Sunday, November 3, 2013

C is for Collage and Coursera and Continuing Education

This summer, on the suggestion of an artist friend, I participated in a MOOC - Massive Open Online Course. The free college level class, Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques was by Coursea, through Penn State. (TIP: Check out all the class listings - all FREE!!!)

The idea of taking an introduction to art course seemed a little silly to me - I think I am at least an intermediate by now :-), but I am also fascinated by online learning, and free is a very good price, so I gave it a try.

The class was fantastic. The lectures were well done and very interesting, the projects unique and challenging. The process of interacting with thousands of students, of all ages and nations, literally from around the world was both amazing and overwhelming. Several arty friends and I addressed this issue by creating our own Facebook page to post and comment on our lessons.

Two of the assignments focused on collage, something I have rarely attempted. One, Create a Black and White Newsprint Collage based on a black and white photo, instructed us to analyze the photo's value patterns and focus on the subtleties of grey scale and values within the image. As soon as I read the assignment, I knew that I wanted to use a wonderful photo of my mother taken on a snowy New York City rooftop sometime in the 1940's.

What followed was hours of searching for scraps of paper to give me all the shades and values that I needed to create the textures of snow, a fur coat, a silk scarf, brick and sky in this collage. I soon found myself amid a chaos of newspaper and magazine pages, madly tearing, pasting and swearing. I discovered that it is easier for me to use gel medium than glue or even rubber cement to keep the pieces in place. It took hours, but eventually my image came together. Very interesting, and though only done in shades of black and white - I find it very colorful.