Saturday Studio: Kooky Collages

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

With the start of an unusually stressful school year, I’m sure we could all stand to take a break to enjoy some artwork that is pure fun, and to create some of our own!

Enter: William Richard Crutchfield. FWMoA owns a few works by the Indiana native, and all feature his signature juxtaposition, combining two unrelated objects to create surreal, imaginative, and often humorous landscapes. A ship’s masts are skyscrapers! A zeppelin with ship’s sails is moored to a lighthouse! 

In this watercolor, a ship is weighed down by two buildings acting as masts and sail.
William Richard Crutchfield, American, 1932-2015. Beached City I. Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper, 1977. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Dorskey, 1977.75. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.
In this serigraph, a zeppelin is moored to a lighthouse that emits light and stand among rocks. The zeppelin appears in front of a grey-yellow sky.
William Richard Crutchfield, American, 1932-2015. Light Ship Agustus. Color serigraph, 1973. Gift of Abraham Tannenbaum, 1977.74. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

My favorite, in which a train barrels through the fluffy topping of a meringue pie, was featured here previously as a “Treasures from the Vault“.

A train runs through the fluffy topping of a meringue pie that sits atop a windowsill. The steam from the train mimics the heat wave from a  pie fresh out of the oven.
William Richard Crutchfield, American, 1932-2015. Meringue. Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper, 1975. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Dorskey, 1977.76. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

Meringue will serve as today’s inspiration, so let’s take a closer look. If we zoom in and focus just on the train, it might be chugging through a snowy landscape, but as we broaden our focus, the work gets stranger. The way Crutchfield plays with scale, or the size relationships between objects, also adds interest. Is the pie huge or is the train tiny? Notice the details that make the scene more believable (and therefore more surreal): the attention to the strong shadows and textures, the addition of smoke or steam from the train, and the way the meringue piles on top of the train. The background of the painting is simple and ambiguous–it could be a countertop, or it could be a flat landscape with a setting sun.

A great way to play with juxtaposition in a similar way (and one that doesn’t require any drawing skills), is through collage. Today in the Studio, round up your old newspapers and magazines and get ready to experiment!

What’s the zaniest combination of food and transportation you can come up with?

You’ll need:

  • A collection of photos, magazines, printed pictures from the web, etc.
  • Scissors and optionally, with adult supervision, an Xacto knife
  • Gluestick
  • Paper
  • Pencils, colored pencils, or other drawing materials (optional)

First, we need to find some pictures! The museum luckily has a huge stack of old magazines that are excellent for collages like these. Do you, like my parents, have decades of National Geographic magazines sitting around? Perfect! Cooking magazines, of course, will have great food photos. Be sure to ask before you destroy someone else’s magazines. I found most of my modes of transportation from advertisements: cars, cruise lines, even hot air balloons! Size is important. Think about how you want to use scale in your finished work—you’ll most likely want the boat, car, train, or bicycle you use to be pretty small. You’ll also want to pay attention to the perspective of your two objects: they should have been photographed from a similar angle for the most believable results.

Flip through your magazines or other image sources and rip out pages with images you like as you go. You’ll want a lot of options to mix-and-match! Now, carefully cut out your selections. The foods can stay with their backgrounds for now, but the modes of transportation need to be cut out so we can decide where to place them.

Test out some options! What works? What doesn’t? Are there any ways you can make it work better?

The angle of this car doesn’t really work with the roast turkey or the bowl of cucumbers. The can of coffee is better, or maybe the edge of the bowl could be a racetrack?

The firetruck was photographed from a similar angle as these pies, so it works pretty well.

The tugboat above doesn’t quite fit in with this bowl of cereal…

But, after carefully cutting around some of the almonds and blueberries with an Xacto knife (get help if you need it!), I could nestle it in so the cereal overlaps and it looks much more believable. Another way to help is by drawing a little. Look closely at the original source photo. There were probably some shadows or maybe even reflected color under your object. Subtly drawing these onto the food can help make a car or boat look like it belongs.

I found this snowy mountain of doughnuts (beignets, maybe?) and three hot air balloons to fly over, plus a tiny truck off-roading down the side. Before I glued everything down, I decided to place it in a landscape, and drew a simple one with colored pencil sticks. The ground is close in color to the fried dough, and I added a few more mountains along the horizon.

If your collage materials are limiting your imagination, you could decide to instead draw your zany juxtapositions! What did you come up with?

Share your kooky collages with us here on the blog or on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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