Collage Projects > Acrylic Collage Paintings

Students are tasked with creating a series of six paper collages that represent the individual’s psyches, struggles, and motivations. Of the six collages, two are selected as reference images for a painting diptych.

First you will create a series of 6 collages using a variety of media and sources. Then we will discuss these collages as a class and select your favorite two. We will recreate these collages as full-color acrylic paintings.

-- Collage material: magazines, photographs, printed images from the Internet, wrappers, etc
-- Drawing materials: pencil, waterproof pen or ink, watercolor, gouache
-- Scissors, x-acto knife, cutting board
-- Glue
-- Acrylic paint
-- Brushes, palette paper, palette knife, cup of water
-- Acrylic painting surface: wooden boards or canvas

Project Overview

Part 1: Create 6 Collages
Create 6 full-page collages with the following source materials:

-- Create 2 collages using found images from magazines. Flip through a variety of magazines. Cut out images you find interesting. Arrange the various cutouts together and form narrative collages
-- 2 collages using personal images of one figure. Print 20+ personal photos (from your phone / camera). Include photos of a single figure from multiple perspectives. In the course of taking pictures, it is important to vary the scale and perspective as much as possible. Create a collage, cutting and pasting the photos into interesting compositions
-- Create 2 collages that’s a combination of personal and found imagery

Part 2: Obscure the main focal point of 2 collages
In most pictures, just as in real life, the eye quickly settles on the center of interest and relegates everything else to the background. So what happens when you deliberately thwart this convention by placing elements in front of the center of interest to obscure or obstruct it? Challenging convention is often a starting place for imaginative work.

Select 2 of your 6 collages. Add a layer on top of the collage that obscures the main focal point. This can be done by painting directly on top of the collage with an opaque material, cutting paper and glueing it on top, etc. For example, add an Art Nouveau inspired vine-work on top of the entire collage, paint semi-transparent bubbles over your image for dramatic effect, glue horizontal stripes to allude to blinds or bars…

Part 3: Edit 2 Collages
Look at your series. Choose two collages that you're the least satisfied with. Try out some of the various techniques to transform them:

-- Cut them up and put them back together
-- Place larger elements on top that obscure the original collage
-- Print a background image and place elements from the original collage on top
-- Cut up a large image into a pattern and put it on top
-- Obscure the focal point and create a new focal point
-- Add a unified color scheme

Most importantly, consider the elements of art and principles of design. Ask yourself:
-- How does your composition flow?
-- What is the collage trying to communicate?
-- Does it work in the series?

Part 4: Acrylic Paintings
The collages you made earlier this semester will be a guide for composing your paintings. Translating a photo collage into a painting introduces new possibilities of creating an image of a single subject with multiple perspectives and fractured spaces that challenge traditional ideas of perception.

Additional things to consider

Odd juxtapositions:
Imagine walking down a quiet country road and stumbling upon a huge object standing some thirty feet high. As you stare up at it, you realize you’re looking at a high-heeled shoe. What do you do? Laugh? Look around suspiciously? Conclude that you’re in a dream? Whatever you do, your first reaction is likely to be disorientation. People need to make sense out of what they see, and when they don’t, it provokes a queasy, off-kilter feeling that something’s not quite right. Artists-- particularly surrealists-- like to evoke this feeling in their audience and play with it.

Making metaphors
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a similarity between them. In metaphorical art, objects are stand-ins for the real subject, showing that something has the qualities of something else. When we think and create metaphorically, we do a kind of mental mapping. We overlay two distinct ideas as if they were templates. If we find some commonality, a metaphor is born. Example: A bed has legs. Legs walk. Hence, a drawing of a walking bed.

Visual Storytelling
A picture might tell a story, but rarely can it tell the whole story. In fact, the level of curiosity your artwork raises is one measure of its effectiveness. If your picture provokes the question, “what is going on here?” you have actually enlisted your audience in helping the story. To this end, find ways of intensifying the drama within your artwork.

Explore a single theme
Exploring a single theme in a series of artworks is the best way to deepen your artistic vision. It will get you beyond self-conscious concerns about drawing skills and techniques. This is where art lives. With a single artwork you hardly seem to get warmed up, but in a series you can really explore an idea. Each artwork within the series provides clues for the next. The result is that the theme inspires a direction for the artist rather than the other way around. It is one more way that your imagination can drive your art.

Artist Inspiration
-- Mickalene Thomas
-- John O'Reilly
-- Serena Stevens
-- Suzanne Wright
-- David Hockney (photo-assemblages / "joiner" series)
-- Claes Oldenburg