Tag Archives: collage

5 Questions: About Fun!

Here is the next in my intermittent series of Five Questions blog posts.

Dancing in the sprinkler

Now this was fun!

When I say five questions about fun I don’t mean general fun. I mean using fun to reignite your creativity. There are many times when the creative process does not seem like fun at all. For example you’ve heard of writer’s block I suppose? What about all those times when actually completing a project of any kind means a hard slog of physical labor? And then there are the times when you just can’t come up with an idea or a method to realize your dream.

These are questions to help you rediscover the fun. Remember it’s supposed to be fun. You can write your answers, make a collage, or a sketch, or talk them over with a trusted friend. If you want to have a discussion on Facebook or leave comments here please do.

Question 1:

What was your best day ever when you were 10 years old? What was great about it? Visualize. Remember to smile while you think about.

Question 2:

Why did you want to do this (your current) project in the first place? What was going to be fun about it? Is it still worth doing?

You can turn this into a question about a future project as well. Why do you want to do this? Will it be fun? Even with challenges, is it still worth doing?

Question 3:

Think of your best friend from your childhood. What was the most fun thing about that person? What was the most fun thing you ever did together? Have you done anything like that lately?

Question 4:

When exactly did this stop being fun? What were you doing at the time? Were you hungry, lonely, tired, burnt out? Did someone else diminish or criticize your project?

Question 5:

Who (make it a fan of your work) can you talk to today to rediscover the fun? Or do you just need a break?

Have fun!

Expressing Creativity – Exploring Materials

Modernism, the historical art era encompassing the late 19th Century through the first half of the 20th, is characterized by an emphasis on materials, media and form rather than metaphorical content. They also wanted to remind people that art, even that of the great masters, was just paint on surfaces.

Artists were exploring the tactile quality of paint itself or the properties of stone or metal – essentially examining the Elements of Design (Shape, Line, Color, Texture, and so on) in their pure forms without seeking to tell stories or express meaning. One might say that the Modernists were fighting a losing battle against human nature, since we are biologically programmed to seek meaning and notice relationships – create stories – and will do so even when none exist. Humans seek to make sense from information, while one big part of Modernism wants to depict nonsense for its own sake. (Eg Dada and Theater of the Absurd).

Writing included the stream-of-consciousness novel and poetry that was more about the sound of words than their meanings. In music atonal or 12 tone music rose, with all its unresolved glory along with the famous John Cage conceptual composition 4’33” – one of several silent pieces. The Wikipedia entry on Modernism has a positive cornucopia of links to the theoretical thinkers, writers and artists of the era. They wanted to explore the stylistic conventions of various kinds of art work, but from a distance, without getting drawn in to the stories.

Rothko Chapel

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was a Modernist painter whose large scale mono or duo chrome works are the epitome of Modernist non-subjective art. The Rothko Chapel in Houston, TX is a non-denominational meditation chapel, and is open and free to the public. Inside the Rotunda, lit entirely by natural light, are fourteen large scale monochrome oil paintings by Rothko. The light constantly changes so the texture of each painting also changes.

Rothko Chapel

Interior Rothko Chapel

When I visited there in the mid-1980’s I felt like there were figures buried inside the darkness. I persisted in trying to see what was hidden. The paintings seem to have a lot of depth. It was very serene and relaxing, but I still wanted to find a subject in the non-subjective artworks. But then again, I also like finding shapes in the texture of popcorn ceilings.

What does this mean for a creativity practice today?

Modernist practice gives us permission to play with materials and media, to enjoy the process without worrying about the outcome or product. We can smoosh paint, or roll it, combine blocks of color or repeat simple shapes over and over. We can stack wood, metal and stone pieces in pleasing combinations.

Some of the best ideas for Modernist experiments come from ideas for children’s sensory play crafts. Throw pigments, pour, spray and embrace randomness. But also combine surfaces and textures. Use one color of different media for a shadow box or other display – paint, inks, pencils, crayons, collage, fabric, found objects

Simple Art Project Ideas.

Scumbled Duotone Canvases 

When used in theater sets, scumbling is a paint technique where colors are mixed together on the surface with the painting tools. In art scumbling refers to washing the darker finish with lighter colors (often with a nearly dry applicator) to mute the colors below. The tool defines the kind of edges the paint makes – roller, brush, sponge, rags.

  • Use two of your chosen tools to smoosh paint on the surface and then blend the edges together forming an ombré.
  • If you like Rothko, try pairs of rectangles with soft edges. Also consider a central circle surrounded by another color.
  • Arrange several of these finished canvases in a grouping to enhance your modern styled interiors.

Pinned Color Swatches

  • Cut many squares from paint chip samples.
  • Pin them in a geometric arrangement to a cork board with small ball pins in one color.
  • Alternatively use a hole punch to make many exact shapes quickly.

Enlarged Macro Images

  • Collect random items with only physical characteristics in common, such as shape, color or texture.
  • Take photos of them, especially macros, and print to create another art grouping.

Resources and Places

Scumbling, glazing and wash at Artists’ Network 

Suzy Kitman demonstrates Impasto This is a very cool palette knife technique shown by artist Suzy Kitman. I would argue that despite there being a subject in her work, the main value is the texture and the paint itself, which to me makes it Modernist. The image is just an excuse to use particular colors.

Pete’s Original Art – Abstract painting video showing many tools and blending techniques.

Modernist Pin Board

Modernism

 

 

Holiday grab bag

Christmas Elf with Curly Toes

Christmas Elf with curly toes

Last week I gave you an elf figure – here’s another for you to use in your collages or card making.

