by Collage Workshop Instructor Lara Kisielewska
My workshop was collage, and we’d prepared five different types of collages for the kids to create over the course of each workshop. The first was really fun, it involved using 12 non-traditional implements to paint with, such as feathers, sponges, corks, and string. We made about a hundred quick paintings that were like textile patterns, using six colors and 12 implements, and set them aside to dry. On the second day of the workshop we cut them apart and created collages out of them. The kids were initially shy about making quick paintings, they’d been trained to perfect and complete a single work of art, so it was really a mind-shift to get them to understand that we were looking for textures in volume and that we’d be cutting the paintings up to make actual complete works of art later on. Once they grasped the idea, however, they had a tremendous amount of fun.
The second collage was a torn paper collage, in which the kids were not allowed to use scissors, they had to tear down these enormous, 2×3-feet sheets of paper into tiny little bits in order to make 7×7-inch collages. Ripping paper is a very therapeutic activity and the kids seemed to enjoy it quite a bit once they got comfortable ripping up the paper (you could tell they had been taught to conserve materials, and I think the ripping initially seemed wasteful to them).
The other three collages included a leaf collage, which started with sending the kids out into the schoolyard to collect local flora, a self-portrait collage, which combined watercolor, marker, and tissue paper, and a story collage. In this last one I’d asked the kids to paint three animals, three items found in nature such as a tree or a mountain, and three items made by man, without telling them why. Then they had to use colored pencils to draw a background for a story that would contain all nine paintings, which they cut out and pasted into the background. This idea sounded interesting, but the results weren’t as spectacular as the other four types of collage.
One of my favorite workshop moments was when the soldiers at one school, who had been watching the kids work from afar, actually started participating with the painting techniques from the first collage. I’d had to invite them to the painting table more than once, but I persisted because I could tell by their faces that they were intrigued and wanted to give it a try. They were so young, only a few years older than my oldest students. I loved seeing everyone working together, sharing materials and art.