Monday, May 27, 2019

Michel Keck Collage Dogs

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Michel Keck
This was our big FINALE project of the 'Art Room' year. It incorporated so much of the learning and techniques we had explored over this last year, with a particularly strong focus on value, texture, contrast, balance, form and variety. Our final results are absolutely stunning, especially considering these kids are between 9 and 14 years, with most being on the younger end, between 9 and 11.
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Michel Keck
A few approaches will help students experience success, and will lead to artwork that is rich, layered, exciting and interesting.

Kids aged 9-11
Kids aged 9-14

Day 1 Objectives
DAY 1 and DAY 2

We looked at the work of Michel Keck, and noted her use of collage paper to reproduce the different values (lights and darks) in her dogs. To make her dogs look realistic, despite being made in collage, she often paints the eyes and nose. She also often adds a bold, whimsy contour around the edge of the dog, for contrast and emphasis.

Dog Trace and Transfer:
Students each chose a photo of a dog. I had printed many options for them, where the contrast of light to dark was strong. All white dogs, all black dogs, or yellow labs may not be the best option since this project, since it is about mapping out values. Dog photos were found on the internet and printed as large as possible on regular printer size paper. This will be the size students will collage on.
Googling 'Dog Portrait Photography' will give you some great photo options. 

Using transfer paper, student transferred their dog onto their 20x30cm watercolor paper by tracing all the contour lines, eyes, nose, and the larger value 'shapes'.

Collaged background in neutral papers

Students pasted neutral tones of collage papers all around the the space around their dog.  For VARIETY, students must use different types of papers for this step. 
At their disposal were: book papers in various fonts and stages of yellowing, newspaper, lined paper, grid paper, butcher paper, sheet music, dictionary paper, recycled paper with hand written notes, etc. Important is that the papers are all neutral tones. Papers were torn or cut in larger pieces, to quickly and spontaneously fill up the paper. The background will be painted over later, so this stage shouldn't require too much thought or time. Its purpose is to create texture and interest in our background.
* We used acrylic gel medium to paste, but mod podge would work too. The rule to gluing with gel medium is: 'glue under and glue over', much like you would with decoupage.
Beginning Collage:
Student chose maximum 10 types of paper which roughly represent a value of 1-10, or lightest to darkest. Limiting their papers will result is a more BALANCED and HARMONIOUS end result. Student must repeat the use of each paper for this same reason. For VARIETY and interest, students were encouraged to use a range of papers, including patterned, plain, painted, map, cools and warms, and neutrals.
Tearing or cutting their papers, students begin pasting their collage papers on their dog, looking for good value matches. For example, perhaps a darker area under the chin and in the ears will be represented by a darker blue painted paper, while a lighter area in the chest and forehead will be represent by a lighter, patterned paper. A middle value might be represented by a plain pink color, etc. Important is that the value relations are roughly correct.

*Tip: It's easiest to collage larger value areas first, then address the smaller value areas by layering these over top the larger areas. 

*Tip: Avoid straight paper edges or corners as this looks unnatural and inorganic. Tear these away.

*Eyes and nose are avoided (to be painted later), but carefully collaged around.

*Painted paper made the biggest different for this project. I paint my own papers, with leftover paint from our palettes after class. I paint papers in color families, or analogous schemes, to keep the colors in harmony. This way, my students can always reach for papers in the color family they need (reds, blues, greens, etc). We found that our painted paper really looked like fur, because of the brush strokes and because of the random streaks of color. It gave our dogs lots of dimension and interest.

This is what our dogs looked like at the end of Day 1 and Day 2.

Day 3 Objectives

Final Dog Touches:
On our third day we painted the eyes and nose. We attempted to paint these as realistically as we could, looking closely at Michel's Keck's dogs for inspiration. I encouraged the students to be inspired by the painted eyes in Keck's wok, rather than trying to paint from our photograph, because Keck's painting style is somewhat reduced, yet still realistic, and easy for the kids to recreate. Noses were painted with attention to light and shadow, and all the values in-between.
Students could add a few minor black lines around the mouth area for emphasis.
Using a black posca pen (in thick and in thin line), students emphasized the contours of their dogs, with some whimsy squiggles and peaks to indicate fur, just like Keck does.

Students painted their background in layers of paint and stamps. They could either stick with a neutral palette, using white, grey, ochre, etc., or a color palette. Our goal was to still allow hints of our collage paper to peek through here and there, and to create lots of interest and texture. Our collage papers were painted over with a thinned color. We 'lifted' paint up by scrubbing or rubbing it up with rubbing alcohol (this reveals bits of our collage papers). We created subtle texture by stamping and printing using various stamping materials (bubble wrap, wine corks, corrugated cardboard...). **Important in this step is that a similar color is used, so the texture is subtle. For example, on a red background we might stamp with an orange-red color; on a gray background we might stamp with a lighter gray. We then add more paint in sheer coats, or dabbed some more color here and there, until we get a cloudy, soft, textured, rich look. Scrumbling or stippling the paint with our brush, or smearing paint around with our fingers, works here. As long as the end result is soft and does not overwhelm the dog (our main focus), it's all good. Once we found a good balance of texture, interest and color, we stopped and were done!

