Are there any rules for collage?

January 24th, 2016

“Ever have one of those collages where every time you add something, it just makes it more difficult to finish?”
– T R Flowers

What Terry Flowers alludes to in his recent question to collage artists is certainly an ever-present concern for a minimalist, but even a maximalist can find it difficult to discover the proper conclusion for a collage. Some say that the medium of collage has no rules. I think of it more as the rules changing in front of us until a balanced resolution takes shape, and then, perhaps arbitrarily, victory can be declared.

Unit Citation ~ J A Dixon

Unit Citation
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.5 x 9.375 inches
available for purchase

details from Pearallelograms

January 17th, 2016

“The artist is a collector of things imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets. The scrap heap and the museum are embraced with equal curiosity.”
— Paul Rand
 

One of my first large-scale collage concepts was an artwork I called Pearallel Universe. When it was purchased by a regional health care system to hang in a new patient facility, I temporarily set aside the “visual pun.” After creating Pearental Discretion last year, I continued to accumulate images in anticipation of another takeoff on the pear theme. I also had been looking to break out of the conventional rectilinear format by exploring thumbnail concepts with polygonal shapes. When the parallelogram repeatedly occurred in my tiny sketches, the two ideas merged, unsurprisingly, as Pearallelograms.

This latest collage construction is another attempt to liberate collage from the typical “framed-behind-glass” approach, to recapture the medium’s painterly roots with an exposed surface that can stand on its own, and to introduce a more three-dimensional context that presents the end result as an “artifact.” I would hope that I had a bit of success at meeting these objectives. So far, the piece has been well received.

In what is becoming a ritual post-mortem for bigger collage artworks, I have repeatedly cropped the composition to explore and internalize aspects that may not have been apparent to me during creative formation. It is something I recommend to fortify intuition. To be honest, I would rather not be thinking consciously about the design dynamics in process, but I can only maintain that orientation by imposing a rational critique on my work after the fact. This sometimes leads to the closing refinement of an unfinished piece. More importantly, it also provides a stronger foundation for spontaneity in the future.
 

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My goal was to use many pears — as design elements,
for thematic rhythm, and as devices for a surreal touch.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

As elements, the chosen thematic objects should oscillate
between representation and abstraction.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

Diagonals with pears as “end points” were applied to
three negative areas that needed more spatial activation.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The last pear image was positioned between profiles and
resonates with a more literal treatment at the very top.

detail from Pearallelograms by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The final subject was “built” with an actual dried iris petal,
the torn image of a peacock feather, and a cut-paper stem.

Thanks for visiting! Forgive me if today’s entry is too verbose, because I generally try to avoid that. If, however, you don’t mind if I wax wordy, please register and comment here to let me know. I promise to reply.

New Year New Art, 2016

January 10th, 2016

“The pitch is fairly simple – we invite a bunch of our favorite local and regional artists to show us their latest work – made since August of this year. The artists have a ton of energy and momentum for this show because they know that people will see their work, they know that the other artists are putting together something amazing, so there is a lot of positive peer pressure to make some outstanding work.”
— Brandon Long
 

One of my most anticipated exhibitions of the year is the annual New Year New Art show at our local Community Arts Center. For the fourth year running, the invitational has been organized by Brandon Long. The current installment is the biggest ever. A versatile artist and designer in his own right, Long is a confidante, motivator, and energetic ambassador for the arts in Central Kentucky. He has both the artist’s and the institution’s best interests at heart, and that is not an easy balancing act to pull off. Whatever else may transpire in the year to follow, it is gratifying to display new work of my own choosing among friends and fellow collage artists such as Kathleen O’Brien and Connie Beale. If you are in the area and weather cooperates, be sure to check out this outstanding January show.

Knowing that whatever I create will have a public unveiling, surrounded by selections from some of the finest regional artists, has challenged me to transcend self-imposed perceptions about the medium of collage. It also has spurred me to lift my artisanship up another notch for the upcoming year. Two ideas converged to spark Pearallelograms — more details about the piece in my next entry.
 

Pearallelograms ~ J A Dixon

Pearallelograms
collage construction by J A Dixon
22 x 22 inches
available for purchase

Collaboration in Collage, part 4

January 3rd, 2016

“Connecting unexpected people, places, objects, and ideas provides a huge boost to your imagination. You can practice this skill by using provocative metaphors, interacting with those outside your normal circles, building on existing ideas, and finding inspiration in unlikely places.”
— Tina Seelig
 

As the international cross-pollination of collage artists advances into the new year, facebook.com continues to be a significant crossroads for active collaborators. The BINGO-card project of Terry Flowers is pushing the boundaries of imagination, and Kevin Brandtner’s enormous margarine-card initiative shows no sign of winding down. The Vienna-based artist came into the possession of about 1,000 small vintage images ideally suited to visual modification. They date from the 1950s and were clearly intended as promotional collectibles (“originally produced for advertising purposes by the margarine company ‘Sannella,’ picturing the adventures of various German men,” according to Brandtner). Under his facebook screen name, Geronimo Finn, he invited collage artists from around the world to accept three cards of his choosing and to collaborate with him by 1) providing a finish to one of his starts, 2) offering one start for him to finish, and 3) completing one solo collage. A book documenting all or many of the resulting artworks is an open possibility, but it is difficult for anyone to predict how long the project will last before “Geronimo” pulls the ripcord.

