another “trip collage” exercise

June 29th, 2015

“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”
– Orson Welles

Here is another journal experiment based on ingredient constraints. It has a more abstract emphasis, in contrast to the previous example. There are numerous ways to impose this instructive limitation. Some collage artists have been known to create a composition restricted to the random scraps found on their work surface. Others make it into collaborative play, swapping an envelope of ingredients within which to work. A speed requirement will reveal more aspects of creative decision making and give rise to other insights. Paradoxically, there is no limit to how limitations can unlock the freedom of artistic expression.
 

journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
7.25 x 5.25 inches

It’s a trip collage, man . . .

June 22nd, 2015

“It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.”
– Georges Braque

From the first decision an artist makes when confronting a blank format, available options are eliminated. As contradictory as it may sound, writers, designers, musicians, dancers, visual artists — all of us find fertile ground in restriction. Working within limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, is always at the heart of the creative process. One of my preferred journal experiments is a variation I call the “trip collage.” Mind you, this has absolutely nothing to do with psychotropic escapades. However, I do periodically “expand my consciousness” of the medium with an exercise based on limited ingredients. When on holiday or outside the studio, I produce a small collage only with the elements immediately available at hand. Litter, junk mail, discarded packaging, or the detritus of a particular environment will become the instruments of a miniature orchestration. Even within this constraint, choices about what to use and what to ignore will govern the approach, and the interesting relationship between spontaneity and intuitive judgment can be observed.
 

Journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
5.5 x 6.75 inches

more leaps . . .

June 15th, 2015

“Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.”
— Pablo Picasso

The quick sale of Rhetorical Leap was among several factors that would cause me to create a slightly larger piece with similar themes. It was an interesting experience on multiple levels. I had the opportunity to revisit my original intuitive process in a more rational way. It is not for me to judge the relative “success” of either work. I prefer to focus on what it was like to make the journey a second time. Personally, I find the effort to recapture nearly any aspect of life to be a hit-or-miss proposition. For every time one scores the same enjoyment or sense of fulfillment, there is another that falls short of expectations. For this reason, I tend to resist variations on a theme or a defined series when approaching collage artwork. At any rate, that is my tendency, although the practice retains a special appeal that I have no reason to resist. Ideally, one’s entire body of work might be seen by others as an extended series of thematic variations. It is only natural for most observers to put emphasis on the end products, rather than the more obscure goings-on that make up the creative process.
 

detail from Rhetorical Leap ~ John Andrew Dixon  detail from Leap of Faith ~ John Andrew Dixon

left: Rhetorical Leap (detail)
right: Leap of Faith (detail)
two collage artworks on canvas by J A Dixon

Leap of Faith

June 8th, 2015

 
Leap of Faith ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ The Collage Miniaturist ~ Danville, Kentucky, USA

Leap of Faith
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
11 x 14 inches
available for purchase

Contemplation Ajar ~ details

June 1st, 2015

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
— John Wooden

One of my favorite things to do with an image of a collage is to explore alternative compositions by cropping. We can never stop training the eye. Visual ingredients are always elements in context and their character can change with different design relationships. The more we do this, the more a sense of balance and spatial harmony are internalized. As a bonus, any ideas that emerge can become the basis for new investigations.
 

square crop ~ detail from Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ The Collage Miniaturist

 

square crop ~ detail from Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ The Collage Miniaturist

 

square crop ~ detail from Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ The Collage Miniaturist

 

square crop ~ detail from Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ The Collage Miniaturist

four squares from Contemplation Ajar
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
collection of J Wood

Another donation request?

May 25th, 2015

“As artists, we have to lead from the heart.”
— Lee Harvey Osmond (aka Tom Wilson)

Previously, I have remarked about artists continually being pestered to donate their work to “worthy causes.” Personally unable to categorically refuse, as some do in principle, I have kept my contributions infrequent, close to home, and relatively small in scale. I know artists who can get dogmatic about this subject, not only steadfastly rebuffing all solicitations, but also insisting that others follow their lead. To be honest, I cannot say that they have failed to rationally argue their position. Even so, I think that artists, not unlike other professionals, should be able to find the proper place for occasional pro bono work, and each individual should be free to follow one’s heart. In addition, people who administer charitable, educational, and other nonprofit organizations might make a better effort to understand the issue from an artist’s point of view and to consider more carefully how their knee-jerk requests for free product serve to devalue creative labor.