If you want some holiday inspiration, there is a ton on Pinterest. Here is my Holiday Decor and Crafts board with links to 174 different projects, printables or ideas. A search of Pinterest will give you endless hours of surfing for creative inspiration.

A year ago I was writing for Natural Life Magazine. My column was Crafting for a Greener World, and I had a few columns related to the holidays. Last year I published this tutorial for a tree topper angel or caroling figure. You can also find a bunch of ideas for eco-friendly gift wrap in another article, and some crafty gift ideas of DIY craft kits.

Here’s my tutorial for one of my favorite holiday projects. This is how I use up all of last year’s received cards, and make evermore ornaments for my holiday tree. Now that we have a house, I see more than one tree in our future, so more ornaments will help.

Over on the ScraPerfect blog you will find many beautiful ideas for holiday cards, scrapbook layouts and crafting. One of my favorite tutorials ever is for my vintage-image transferred Family Tree Ornaments. I won’t be making more this year (thanks to moving) but I absolutely intend to go hog wild next year with my stash of vintage images for ornaments.

Vintage Image Ornament

Vintage Image Ornament

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. We’ll be back in the new year with The Principles of Design, how to find your gateway art form, and more ideas for igniting and expressing your creativity. Much love to you and your family.

Here’s an elf for you

zentangle elf

Please feel free to copy and use this little Elf with a collage of zentangles that I drew a couple of years ago. Print, color and fussy cut – she’s great for holiday cards or tags.

I love doodling over text, in this case an outdated copy of the Writers’ Market – so no worries about wrecking a real book.

Meanwhile I’m still unpacking, unpacking, unpacking – and finding all kinds of little things that need fixing or tweaking in the new house. But nothing can dampen my spirits. I’ll be back with the real creativity blasts soon.

Aristotle’s Emphatic Dramatic Values

Nail Fence

When I was in college we learned about art criticism using these five emphatic dramatic values, interpreted from Aristotle’s writing in his Poetics, where he discussed poetry, theater, and music. He wrote of six values, including one called  “melos” or melody relating to the Chorus that was so important a part of Ancient Greek Theater.

His belief was that art works contained all of the values in different degrees of balance, but that especially for Tragedy Plot was most important followed by Character. He placed Spectacle at the end of the list. Rather than assign a judgement to the relative importance of each Value, I prefer to use them as tools that help me to understand a work as a whole, including defining genre. It is how the Values interact that ends up defining the worth of an undertaking or project.

In looking at each of these values, rather like the Elements of Design, it’s useful to consider the Principles of Design in reference to them –  Balance, Unity, Progression, Symmetry, Contrast, Harmony, Dominance, Repetition. Each can apply within a value, as well as how the values relate to each other.

In no particular order the Values are:

  • Spectacle
  • Plot
  • Language
  • Character
  • Theme

Dramatic values poster

The Values are so interesting to use for dissecting and understanding all kinds of works of art – and they work especially well when examining or critquing film.

Under the banner of spectacle – the visceral enjoyment of action, the art direction, the emotional sweep of music.

The plot or story – how the narrative engages us, perhaps surprises. Twists and turns, or a logical progression.

Language – how words are used. Simple or rich and melodic. The importance of dialect. How language reflects time as well as place. Poets focus on this value. Shakespeare emphasized language, by intentionally using Iambic Pentameter. 

Character – the participants of the story, their motives, their history, their interactions. How we identify with them, or not. Portrait painters investigate character.

Theme – the meaning and importance of a piece. The moral of the story, or the absence of a moral.

The Values as Inspiration

As an artist moving forward with intentional design, it is just as important to be aware of the Values as it is to be aware of the Elements of Design. Much of this is obvious in considering screenwriting – but there are equivalents in all kinds of artistic endeavor. For example, consider the “Grammar of Ornament” by Owen Jones –  elucidating the language of visual design.

Sometimes the values are easier to see in failure. I’m sure we are all familiar with a movie that is all spectacle (eg special fx) without much substance or story, or books where the author is so involved with his own use of esoteric language that the characters are unknowable.

Personally I don’t enjoy atonal music. It seems to me it all about using the stripped back language of music, with mathematical precision as the overriding theme, at the expense of the spectacle of an emotional range or any story. It doesn’t take me anywhere, but I know other people love it.

Sometimes a piece isn’t working out, but we can’t put our finger on what’s wrong. Examining the Emphatic Values might winkle out the problem.

In planning your project, you can list the Values and plan how you will realize each, as well as determine the emphasis of each one.

  • How will you incorporate or show each Value?
  • How will this affect the other four values?
  • Will this make the piece feel unbalanced?
  • Is it worth it for the pay off for the audience/reader anyway?

Here’s an exercise:

Take a simple, familiar personal story, such as a family memory or recent event. Maybe it’s the same old story that your Uncle trots out at every Thanksgiving dinner that starts with “Remember when…” Maybe it’s a story that you haven’t thought to retell – how you met your beloved, or how you chose your pet, or the time when something different happened at a familiar place.

What happened? Consider how it might be told with each of the Values emphasized, and played with. If you normally tell it in straightforward prose, try turning it into poetry, or a series of single emotive words. Draw it, collage it. What if it were told like an action sequence in a movie? what if the setting were described or illustrated in great detail? What if it were seen as illuminating the character of each participant in turn? If you were to set each moment to music, what would you choose? Now choose something entirely different. Instead of telling the story, show how the story illuminates your family values or philosophy.

It’s not a short exercise, is it? But it could be a valuable one. You might come out with any number of different art or written pieces just from one event. You might gain new insights to your own reactions, or to how other people might be experiencing the same event.

Let me know in the comments if any of you choose to take this on. I’d love to see the results. Remember to follow me on Twitter!