Posts Tagged ‘collage


The Altoids Project: MADFEST 2015


The 2015 West Virginia MAD (Media Arts and Design) Festival took place on the Campus of West Liberty University on Friday, April 10. MADFEST 2015 was a day filled with 28 workshop sessions, professional presentations, and a student media arts awards competition and ceremony. Each year, Prof. James Haizlett asks art faculty members to present a 50 minute workshop (or two) for the visiting high school students.

I change my workshop presentation each year just in case a student might be attending for a second year. I was having difficulty coming up with a new workshop idea when I remembered I had several boxes of Altoids containers stored away. About fifty of the tins came from an employee where my wife works, and several hundred more were sent to me by gentleman in Maryland after he had visited my studio. I felt these containers could prove to be perfect supports upon which the visiting students could create collage or small assemblage works.

I began preparing the cans a few days before my two workshops. Using mat board samples that were headed to the dumpster (Thanks Amanda!), I cut pieces to fit the inside and outside each Altoids can. Other cans I primed and painted flat white. Since we only had 50 minutes for each workshop, I wanted the cans ready to accept most of the materials that we had available. I also punched two 1/8″ holes in the top of each tin in order to insert a cord for wearing the finished work.

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In addition to the Altoids tins, each table had craft knives, glue, assorted Sharpies, and scissors. On a nearby counter was colored papers, wallpaper books, color mat board samples, wood shapes, glass beads, etc. Another table served as a hot glue station with several hot glue guns at the ready.

The night before the workshops, I created seven examples to show the students. My hope that these might jump start their creative juices. I photographed each example and presented a brief Keynote presentation at the beginning of the workshop. Here are my examples, front and inside:

I feel that the workshop was successful for the most part. Should I try something similar in the future, I will plan to have more small found objects on the materials table (most of our materials were 2D). Here is a slide show of the students working and some of them showing their work:

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6 X 6 X 6

P1020487 - Version 2    Last week was the opening of the Art Faculty Exhibition at West Liberty University’s Nutting Gallery. This annual event, which  takes place every January, has a different theme each year. For example, last year was The Dog Show, and in 2013 it was The Meat Show. This year the exhibition was titled “6 X 6 X 6”. Work entered in the show could be any subject or media, but each piece could be no larger than six inches in any direction.

Members of the art faculty vote on the next exhibition theme about eight months in advance, so we have plenty of time to consider the theme and build a new body of work. Last September I began thinking about how I might address the theme, but I did not actually begin work until our winter break in mid-December. Since size (limit of six inches in any direction) was our only controlling factor, I felt this was a time I could playful and and just have fun with it.

I purchased a sheet of 4’x8′ finished 3/4″ plywood that was primed on one side. From this sheet I cut forty 6″x6’squares. A few days into this project I increased the number of wood squares to sixty. As I began covering the wood squares with metal, paper, paint, and other media, the process reminded me of the pages of a sketchbook

A sketchbook is a book or pad with blank pages for sketching, and is frequently used by artists for drawing or painting as a part of their creative process. The content of sketchbooks usually falls within two broad categories: Observation and Invention. Observation focuses on documentation of the external world of the artist, while invention follows the artists’ internal journeys as they develop compositional ideas.

The sketchbook I created is made up of sixty wood “pages”. Each 6”x 6” page contains images in a variety of media. Like a traditional sketchbook, many of these pages are a documentation of the world as I see it or have lived it. These pages include such things as my childhood heroes, or various stories from my life. Other pages explore the creative process, and are nothing more than rough sketches of an idea that may be developed into a larger, more refined work down the road. Here, as in any sketchbook, they all mingle into one big visual salad.


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I could have had a B-8

Chris and I have been exhibiting at the Central PA Festival of the Arts since 1996, and each year our booth number has been B-8. Well, there was a year where we forced to move to Pollock Street due to construction on Burrowes, and the following year we were back at B-8. For several years now, Chris and I have given away a little momento to visitors of B-8. This year we gave an individual, portable air conditioning device, also known as a fan. Here are a few photos of B-8 along with some of our “fans”.

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Altered Photo Workshop at MAD Festival

The 2012 West Virginia MAD (Media Arts and Design) Festival was held at West Liberty University on Friday April 27, 2012. As part of this annual, full day celebration of media arts, I taught three 0ne-hour mixed media workshops based on altered photographs. My inspiration for this workshop is the work of artist Alex Gross. I recently had saw the exhibition, Product Placement, at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea. As part of that exhibition, Gross included a series of altered cabinet photos, which were most excellent! Once workshop participants got into their work (play?), I was able to participate as well.

 Here is a slide show of the workshop in progress, and some of the resutlts.

