I use liquitex gloss medium for my glue, but elmers or mod podge or other things work too. I varnish when all done with a golden UV gloss varnish.
When I teach this, I have one rule – you can’t use pictures of the actual object when making that object – so for example, no hair to make hair. no eyes to make eyes, etc. Makes you think of other more wild solutions. You have to see beyond the actual literal texture, or words, on the magazine page to see them as tones. Don’t just let the students look for the flat value… have them squint and look from far away.
Here’s my biggest secret: looking for pieces of paper that can do 2 things at once… maybe a piece with a dark area and a light can create 2 parts of the picture. When you do this, it starts to create an ambiguity, a double reading of the space in the picture… that I think is what people enjoy most in mine.
I mostly rip, not much cutting. I like the ripping because it is faster and it keeps me from being too precise. Plus the images in the pieces have enough clean edges that I prefer the ripped edges to add something else to the result. I use magazines, maps, schematics, cd jackets, handwritten notes and digital textures.
I try to make all the ‘edges’ in the piece out of a line or transition within the piece of paper I find, rather than by putting two pieces of paper edge to edge. This is what creates the spatial ambiguity that is fun to look at. I squint a lot.
My favorite size is 48″ x 48″. I do love squares. I’ve done lots at 24″ x 24″, and the shoes and drinks series I do at 12″ x 12″ usually.
I start with a photoshoot which is essential to getting in touch with the subject, the actual physical space and mood… I do play with photoshop to try out color directions and moods etc. I can also use photoshop or illustrator to create digital textures in a particular color. Song lyrics for example I use alot and can make them any color or shape I wish and then print on photo paper. You bet I use technology.
Regarding the Wrinkles
On Mixed Media
For the mixed media pieces, the tools I use most of all are charcoal and water. I pour a bunch of water on my paper, or canvas, and additionally play with dipping the charcoal into a cup of water before drawing with it. This makes for a barely-controlled drawing tool, and that is the point. I was very tight as a younger artist, and learned that by making the process faster and larger than I could control, I would let go of that worry. Interestingly, after a while the mind speeds up and you do gain a heightened sense of control of the picture. I also usually draw with both hands at the same time, for the same reasons.
For some reason, I haven’t really every kept track of how different papers react, so I recommend trying all kinds. Some will fall apart, some won’t. Some will repel, some will absorb. But all that can be useful. Some of the pieces you see on my website are actually several layers of tattered newsprint. The art only exists in the photo… the paper was too tattered to last. Ah but the fun…
When drawing with the charcoal, I work flat some of the time, or vertically some times. I let drips be part of it. You can also play with drawing more dry, and then using a spray bottle to wet parts of the drawing and then dragging into it with your wet fingers. (the sense of touch is a huge part of the appeal to me.)
The charcoal leaves your hands dirty for a few days, but … worth it I think.
Later, add color to your exercises by using soft pastels. But I highly recommend getting the most out of simple black charcoal for quite a while first.
I use my fingers, some brushes, scraps of rag and cardboard, the back end of paint tubes, – whatever it takes to get an interesting array of marks to help me explore the picture. It can be useful to play abstractly, as well as in pursuit of a real image from life.
I like telling students: We can all agree that it takes a verbal vocabulary of maybe 15,000 words to hold a good conversation or tell a compelling story. Well, it takes just as many ways of touching the canvas, making a mark… your visual vocabulary… to make a compelling painting or drawing.
Some General Recommendations
I started with lots of drawing, including from real life and things made up from my head. I explored painting (both realism and then abstraction which really made a difference), sculpture, studied a little architecture, followed my interests in nature, being outside, a bit of history, cultures, lots of listening to the inspirations behind a wide range of music… all that stuff added up to my knowledge. Sure it takes lots of time and study, trying hard things, and trying fast things. I was a very tight artist when younger, and learned to loosen up while studying abstraction and more raw figurative art. Those things are very useful when I want to make a tighter image too. They help me give the art real form and presence, in a way that I could not have achieved before.
Remember there are infinite art styles out there. Many young people want their art to look like photographs. I say, the world already has photographers, and while there is lots of worthwhile stuff to learn in mastering the touch and control necessary to render a picture like a photograph, not all hands or interests lean that way. Encourage your students to find their own visual language, to explore the marks their hands naturally make and to create things the world has never seen.
As for ‘Marketing’
Inspiration & More
I do like lots of subjects, but most compelling to me is the human being… to try and honor or capture that essence of being alive… to see thought and memory in the eyes of the subject. I try to make art of what is mysterious to me, as a way of exploring. Since I am a man, I know some about being a man. Women however, I know less about and so there is much to study. Also, I am particularly interested in a strong woman. Not one who requires a man, or waits around to be rescued. This is a subject I follow in society and in other art forms. And some of it is purely aesthetic- contrasting a feminine curve with linear elements of machined design as found in my magazine scraps.
As for the shoes… I enjoy fashion and style and design– the manners in which a person can frame themselves and enjoy projecting personality to the world. The shoe collages began as a way for me to make smaller pieces of art (usually 12″ x 12″) that belong in the same story, or art show, as my fashiony/figure pieces.
1) most important is to relax and let your collage be its own thing. I’ve found that usually when people are least satisfied with their collage, it is usually when it is trying to hard to be tight and exactly like their reference photo. I like to say that the world already has photographers, and for us not to worry if the collage strays from your photo reference. In the end, it has to live on its own. I am most satisfied when they become almost abstract… and our eyes (and the viewers’) have to work to put the image back together in the brain.
2) try more variety of textures. I almost never use just flat areas of color. Try wild textures, text, images, etc. I usually have one rule: don’t use pictures of the object to make the object. For ex., no hair to make hair, etc. If you go with that, it gets more loose and exciting.