videos with no interaction, to videos with a class blog, and to videos with some sort of proprietary discussion forum. Some classes use Facebook.

These are very different animals, and I believe one’s expectations should reflect the differences. For example, I took a three hour Zoom class on sewing paper collage with David Owen Hastings. I learned a well explained technique that required a minimal amount of supplies. All interactions occurred during the class, with no subsequent followup.

I love using the curved bits from monoprints.

I also took Elizabeth Barton’s year long master class that required a deep commitment to developing designs and executing them each month. While the students could and did comment on each others work, the main focus of the class was improving our designs through Elizabeth’s critiques, which were copious. Each month we developed sketches in response to a theme, chose one to turn into a quilt, and then made the quilt.

“Mean Streets” was made in Elizabeth Barton’s master class

Right now I’m taking a year long set of mixed media classes called Wanderlust. The classes are loosely organized around basic art supplies like gesso, acrylic paint, modeling paste, etc., but each instructor pretty much presents her own thing. (I have yet to see a male instructor.) While I have learned a lot about materials and techniques, I find some of the instruction to be overly focused on “playing and having fun” and what I call greeting card art. To me the missing element is learning to evaluate your work. With so many instructors and students, comments on anyone’s work is pretty much limited to “great,” “nice,” “how sweet,” etc. It’s hit or miss whether the instructor comments on student work.

“An Octopus’ Garden” made for a modeling paste segment of Wanderlust

Such an approach is great if your goal is to play. I have to say I had hoped for less overlap of techniques and more building on previous techniques. Again, that’s probably not doable with so many instructors. I have learned there are as many ways to glue paper as there are teachers.

This week I’ve reflected on all the quilt/art related classes I’ve taken thanks to Jane and Chris, and decided that the ones I benefited most from were process related, with a critique/feedback component. The absolute worst class I ever took was on paper and cloth marbling. All the students shared one container for marbling and we were to take turns. Let’s just say there were some interpersonal issues. I figured the two fat quarters I marbled cost $25 each, and they were ugly. I won’t try to name the best class I ever took as there are too many candidates.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with art classes, both in person and online. Do you have any recommendations for outstanding classes/teachers?

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media, Techniques

From the French Word Coller, “to Glue”

Each year the National Collage Society holds a small format members’ exhibition. Since the the exhibit of eighty-six 4 by 6 inch works was held at Summit ArtSpace in Akron, I made a point of going to it. At first it seemed out of scale to walk into a large room with one horizontal line of very small works on three walls, but you forgot that once you drew closer to the pieces. I was amazed at the detail the artists packed into such small real estate.

While almost all the works merited close examination, here are the ones that really caught my eye.

Sheer Magic by Clare Murray Adams
Rhythm and Tempo by Deborah Eater
That’s Okay, I’ll Wait Here by Terrence Fine
These Winds by Jean Hess
English Breakfast by Rachel Tirosh
Facial Decorations by Joyce Linda Sichel
Postcard From A Road Trip by Dennis Mastrangelo
Pyramid Scheme by Janet Noden
Erosion by Carol A. More
Hey Good Lookin’, What You Got Cookin’? by Maggi Miller

Speaking for myself, it’s much easier to work at small scale with paper than with fabric, unless you’re only fusing. And that’s essentially collage with fabric. Now, that’s a thought – a paper-fabric collage using Mistyfuse. I’m sure many have already tried that, but it’s a new idea to me. I certainly have plenty of paper and fabric scraps to use.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under collage, Exhibits

Playing With A New To Me Supply

I’ve mentioned before that I’m enrolled in a mixed media class called Wanderlust. The idea is to learn to use several mixed media materials that are considered staples. We’ve run through gessos and image transfers. Now we’re doing modeling paste.

While I had seen modeling paste mentioned in more craft oriented mixed media publications, I had ignored it. I didn’t see it being applicable to fabric (in all senses.) Now that I’ve expanded my universe to paper I’m trying it out.

