Matisse Collage Project at the Ojai Hospital
One of the perks of being a member of Ojai Studio Artists is getting to participate in programs that bring art into the community. "Art Matters" is one of such programs that runs in conjunction with Operation Picasso. Every week a musician, story-teller, or visual artist comes into Ojai Hospital's Continuing Care Center to work with residents to share or create art. I've never done any teaching, but I thought it might be fun to use my Glowforge laser to come up with a unique art project.
Laser Cut Paper
Henri Matisse may be most famous for his paintings, but later in his career, he started working in cut paper. I thought a Matisse-inspired collage would be a great starter project for me -- little mess, not too much instruction, and easy to complete in our allotted hour.
I picked a few pieces of Matisse to borrow from and got to work creating the svg files.
I used Adobe Illustrator to digitally "trace" some Matisse shapes and came up with a rough plan of color distribution. I wanted to make sure I had a variety of sizes while keeping each piece large enough to be manageable.
I had a lot of paper leftover from the Tiger Egg, which was a good start, but I wanted to add some bolder colors to better honor Matisse. I went to Kelly Paper in Ventura because I knew I could get a lot of single sheets of different colors. Kelly ended up donating the paper! I was so thrilled. If you have a Kelly Paper near you, you HAVE TO check it out. It is a magical place. I'll never use regular bright white stock again.
Cut cut cut (at 7am)...
One snag I've hit with the Glowforge is that it is NOT compatible with these Ojai summers. Anything over 80 degrees and the dreaded "cooling" warning pops up and it just takes too much time to complete a cut. So for a week, I had to wake up early every morning to get all the pieces finished.
Because I wanted a lot of texture, I picked a lot of different paper stocks. But of course this meant that each piece needed a separate setting. When cutting paper, you want enough power to extract the pieces cleanly, but not so much that the fan sends the paper flying all over the machine (normally I make a very light cut and then weight each piece, but that was not feasible this time). It's a delicate balance! Also, I find if the speed is set too high, the underside of the paper get scorched at each "point" in the SVG file.
In the end, I found a speed of 275 gave me pretty consistent results. For thinner paper, I used about 20 power and cranked it up as high as 70 for thicker sheets. It was slow-going at first, but eventually I got the hang of it and rarely had to make a second pass. If I were smart, I'd have taken notes; recorded best settings for each gsm. But I am not smart, so I am doomed to go through this process again, I'm sure.
Dividing the Pieces:
I wanted to be very exact with the pieces; to really have a plan. But because I was working half-asleep, I just ended up cutting a random mess of shapes. I organized them by color, then divided them up into twelve sets; because there are about twelve seats at the art table. I wanted to make sure everyone got:
- A good variety of sizes and types of shapes
- A unique color scheme
- Enough to fill up a the big white piece of paper that would be used as the canvas with plenty left over
I also gave everyone a couple of the negative space sheets that remained after the pieces were cut. Had I been hand-cutting like Matisse, these would have been butchered, but of course the Glowforge left them whole, which was a huge bonus. I also brought uncut sheets to use as extra canvas or in case anyone wanted to cut his or her own shapes.
The only supplies I needed to buy were big pieces of paper to use as canvas, extra scissors, and enough glue sticks for all.
Scissors and glue sticks for 12. Originally, I had thought we would add a layer of Modge Podge at the end, but it seemed unnecessarily messy.
Everyone got a pack of shapes, extra paper, a glue stick, and scissors, but I wanted everyone to stretch their creativity, so I brought in some samples. I picked some Matisse works and also created my own. The beauty of collage is that I could just rearrange the pieces -- Matisse-style, layered, or arranged into new shapes -- and take a photo. It was so fun!
This is a great art project and should you want to recreate it, just email me and I'll send you the SVG files!