And now for the anecdote: Once every two years, I create a collage for An Art-full Affair, our biennial effort to raise money for local arts scholarships. Each donation of artwork or creative service is matched by a ticket sale, admitting the buyer and her guest to a double-evening of festivities — a preview party and a gala drawing. The first name drawn gets to pick from every available donation on display, until there is only one ticket holder and one artwork remaining. Each item is guaranteed to be worth at least twice the value of the ticket price. For the artist, it is always suspenseful to see how early one’s piece is selected. For the supporter, there is the duel satisfaction of taking home a bargain while also helping deserving youngsters who would not be able otherwise experience art, music, drama, and dance. Nobody offers me more encouragement than my sister, Joan. Two years ago, her name was not drawn early enough for her to pick my offering, but this time luck favored her wish list, and, when her name was announced, she selected my artwork. I was especially pleased. With this kind of thoughtfully organized event, everyone wins!
 

Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ collage artist ~ Danville, Kentucky

Contemplation Ajar
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
20 x 15.75 inches
collection of J Wood

Gallery Hop Stop!

May 21st, 2015

 
Gallery Hop Stop ~ June 4, 2015 

 

White space ain’t a negative thing.

May 16th, 2015

“Life is trying things to see if they work.”
– Ray Bradbury

A familiar approach to collage makes use of elements positioned on a field, activating the “white space” with a typical figure/ground relationship. Often the working substrate is carefully selected for inherent visual interest or aesthetic qualities. Like a visage with character, a single piece of “ancient” stock can speak volumes on its own. There are many other ways for “negative space” to play a key part in collage artwork. For me, experimenting with small studies in my journal can suggest a different twist, with the potential for exploitation in a more finished composition.
 

Dixon_Untitled(IRA)

Untitled (IRA)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
4.375 x 4.25 inches

and another journal experiment . . .

May 9th, 2015

 
another journal study by John A. Dixon — The Collage Miniaturist — Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (Equal)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
9.5 x 8.25 inches

May 3rd, 2015

WYOMING
by Brendan Adkins

Leonard and I were in Wyoming just long enough to stop for gas off the Laramie exit.

The Vagina Monologues was my second college play, and The Laramie Project the second-to-last. They were the only times that I felt meaningful, in drama, loud and bright and kicking teeth. Every acting student in this decade has had those feelings about those plays. That doesn’t reduce their significance.

Laramie was an offhand pilgrimage, a place to throw the ashes of a twelve-year dream. I was done with acting. I’d begun to write.

Leaving, I bought a local newspaper: the Boomerang.

WYOMING is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

 

The Boomerang ~ J A Dixon

The Boomerang
collage miniature by J A Dixon, 4 x 5 inches
inspired by WYOMING
(Ommatidia, Thursday, January 26, 2006)
collection of B C Adkins

Drawing out the unfulfilled possibility

May 2nd, 2015

“I am a great believer in the primacy of drawing as a means of engaging the world and understanding what you’re looking at.”
– Milton Glaser

“Why do you make collage artwork when you can draw?” People who broach the subject rarely come at it quite so directly, but even if they did, the question would not be any easier to answer. To begin with, I do indeed draw, and have since the dawn of memory, and I bring that ability to my work as an illustrator, portrait artist, watercolorist, and wood engraver. My enthusiasm for collage is rooted in something else — an impulse not entirely clear to me. I am grateful for all my talents, but I was educated and trained as a designer, and the practice has done more than enable me to create a life as an independent creative professional. It has become embedded in my consciousness. Decades of visual decisions have informed my responsive intuition. Collage is part design experimentation, part painterly expression, part artisanship, and part meditation. It is always a probing beyond expectations, an exploration of potentials, a harnessing of associations in flux. It can be the result of self assignment, but the most exciting effects often grow out of ritual. For me, it is never disconnected from what is taking form in my current journal. Not true artist’s sketchbooks (much as I have always hope they would evolve toward), they inevitably become a record of verbal and visual thoughts or non-thoughts. Some of my journal experiments combine techniques and mediums in ways that have not yet found manifestation outside their covers. Perhaps some day the question will be: “Why do you also draw in your collage artwork?”
 

Untitled (necklace) ~ another journal experiment by J A Dixon

Untitled (necklace)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
9.5 x 6.25 inches