For the “finish,” I embedded an aesthetically integrated, but out-of-context, factory town-scape as subtle support for Kevin’s armed observer. By contrast, my “start” is a hyper-macabre parody of aboriginal stereotypes, and I look forward to his response. For the assigned solo treatment, I could not resist perpetuating the microscopic-creature-as-monster cliché.

 
A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Zebraville)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection and start by Brandtner, finish by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Afrika, Bild 33: Zebras und Gnus her Tränke
13.6 x 9.7 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Baby Head Stew)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, start by J A Dixon, finish to come)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 79: Erdo fen der Maoris
13.7 x 9.8 centimeters

A collage miniature collaboration by John Andrew Dixon and Kevin Brandtner (aka Geronimo Finn)

Untitled (Mighty Mite)
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and K Brandtner
(card selection by Brandtner, solo completion by Dixon)
Sammelwerk Australien, Bild 52: Auf dem Barriereriff
9.8 x 13.7 centimeters

Order of the Janus

December 31st, 2015

 
Order of the Janus ~ a collage miniature on recycled book cover by John Andrew Dixon

Order of the Janus
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
9.75 x 7.125 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Continuing the Bibelot Series

December 27th, 2015

 
Yule (Bibelot 001) ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ part of the Bibelot Series of collage artworks

Yule (Bibelot 001)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

A Most Merry Merry!

December 25th, 2015

 

collage greeting card by John Andrew Dixon

Ho Ho Hosanna
collage miniature by J A Dixon
private collection

Tender and Wild

December 23rd, 2015

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.”
– Stephen Sondhiem

I was in the “Seasonal Zone,” listening to music and making a batch of hand-made greetings and collage miniatures. I began to recycle Christmas cards from previous years, and I had the idea of trying to visually merge two different but similar images. Nothing seemed to go right as my technique played out. One cannot anticipate nor contrive the “fortunate accidents” inherent in the medium. The resulting effect reminds me of an aging fresco, as if an artist had painted a Madonna and Child over another, with the decay of time and weather taking over. I rarely think too much about these things in process, with reflection arriving later. I especially enjoy when others make observations and symbolic associations of their own. Overall, I think my sweet obsession with collage may be about trying to bring some kind of harmony out of the sense of disorder that pervades much of modern perception, although I should hesitate to generalize about my personal state of being and apply it to the world.

a Christmas collage experiment by John Andrew Dixon

Tender and Wild
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 9.5 inches
private collection

Collage experiments as gift art

December 16th, 2015

“Man himself is mute, and it is the image that speaks. For it is obvious that the image alone can keep pace with nature.”
— Boris Pasternak

I have come to the point where nearly all of my December gifts are hand-crafted items, many of which feature experimental images of one sort or another. Some end up being studies for larger works. Shown below are a couple of little artifacts that have resulted so far from my lead-up to the holidays — examples of how gift art can hover between descriptive categories. Both are more than greeting-card covers, but not advanced enough to be called true collage miniatures. Intrinsic value is always a matter of opinion, but, at any rate, people usually appreciate being invited into the artistic process.
 
collage artifact by John Andrew Dixon  collage artifact by John Andrew Dixon

two small, year-end gifts
collage artifacts by J A Dixon
(click to view larger)

Lucid Nativity

December 9th, 2015

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.”
– Ray Bradbury

All collage artists appropriate and harness the previous creative expenditures of countless others — photographers, sculptors, paper chemists, illustrators, product designers, typographers. This is true for even the most abstract practitioners, but certainly for those of us who find and work with representational scrap. I cannot help but notice that images born of religious intent have increasingly found a place within my collage artworks, and I have decided that I shall not be self-conscious about it. There is never a goal of irony, sarcasm, or disdain. The imagery just seems to “belong.” Perhaps, for me, it is an attempt to balance the darkness of chaos with an element of the sublime. Within the spatial montage, or within myself? I may have to think about that a bit more.

Lucid Nativity ~ a conventional, hand-made collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, an artist in Danville, Kentucky

Lucid Nativity
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.5 x 6.25 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Core Memories

December 2nd, 2015

“Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
– Leonard Cohen

I admire many of the more prolific collage artists — Kroll, Rose, Bealy, Tidwell, Flowers, Collins, to name only a few — but there can be a significant contrast between “work ethic” and the contrived productivity made trendy by social networking. It was interesting when Plowman was climbing the mountain of “Collage A Day.” Now one has to pass the corpses being stacked beside the route up the peak. Most of us can tell the difference between a display of ongoing professionalism and the indiscriminate output of those with a high need for public approval. That being said, someone who is a blogger on “all things collage” might carelessly tread into the latter while neglecting the former. If I do, or if this site lapses into pretension, I challenge you to call me on it. Please. Nevertheless, we should all keep in mind that the nature of the medium invites the floating of one’s work for an appropriate give-and-take interaction. Offering intuition and spontaneity free rein means that often we can be too close to the culminating artifact to perceive many of the symbolic connections or nuanced associations, and that takes feedback. It may take other sets of eyes to tell us whether the gem sparkles or not. Our handy interweb makes it easy to lavish “likes” on one another in lieu of the genuine constructive criticism we require to fortify our studio rituals. Are we finally ready to move past mutual thumbs-upping and to become more candid with each other?

Core Memories ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon

Core Memories
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.875 x 7 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!