Thursday, July 19, 2012

Collage Workshop

This past weekend I went to a collage workshop at Larson Gallery with Joan CawleyCrane. I originally signed up for the workshop because I teach collage techniques in my Design classes and I wanted to observe someone else's approach to teaching the techniques. To be honest, I'm not sure I ever took a class that focused strictly on collage techniques more than in passing.

This workshop was quite good. I was impressed with the instructor, particularly on the second day. I have to admit that my view of the first day was considerably clouded by a persistent migraine that had awoken me hours before the class and that I wasn't able to get rid of until after class ended. I was aware enough to recognize that the class was well run but I wasn't able to actually enjoy it on Saturday. After class I took a nap and it wasn't until after I woke up, feeling much better, that I was actually able to count up some of the useful information I had taken from the class. Saturday night I had 5 specific items on that list. By the end of Sunday I could add half a dozen more specific bits of knowledge or techniques to use in my own classes.

first freebie-bag collage plan

Our first activity on Saturday morning was one of those first usable bits. We were given a bag with limited paper materials (and a glue stick) and were asked to make an arrangement. We were limited in materials and were not allowed to cut the materials. We arranged and shared and then scrapped our first attempt (we were allowed to take digital images or else the visuals for this blog post would be very limited. We then made a new arrangement, still not folding or attaching. This we shared, discussed and then a third new piece was made using mostly the same materials.

second freebie-bag collage plan

third freebie-bag collage plan
fourth freebie-bag collage plan
my first finished collage (more or less) based on #3

It wasn't until the first three or four rounds were done that we were allowed to actually "make" something by cutting, gluing and attaching the materials. The instructor also gave a thorough introduction to glues and gluing. I didn't anticipate that a thorough introduction to adhesives would be something I would rate as a highlight of the workshop. I guess that just shows how little I knew about adhesives. Imagine how excited my Design students will be when I share this extensive information with them! 

a second finished collage made using my daughter's cutout (black foam "person")

In the afternoon we started again with materials that we had brought in. But honestly, I don't remember much of Saturday afternoon. I finished my first piece and started a second. In the second we weren't give much direction and I felt a little lost in being allowed any materials I had, so I kept to my original freebie-bag materials and added a foam piece my daughter had cut out the day before. It is easier to feel comfortable making a fool of yourself in your random little design if your goal is to please a 4 year old.

On Sunday I woke up without a migraine and was conscious, upon entering the gallery, that I was processing information in a way totally different from the day before. I made a point of apologizing to the instructor for my less-than-human functionality the day before and asked for her to re-explain a project she mentioned the day before. (I had caught about 20% of the story on Saturday.) Joan laughed at me, saying I looked much better today and explained the story.

my pieces from day 2: adhesive sample board, second small collage and large content collage (unfinished)

After a lengthy introduction to various new materials and techniques, including sewing and using hot wax, we made a sample board for our various glues and attachment techniques (mine is above on the left), we started on a larger project with some actual content. What was most interesting to me here is the way the instructor helped move the class from composition to content. I was unable to finish mine during class (and I haven't worked on it since), but I enjoyed working through a composition problem (in 2-D) and I enjoyed observing how the instructor helped direct me (and the other students) through this process. 

Taking this class provided me with an excellent chance to observe an instructor who, in many ways, has a very similar teaching style to my own. Joan had several approaches that were improvements on my own tactics. She also did a few things I would try not do to in my classes, though they may be fit for a 2-day workshop. She introduced me to some more subtle and flexible techniques and also improved my knowledge of adhesives. It was also useful, I think, to be in the position of novice (or at least not expert) student. Not only did I get to see the class from the point of view of a student, on Saturday afternoon, because of the headache and excessive use of painkillers, I was able to view the class as a student who was having trouble focusing and staying awake.

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