Of course there are several weights of the stuff – light, regular, heavy. No art supply is ever simple. Since the class focuses on art journals we need to use the lighter weight. Otherwise no one could close their journal. All the instructors compare it to cake icing in terms of texture and spreadability. In a nutshell, you spread it on paper with something like a palette knife and then stamp on it or score it with tools. You can also apply it through a stencil. The base color is white, but it can be tinted with about any kind of paint – acrylic, watercolor, gouache, or ink.

Here are my efforts so far.

Watercolor paper, cocktail napkin, tinted modeling paste, cheesecloth, acrylic paint.
Prestretched canvas, modeling paste applied through two stencils, collaged paper, Posca pens, acrylic paint
Gel plate image transfers, acrylic ink, collage papers, modeling paste stamped with foam stamp

I’m working now on tinting the paste, and stamping it with watercolor painted stamps. You get an impressionistic effect. Here’s a trial sample.

Maybe I’ll try it on fabric, though I think a heavier type like canvas would be best. You certainly couldn’t stitch over it as it dries hard, so perhaps it could be a final layer. More discoveries await me.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under collage, mixed media, Techniques

Always Something New To Learn

Sometimes I like a continuing program of classes rather than a one shot deal, and Everything Arts’ Wanderlust lessons in mixed media and art journaling are delivering weekly doses of something new. Since I started exploring mixed media in 2020 I have learned much about paper and fabric collage, monoprinting, and even painting. But I don’t have a broad exposure to all the materials and techniques possible in mixed media.

From the video lessons so far I’ve learned about clear and black gesso (who knew there was more than white?), compressed charcoal pencils, and modeling paste, to name a few materials. As lessons are given by different teachers, most new to me, I am seeing diverse ways to approach the same materials and techniques.

Confession time: I don’t really follow the lessons, but I do try out the materials and techniques. The broad idea of the class is to create your work in an art journal. At the end of the course you have a consolidated arrangement of all you’ve created. I grab whatever’s on hand and work on that. So far I’ve used wallpaper samples, old pre-stretched canvases, children’s board books, and watercolor paper. I do indeed have nice unblemished paper, but somehow I feel constrained to reuse stuff. It must be the result of a childhood of saving the “good” dishes for company.

None of what I’ve made is finished work, but messing around is lots of fun.

Mixed media in a board book. Tried acrylic ink for the first time.
Another board book spread with lots of white gesso. That stuff really covers up whatever is beneath it.
First steps for the above two pieces

More gesso over cardboard, thread, and cloth bits with acrylic paint and stencils. Wallpaper samples hold up well.
Modeling paste applied through stencils, collaged and painted over, done on canvas
Gessoed wallpaper with collage and white pen
Inked in cartoon faces over watercolor (this was a bonus video)

The next lessons will delve more into modeling paste, so who knows what I’ll make. If I don’t like this week’s lesson there always will be a new one next week for the next few months.

I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

More Ironed Collage

Apparently I was overly enthusiastic in coating magazine pages with gloss medium for ironed collages. I had lots of colorful pages left so I created a few more collages, using the technique I mentioned earlier from Gerald Brommer’s book, “Collage Techniques.” This time of year around the winter solstice I need all the brightness I can get.

I combined a fashion photo shoot (I have no idea why only the women’s feet show) with rugs, desert scenes, and bits of ads.
Stamped brown bag and painted scraps joined bits from outdoor clothing ads to form a rocky terrain.
An Armani ad with a quilt by Eleanor McCain, a travel photo, and bits left from other collages.

And I still have a few bits left, though my inspiration will have quite a stretch to make anything coherent from them. I realize some of you may think I’ve already reached incoherence in the above work.

Why make these? I find them helpful exercises in composition as colors and some shapes are predetermined. They also help me learn to step away from the original photo subjects to create a new context. Finally, they scratch my scrap itch, only with paper.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Completed Projects, Techniques

Thankful for Leftovers

Over the years I have received many arts and crafts leftovers – fabric, thread, paper, paint, frames, patterns, books, quilting rulers, etc. This Thanksgiving I’d like to thank the donors, and especially three people who have given me a lot of goodies.

