Monday, October 10, 2005

Thoughts on book "Collage and Construction" by Harvey Weiss

I have been reading a book titled "Collage and Construction" by Harvey Weiss. It was published in 1970 and is one in the series called, "Beginning Artist's Library".

Weiss states that with collage often the artist does not begin a project with an end product in mind. Instead, the artist uses different materials and lets the materials "tell" the artist what to do with it.

I loved the description of where the artist finds the materials that he uses.
"The collage artist doesn't usually go out looking for specific things. He is more likely to clip photographs and pictures he finds interesting, or he will wander about picking and choosing odds and ends--bits of wood or metal, scraps of cloth, twigs, paper, pebbles--out of the rubble and junk that can be found everywhere." (page 8)

The author goes on to say that what a collage artist needs most is imagination.

Unlike other books I have read, this author describes collage as having one of three different categories. Collage is either realistic, (such as a collage composing the image of a face or a landscape), a design (not a picture of anyone or anything, it doesn't tell a story), or an image that evokes an emotion.

"One of the most interesting things about collage is its ability to take common, ordinary pictures to produce an entirely new and uncommon image." (page 13)

We are encouraged straight away to begin collecting papers and items to use in our collages. Keeping an eye out for anything that interests us, we can soon collect quite a number of materials to use in our collages. The author also urges us to collect various objects found in nature, such as seeds, dried grasses, etc.

Texture collages are collages which are made from three dimensional objects or with objects that are thick or have a unique texture. The artist encourages the use of PVA glue (i.e. Elmer's brand white glue), diluted with water. When working with bulky materials, the glue should be painted onto stiff paper or some other strong, hard surface, with a paintbrush, then the objects can be applied to it (rather than trying to paint each item and then lay it onto the dry paper). Some examples of collages shows are dried bean collage, fabric, sand, grains, and seeds.

Constructions are three dimensional objects made such as a sculpture. Some of the examples shown in the book use strong paper (such as tag or oak board) to make creations that look a bit like tree houses or contemporary houses with ladders going up to the doors for entry. Some of these creations are then decorated on the sides with collage images or are enhanced with items such as egg cartons for a roof!

The next topic is boxes, making shadow boxes as pieces of art. Directions to make a simple box out of wood are given. The box can then be lined at the back and also at the sides. The exterior of the box can also be collaged, including all sides and the back. Three-dimensional objects are then inserted and permanently installed inside the box. Items are either screwed in or glued in. The blue must be a strong type in order to hold the heavier items. The artist explains his thought process behind one of his creations.

Making stained-glass window like decorations out of paper is also covered in this book. These are simple creations, drawn and cut out of black paper, and then tissue paper is glued onto the back. When the light shines through, they look like stained glass windows.

Some other examples of constructions are what I would call sculptures, made out of a range of silly objects. These finished pieces of art are strange and whimsical. Again the photographs are so silly that no one would be intimidated by them. My husband's comment to these was that they look like bunches of trash glued together!

The last type of construction that is covered is the use of line as the form. Wire sculptures are shown (which do look too difficult for most adults). Three dimensional structures made out of sticks are shown. Nails inserted on flat wooden surfaces, then strung with string make patterns and shapes that are interesting.

In concluding, the author states on page 62:
"What you need is confidence if your own ideas, judgments, and imagination. If you decide you would like to try out something, then you must go ahead and try it. If you like what you are making that is reason enough for making it. If you feel that work is not successful--try to figure out where it went wrong--and the next time you'll do better. And if your work does turn out well, that is reason enough to experiment with different materials and new ways of making collages and constructions".

All that is needed to know to begin making a collage and a construction is covered in this book. All of the illustrations are black and white photographs, which is disappointing (yet typical of the time that it was published). The items shown are mostly odd or simple looking. Some look as if they could have been made by a preschool aged child--so don't worry of feeling intimidated by this book! The language of the book is simple enough to be read and understood by a middle-school aged child, or even read aloud to an elementary-school aged child.

This book definitely inspired me. I now know what to do with the drawers of the old desk that we were going to throw away--use them as shadow boxes. I also am anxious to work with my children to make three dimensional paper houses and structures.

(P.S. My friends want to know when I find the time to blog. I wrote this while at a public library while one of my sons was taking part in a homeschoolers book discussion group last week. I composed it online on Blogger and saved it as a draft. Today I had time to proofread and edit it while at home.)

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