The Creative Potential of Magazines

Magazines and collage

I perceive every magazine as a rich storage with many shelves full of different kind of characters, environments, objects, words, animals. Have you ever used or offered magazines as a creative material?

First, just immerse your eyes in this richness, looking for pictures that attract you, observing carefully the details, textures, shapes, colors. Choosing an image from a magazine is a selection “from the whole”, like fishing from the ocean of pictures an item that, for some reason, calls your attention.

Cutting with scissors makes this selection a concrete action, by isolating the image from its context. It is quite a powerful action, made with an effective, sharp tool. From that moment, the image becomes alive, aquires her own identity and personality.

The various images can interact with each other from a “visual” point of view, by following a kind of visual balance and associations, and so creating an aesthetic composition. Other possible connections are “narrative”: what would the images tell each other? But these two ways can also go together, weaving a story of words and images: what if a huge mouse meets a tiny cat? Or if a fish is swimming in a forest, through the trees?

An entire story could unfold from a picture that sounds especially meaningful to us. During an activity with magazines with a five years old group, I remember a very shy and delicate boy choosing a huge kangaroo that was standing up as a bold fighter, while a little girl that was usually smiling, talking and laughing, chose a sad, sullen, defiantly dark-style teenager. I wondered if these children were silently spoken to their cut-out figures. I invited them to invent a story. In fact, the kangaroo and the girl of the stories were quite the opposite of how the children were used to appear in everyday life. I am sure it was a significant process for the children, both creatively and emotionally.

Magazines, along with collage technique, offer an endless playing and creative potential, that we can use according to our specific context and goals. Combining cut-out images, the real proportions and usual contexts of things are often changed, creating new surprising worlds.

A creative activity I love, is exploring a theme or a subject through its variations. In the examples abow, the subject is a Christmas tree, while below it is my good friend Esther (you can find her at robertpuccilab YouTube channel). She generally has a pretty minimal look, but I wanted to make her have some fun using textures, accessories and fabrics cut from fashion magazines.

Even a tiny detail has got its own creative potential. Just put it on a sheet of paper: what does it recall you? What sign could complete it, what shape could it become part of? Take a pencil or another tool and try to draw it…

Another interesting visual exercise (or visual game) consists of observing an image only in its shapes and colors, regardless of what it represents; then selecting part of it and transform it into something else – that is giving a new meaning. In the couples of examples below, I cut out two portions of the same picture to create the faces, seen in profile, of two characters that somehow are interacting. Of course, in this game, the initial picture could turn in different shapes, depending on the observer’s interpretation. How many images are hidden and “contained” in the same image?

The only parts I added are the facial details (eyes, mouth, eyebrow), that I cut-out from the same initial picture and glued on the second one. Very unexpected personalities came out that I could not have imagined by myself, without the inspiration of the starting material! I put together a serie of these cards, that I called “Face to face”, as an invitation to combine them and invent a dialogue between the two. How many other ways could we play with these cards?

As with any other technique or material, I think that the initial exploration of the potential of collage – quite free and for its own sake – can become an increasingly focused tool to express one’s uniqueness, through one’s own expressive style. You are welcome to share your works and processes for enriching this collage repertoire. Enjoy!

#thegrammarofmatter

Details are treasures: how finding them?

Looking for details

Details are like treasures that we always have before our eyes, but which often – we adults – cannot see. Instead children find them easily, it’s their natural way of looking. They can be our teachers. Thus, the invitation is to play this “detail hunt” together with children. The starting point can be any image. However, as autumn has just begun with its wonderful colors, nature offers us excellent ideas. And it might be a good idea choosing images of familiar places, which we are not used to observe any more, also taking the pictures together with children.

Looking for details

To prepare the game, you need two prints of the same picture, preferably in big format. Cut out from a white cardboard a “window”, that will be the frame through which you will observe the image. Then cut one of the prints into many parts of the same shape of the window: these parts are the details you should look for in the entire image (using the frame).

A piece of the trunk of a tree

It could become a board game or a calendar, just as the original project created for some Italian preschools, collaborating with the photographer Marco Andreani, author of the photographs.

A calendare with pictures' details

Is “the lawn” what we see or do we see a blade of grass plus a blade of grass plus a blade of grass…? What we say “seeing the lawn” is only an effect of our rough and coarse senses; a set exists only because it is made up of distinct elements. No need to count them, the number does not matter; what matters is to grasp the individual seedlings one by one in a single glance, in their particularities and differences. And not just seeing them: thinking of them. Instead of thinking “lawn”, think of that stem with two leaves of clover, that lanceolate leaf a little hunched, that thin corymb … Italo Calvino, “Palomar”

blades of glass

Enjoy your detail hunt!

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