First, Penny has generously shared any collage bounty that’s come her way – papers, wallpaper samples, and less than perfect monoprints she’s made. She’s also given me lots of fabric, plus other crafting supplies. Some of the fabrics can be seen on the fronts and backs of my quilts. I’ve used her castoff monoprints in many collages. The wallpaper samples are great for rubbing textures, backgrounds, and even holiday cards.

Monoprint rejects and torn magazine pages
Cut up monoprints, stitched together
Cut up wallpaper mixed with monoprints and other remnants, sewed onto a wallpaper sample

Then, Felice, a talented embroiderer and quilter, gifted me large scrap bags of felted wool, left over from her many quilts. The scraps have spoiled me for hand stitching. I don’t want to work with anything else. Many of the scraps are in an incomplete project, but I’ve used a few in mixed media pieces. As a bonus, many pieces already had fusing on the back.

A paper/fabric experiment
Organza and felt scraps stitched together with Sulky water soluble stabilizer

Finally, all my glittery fabric desires have been fulfilled by Jasen, the costume designer at Weathervane Playhouse, where I volunteer. Occasionally he’ll save leftover hand dyed fabric for me as well. In return, I’ve made him art quilts that used his fabrics.

“Nebula” used many scraps from “The Little Mermaid” costumes
“Disco Woks” is made almost totally of costume shop scraps.

Many others have shared their bits and bobs with me through give away tables at quilters’ meetings, online giveaways, or “here, would you like to have this?” casual conversations. I have been inspired by and used much of the bounty, and have in turn shared stuff that I know I won’t use. Still, my fabric/textile closet is full, and then there’s the chest of drawers that’s also full of fabric.

My thanks to all of you.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Commentary

Really Cheap Art Journals

A quick browse of Etsy for art journals will reveal a dizzying choice of journals that range in price from $15 to $150 plus. Some are so gorgeous that I would be afraid to even write my name in them for fear of sullying their loveliness.

For those of you who have yet to encounter the art journal, here’s a quick rundown. They are a way to express yourself visually in a blank book with no rules and no judgment. Some art journaling proponents claim that doing it will help you realize you’ve always been an artist. Whatever. Many descriptions of the process begin with the all important physical journal. It can be bought or hand made. There are many blogs and websites that will tell you how to make one and give you ideas for content.

Obviously the type of paper in one’s art journal depends on the medium you want to use. I decided to use collage simply because I have lots of papers thanks to all the less than stellar monoprints I’ve made and the papers I used to clean my brayer. My journal of choice? Used children’s board books.

I got the idea from Drew Steinbrecher who often features collaged board books on his Instagram feed.

One of Drew Steinbrecher’s Instagram pages.

I thought it was a great idea and scoured my local library’s book sale for such books. I bought six for a quarter each, and am now sorry I didn’t buy more. Some of my purchases looked brand new.

Yesterday my friend Penny and I began our collaged board books. Supplies were simple – board books, papers, matte medium, brushes, and some kind of nonstick paper to keep the finished pages apart. The process was simple, too. Design a layout and glue the pieces down. No prep needed. In an hour and a half I managed to create three full page spreads.

I’ll trim the edges once the book is full and everything is dry. That might take a while as the heavy board can absorb a lot of moisture.

Earlier in the week I dry collaged two more pieces made with papers coated with gloss gel medium. You can see the sheen from the medium in the first one.

I have no idea why the women are completely covered. It’s from a fashion magazine.
I even put a bit of text in this one.