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Tunnel Books

In 2010 I visited the  exhibition Slash: Paper Under the Knife, at the Museum of Art & Design in NYC. The exhibition was wonderful and all the work was…. well, mind blowing! However, it was the work of Romanian artist Andrea Dezsö that really struck a cord with me. Her work contained thirty multi-layered painted and illuminated paper theaters, and she referred to these as “tunnel books”. Ms. Dezsö stated, “cut-paper scenes are arranged in expandable layers, creating a miniature theatre stage for presenting the narratives inside. My tunnel books reveal imagined worlds; scenarios arising from the subconscious, based on my personal experience—physical, psychological, spiritual, and the strange in-betweens; living in my body, in my mind, dreams, memories, and anxieties, hopes, obsessions.” You can see some examples of Ms. Dezsö’s work at at her website!

When I returned home to West Virginia, I thought about introducing these theater-like artworks into one of my future classes at West Liberty University. Tunnel books are made up of  a series of paper or cardboard sheets which stand parallel to one another and are viewed from one end. This “tunnel” or “peephole” book with a set of pages bound with accordions on two sides and viewed through a central opening. Openings are cut in all but the last sheet so that the viewer looks through the layers while seeing parts of each of them.

This past weekend I finally got around to creating my first two tunnel books. Book A is done in acrylics on Strathmore bristol; book B is collage on Strathmore bristol. (I plan to try 140# watercolor paper with my next tunnel book.) The photos that follow are not a step-by-step documentation of my procedure, but I did photograph a few of my steps, as well as my final results.

Drawing and cutting.

I began by cutting bristol board into eight 10″x 11″ sheets, four for each book. I believe Ms. Dezsö’s tunnel books were approximately 8″x 8″. I sketched my design on each sheet, and then cut out the negative space of each of the designs (but not the last page, which remains uncut).

This is page #1 of book A, cut and painted using acrylics.

Page #2 of book A, cut out but painting is unfinished.

Page #3 of book A, cut and painted.

Page #4 of book A, painted. Notice that the last page remains uncut. I eventually added a water tower to this scene.

Once my four pages were completed, I began to create the accordion connectors that would go in between each page.

I attached two accordion pieces to each page of the tunnel book. I made these by cutting 4″x 10″ sheets, folding it, and attaching the 1/2″ folded ends to each page. I used hot glue as a way to save time (I wanted to get these examples done in time for a Monday class), but Elmer’s white glue or an acrylic gel medium would work well.

Starting with the last page, I began attaching the accordion pieces to the left and right edges of the page.

Here is a closer look of one of the accordion connectors.

Here I am adding page #3 to page #4.

Here is the nearly complete tunnel book.

Book A complete!

I decided to make my second tunnel book using a collage approach. I began book B by cutting out a diver from an old swimming suit magazine ad.

Swimmer cut from vintage magazine.

Here is page #2 of book B, pre-cut, edges painted, and awaiting the attachment of the swimmer.

Book B, almost complete.

Book B, collage on bristol board.

I had to experiment with the accordion sections that go between each page. My first accordions were cut from paper that was too light, and unable to keep my book open. I used chip board the second time, but that proved to be too thick and heavy. For my third try, I cut up some old paintings done on 140# watercolor paper, and these seemed to work.

(WLU Crafts class students: these are the tunnel books I presented for discussion this past Monday. I hope to post YOUR results in the next couple weeks.)


Back in the Classroom

DSC07911    It had only been a week since spring classes wrapped up at West Liberty University, and yet I found myself right back in the classroom. Recently I was invited by Mary McCardell at the Wells Academy to talk about my art and do a project with the fifth grade. Wells Academy, located in Stuebenville, Ohio, facilitates learning for grades Pre-K through 5. Selection of new students is done by a lottery drawing held each year in May. Wells Academy offers a full range of regular, gifted, and special education classes. The school offers varied learning opportunities including extra-curricular and cross-curricular activities such as advanced reading programs, the arts, athletics, Destination Imagination, and music.  

     I spent about 20 minutes discussing several of my “tin can works” that I had brought along. There were some great questions from the students, some referring to how did I make the cans flat and how did I cut them. This made me realize I should have brought along some tools and a few cans for a short demo. After talking about assemblage and collage, the students began creating collage self-portraits. These photos will show you some of the students working and a few pieces of finished work. It was an energy-filled, creative afternoon, and the students seemed to enjoy the activity.









Abraham Lincoln

   On one of my flea market expeditions I found a metal tray with an image of Abraham Lincoln. The tray has been sitting in the studio for about two years, just waiting to be used. Abe’s time came this week. The tray was the seed that this whole piece is growing from. As I played with my tin snips, I decided I wanted Abe to have a bit of a relaxed look, and perhaps be just a bit more hip. I am creating a basic black meets American outfit for him, along with a t-shirt. This photo shows the piece at about one third completion. I am getting excited at this point! I am anxious to see it near completion.

    Although the Lincoln piece is all cut metal on a panel, I had considered creating a collage plus paint background for a day or two. I let that idea go. With each of the cut metal pieces I do lately, I think about combining paint. I always back off. Maybe the next piece I’ll go for it. I just have this fear (Ha!) that it won’t work for me. We’ll see.