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

The Characters Box: a tool for inventing stories

the little hedgehog and the rainbow

Where can you begin to invent a story? There are endless possible starting points: one is this box. It contains “characters” catched from picture books for children. Here is how doing it. Look for a book with a character that appeared in different pictures, with various facial expressions and body positions. Then photocopy all these figure variations, cut them out (isolating them from the background) and put them in a small, nice box.

Characters from picture books

This special box could be placed next to the writing-drawing tools and freely used by children. However, it is better if you initially present it to children as a very special, intriguing thing. “What is going to be inside? Who will come out from it?” When the character comes out, children are usually surprised and curious. Then, you can wonder and investigate together: who is he? What is she doing? What’s his name? Where does she live?

Invite children to take cues from the various facial expressions and postures of the figures, trying to imagine what may have happened to the character: why has he become sad? Where is she running? Who’s chasing her? What is he looking for? Who is she angry with? After children defined some features and events, you can also propose to deepen these elements by seeking information through books or other sources. For example, if the character lives in the ocean, why don’t look for books or web images about marine environments?

The story will slowly begin to take shape, until it will be completely defined. At this point, you can invite children to draw it, sticking the photocopies of the character in the right places. In addition to pencils and markers, you can eventually provide some colored papers and recicled fabrics. If there is a group of children, suggest every child to draw a different sequence, in order to represent the whole story.

Finally, all the drawings can be joined into a small book, with the cover, the title and the name of the authors. Children will be very proud of it… After a first experience like this, the box could be left freely available in the classroom or at home, and periodically present a different character: every new character is a surprise!

One day, Crocolou decides to go for a swim at the lake. But as he dives, a crocodile comes out of the water and bites him on his forehead.

Lupodrillo fighting against the wolves

Crocolou calls his wolf friends to help him. The wolves arrive and fight against the crocodiles. At the end of the fight, all wolves and crocodiles are full of bites and fall to the ground from exhaustion, so no one wins.

Lupodrillo coming back home

While the wolves and the crocodiles are fighting, Crocolou managed to escape to his grandmother’s house. The grandmother has prepared an inflatable pool for him, but Crocolou is now a little afraid of diving because the crocodile comes to his mind. In the end he dives.

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Many thanks to Nadhir, Riccardo and Giuseppe, authors of Crocolou story and to the authors of the characters, Ophélie Texier for Crocolou and Vincent Bourgeau for the little imp in the book “La boite à Jules”.

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You are very welcome to share your stories!

Enjoy!

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