I’ve have fun playing with glue and paper, but my excuse for not working on the quilt now on my design wall is gone. I just got the fabric I ordered for it. It even came early, drat it.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, In Process, Techniques

A Different Way To Collage

Almost all paper collage techniques involve glue – gel medium, glue stick, Sobo, wheat paste, rice paste, etc. Because my fine motor skills are subpar I usually end up with glue, and sometimes bits of paper, all over my fingers. So I was intrigued to read about another way to collage, thanks to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. She hosts an online monthly art book club, and one of her picks was Gerald Brommer’s “Collage Techniques.” Her review highlighted a different kind of adhering process Brommer describes.

The secret to the process is gloss acrylic medium. You coat both sides of your papers with the medium, allow them to dry, arrange them to your satisfaction, and then iron them down using release paper between the iron and paper. The iron melts the medium. The joy is once you’re happy with your composition you don’t have to take it apart to glue it down.

Yes, it has to be gloss medium because it gives paper a sticky surface, and you’d better use release paper if you value your iron.

I coated many magazine pages with medium (it dries fast) and made several compositions on watercolor paper and bristol board. The base also needs to have a gloss medium coat. The finished product has a glossy finish and is best stored covered with a nonstick sheet like wax paper.

I have several coated pages left for still more compositions. Goody, yet another form of scraps.

I can recommend Brommer’s book for serious explorations of collage. It is old, published in 1994, and the author is no longer with us; but it brims with wonderful examples of all kinds of art collages. It covers design, approaches, and specific techniques. I consider it well worth the $12 I spent for a used copy.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Books, collage, Techniques

In The Ruins

Infrastructure has been in the news lately, with the ongoing federal efforts to fund overdue repairs. I certainly want safe roads, dams, bridges, etc., but I confess to a tendency toward ruin porn. I find a strange beauty in dilapidated, rusted structures. I even enjoy an Instagram account that features photos of peeling, beaten up, scrawled over walls (@revenantreclaimer.)

This attraction is manifest in several of my works, including “Urban Decay.” I wrote about the piece earlier, but I’ve now finished it. Because the matte medium I used further stiffens the already painted fabric, I didn’t use batting but sewed the pieces directly onto the fabric backing. I also added tangles of thread ends and ribbon.

“Urban Decay” after stitching
“Urban Decay” detail of thread tangle
“Urban Decay” detail of ribbon and stitching

The fabric layers give additional texture, not unlike the buildup of paint layers on a wall. The different thicknesses of the fabrics I used (denim, damask, cotton, netting, hopsacking, interfacing) also contribute to the bumpy look. The edges are finished with yarn, and the back is covered with black felt.

Here are a few other works in my ruin porn series.

“Mean Streets”
“Rust Never Sleeps”
“Beneath The Overpass”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, collage

Now I Have Paper Scraps

I hadn’t realized I was creating another bottomless source of scraps when I started making collages. The courses I took had us make collage papers from monoprints and paintings, and I already had a stash of magazine pages thanks to the Sunday New York Times. Pretty soon I had overflowing, unorganized piles of all sorts of papers from cut out photos, to failed monoprints and paintings, specialty papers, and postcards. And then I decided to collect text as well.

The good news was I didn’t have to iron them and these scraps took up less space than fabric, but I knew I had to bring some sort of order to my mess. Plastic pocket dividers and recycled envelopes have helped, as well as a larger plastic box for all my tissue paper. While my fabric scraps are sorted by color (mostly) I grouped my paper by photos, solid colors, cut up bits of failed collages and paintings, and text. Of course there’s still a pile of miscellaneous, but it’s much smaller now.

Lately I’ve been using my starter pieces to make collages as it’s great to have some of the work already done. My most recent collages are sewn to wallpaper samples and old sketchbook pages.

“Blue Leaves” combines a monoprint, paint mixing samples, and painted interfacing. I added some marker work after I sewed it together.

While “Blue Leaves” came together quickly, “Roundabout” took a more circuitous route. The photos are in order from first draft to finished work.

I still find myself in a quilting mindset as I seem to have a horror of any background left showing. My next collage challenge will be to leave lots of white space.

On a totally unrelated note, I came across this quote by Pablo Picasso while I was watching “Great Art Explained” about Guernica:

We are know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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