These results just floored me! The kids worked hard on these, but spreading the steps out over three 90 minute classes gave them plenty of time to bring it all together. I think they all loved the mixed-media and very tactile nature of this project.

I special shout out to my oldest student, Marko, 14, who asked if he could do a tiger. And what a great job he did!!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Gabriele Muenter Expressionist Flower Bouquet

Image result for gabriele munter flowers
Gabriele Muenter Flower Bouquet
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Gabriele Muenter 'Clematis' 1947
Gabriele Muenter (Germany 1877-1963) was a versatile artist who bridged many styles. She belonged to the German Expressionist movement, the Blaue Reiter group, and the Art Nouveau movement. She was influenced by Fauvism, Van Gogh and Matisse, and belonged to a group of artist who worked to transform late Impressionism, New-Impressionism and Art Nouveau into the more radical, intuitive, non-representational and more abstracted painting style of the Expressionists.
Muenter painted countless landscapes, which my adults explored in an earlier project. We had such fun with her use of color, her intuitive painting style, and her reduced forms, that we decided to further explore her work by looking at another favorite theme of hers - flower bouquets.

My students interpreted Muenter's bouquets, utilizing her style of painting:

An ocher color underpainting 
Quick, intuitive brushstrokes
A layered and textured background created by stippling layers of color 
Strong light and shadow and each element. This can be done by beginning dark, and building up lighter values.
A black or blue contour on all elements

1. We drew out our composition in pencil.
2. Like Muenter, we created an underpainting in an ochre color. This gives our work a richness, depth and a subtle warmth.
3. With a small brush, we traced over our pencil lines in a dark color (black or blue). These contour lines will be kept intact during the painting process.
4. We began painting the flower bouquet first, then the background.
5. Contour lines were reemphasized, if desired, by painting over them with a small brush and a black or dark blue.

I love these. They are truly expressive and intuitive!

Shelli Walters Oregon Landscape Collage

My adults really enjoyed the Shelli Walters Mixed-Media Flowers project we did, so I decided we could continue to explore her amazing collage art by focussing on her landscapes. This was a whole new challenge! Getting a landscape to look like a landscape, solely with collage papers, is much trickier than creating getting flowers to look like flowers. But we dived head-first into this project anyhow!
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Shelli Walters landscape

Related image
Shelli Walters landscape

We looked at Shelli's Oregon landscape collages, which depict craggy rock cliffs, winding streams, and mountains. Much of her inspiration comes from the wild landscapes of Oregon's Fort Rock State Park and the Oregon high desert. I wanted my adults to create an original piece in Shelli's style so I printed out photos of landscapes from these areas.

What to think about when collaging a landscape:

A. Collaging a landscape is tricky. I decided the important this was to ensure that our landscape had a defined foreground, middle ground and background, some kind of obvious rock cliffs or mountain, an area of water, and a defined sky. If all these elements are place, it would likely be unmistakable that we are depicting a landscape.

B. Additionally, each area would have its defined color scheme, to separate it from the other areas: the sky would be cool color, the mountains and cliffs would be warm colors, the water would again be cools, and any tree or grassy area would be greens. This devision through color helps the eye wander through the picture and understand that we are looking at.

C. The other important tip to consider when collaging a landscape, is to paste the papers in such a way that they mimic the direction, flow and shape of what's being represented. So the cliffs are pasted with vertical strips of roughly torn paper, and water is pasted in horizontal pieces of unevenly torn paper.

D. No hard edge or corners should be uses. For a more organic shape, paper should be torn, not cut.

F. Another key factor is to match the values in the landscape. This helps us separate and define the contours and the dimension of the different elements.

Collage papers:
We used a wide range of collage papers in every color and tone including book paper, grid paper, atlas paper, painted paper, plain colored paper and patterned decoupage paper. I also painted paper in warms tones (particularly, reds, oranges and browns) and in cool tones, as options for our rocks, grassy and water.

We use acrylic gel medium for pasting, but mod podge would work too. The rule is 'paste under the collage paper, then over top again'.

As a final touch, we used a tiny touch of diluted white acrylic paint to soften our sky, and a tiny bit of diluted brown, dark green or blue (or some other dark color) to enhance the dimension around some of our elements. We used acrylic gel medium to dilute our paint. Our goal was just to soften, push back, or deepen some areas with the paint, not to paint over the paper, so strongly diluted the paint was important.

These turned out fabulously! My adults were seriously proud. It took us one 3-hour class.