Teaching Artists: Collage Workshop with Leo Monahan

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This article is the first in a new series on the blog called Teaching Artists.  Featured here, Guild member Leo Monahan shares his collage expertise in a series of workshops at Grovewood Galley in Asheville.  Article by April Nance.   

Leo guides students through the design principles of collage.

On the first day of Leo Monahan's workshop The Unexpected Image I he tells me and the other students, "A collage is never finished - it is abandoned."  It is with this straight-shooting wit and wisdom that he leads us through techniques such as collecting inventory, experimentation with design elements, arranging and rearranging, and finally letting go.

With a resume that includes teaching at the California Institute of the Arts, Walt Disney Imagineering, Toyko and Osaka Communication there is no doubt we are in good company.  Of course he is also an internationally recognized paper sculptor with work currently on display at Grovewood Gallery.  Visit his website to learn more about his paper sculpture.

The three day workshop offered time for students to experiment with techniques and helped us see the ordinary in a new way.  A blank canvas became a base of images held together by structure or theme, depending on the exercise.  Ultimately we learned that collage techniques promote creativity, visual awareness, and is a personal process that helps the individual overcome the fear of beginning any project in any medium or technique.   

On the first day he challenged students to only work with typography.  By cutting strips of text we learned the artful ways letters become shapes through positive and negative space.

On the second day our task was to build structure in an abstract collage.  Armed with dozens of magazines we began building an inventory of images.  We separated ourselves from the content of the periodicals by turning them upside down and using a frame to isolate color, texture, whatever caught our eye in an interesting way.  After compiling the inventory we built our structure onto the background.  Leo gave us feedback along the way and helped us consider design elements and coordinating principles as we worked, sometimes pointing out what we had done without realizing it.  (And just when we were taking our task and ourselves a little too seriously he told us a joke...)

On the third day our assignment was to create a collage with a theme in mind.  His beginning instructions were simple, "Do something.  Do anything."  With the freedom to experiment, arrange and rearrange we worked focused and joyful.  We appreciated our final product but also realized the importance of the process.  In a helpful handout provided during the workshop Leo writes:

"The process is more enriching to the artist than the final result.  The process is the reward.  Search, experiment, innovate and reinvent yourself through art, whatever that art might be."

In addition to The Unexpected Image I, Leo also teaches The Unexpected Image II.  Check the Grovewood Gallery website to learn more about these workshops.  To learn more about Leo's paper sculpture visit leothecolorman.com and read about him in the Laurel of Asheville.    
During the workshop Leo demonstrated paper sculpture techniques and collage techniques (shown above).
Collage techniques promote visual creativity and visual awareness.  


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