Title: New York Then and Now; Size: 4″ x 6″; Book and magazine cuttings
Source material for collage is abundant in both digital and analog format. I work exclusively with old fashioned paper, scissors and glue because I enjoy the tactile qualities of everything about paper-folding, cutting, glueing. Most of my images in the past were culled from old books and I have the blessing and the curse of living near The Strand bookstore in NYC which has been around for many years and sells both new and used and rare volumes. Of course I gravitate to their outside racks of one, two, and five dollar books. They are in absolutely no order and that makes the hunt more exciting.
Lately, however, I have been also using some magazine images since there are current images regarding issues of the day such as climate change, immigration, etc. This past year has made me venture into some political commentary with my work which I had not previously done.
But I digress. Inexpensive books not only provide images but will sometimes ignite a spark of inspiration for a single work or even an entire series. For example, I found a Dover copyright free publication with images of the facades of cast iron buildings of old New York. By tearing, cutting and coloring the images I have been able to make many collages both on paper and on canvas. Currently I am cutting out the windows to allow other collage elements to show through. This simple idea gave way to a whole new set of collages.
Most of the windows, pillars and old New York street scene in this small collage were taken from this Dover publication. Mixed with a few contemporary magazine pieces for interest and a focal point of a face makes it a resolved piece of work. Notice also how depth perception is manipulated by the small scale buildings, people and carriages in the center. Anything is possible with collage.
Although Banksy was unaware of his participation, he and I collaborated on this college. The rat image was unearthed from some papers I brought back from the UK and my contribution was the rubbing on the right hand side which was from a metal plate in the sidewalk in front of our flat. The street art materials just worked together.
Rubbings, or frottage in artspeak, are an excellent way to record plaques, manhole covers, gates, doorknobs and assorted metal street features wherever you happen to be. Materials are simple and inexpensive: crayons unwrapped and sturdy paper and a roll of tape. If you want professional materials purchase rubbing discs from art supply stores that sell them for grave rubbings. Most papers will work but some will tear here and there. Avoid this issue by buying mulberry or rice papers that are thin but very durable. Simply tape the paper to the object and run the crayon or disc over the image. Brings back the kindergarten days of making rubbings of coins.
Use the papers for backgrounds for paintings or use them in collage. The Asian papers glue down easily with minimal wrinkling.
Make yourself a small travel kit when you go on holiday and you will be able to return with unique souvenirs as well as art materials.
Title: Snake Charmer
Size:11’ x 7’
Collage with book cuttings
Exquisite corpse constructions allow hybrid, unbelievable creatures a chance to come to life. Parts can be harvested from used books and magazines and the hunt for these is almost as enjoyable as making the work. Almost any title can yield useable images and some save you the agonizing decision of what to cut out when images are on the front as well as the back of the page, by printing the image on one side. Of course you can photocopy images so you don’t lose them, but the colors are usually slightly off. Scanning will give truer colors.
Favorite books to use are nature books of all kinds, anatomy, costume, machinery, tools, architecture and prehistoric writing and art form. I used a yellowed paperback of mazes very effectively in many works. If is is cheap enough buy anything that catches your eye the might haves potential .
I tend to have cutting marathons scissoring up an entire book so when I want to work the images are ready to be assembled. Other collagists will page through a book or magazine and cut out images that strike them or will have a predetermined idea of what they are looking for;perhaps a set of crossed legs or an odd object to use as a hat. They will compose as they flip through magazines or books with maybe little idea of the finished product. In this way you can surprise yourself as well as the viewer.
Try both systems and see how you like to work and how you are the most productive.
Dunces of Disparity; 11″ x 8′; Collage.
Magnetic Disturbance; 12″ x 9″; Collage.
The Conversation, 12″ x 9″, Collage.
Again, Lucky Strikes; 7 ” x 11″; Collage.
Exquisite Corpse: Spontaneous Combustion, 11″ x 7″; Collage.
Celestial Cosmologist; 11″ x 7″; Collage.