Permission to Have Fun

Russ, Terri, and Michael Albert at Crystal Bridges

Terri and I hung out at the Crystal Bridges Art Studio in Northwest Arkansas a few weeks ago with Michael Albert (michaelalbert.com). Michael has been doing collage for a number of years and his works are both colorful and whimsical, and yet insightful and serious too. Michael has a number of favorite texts, narratives, speeches, scriptures, and such which have meant a lot to him over the years and he has committed them to collage, as well as some of them to memory. I thought that was pretty cool.

Terri working on her Lone Start flag.

So, while Terri got to work on her collage, I hung out with Michael and as usual asked a ton of questions. He’s on an “Art-demo and Workshop” Tour across dozens of U.S. cities. Most of his stops are at libraries where he leads folks, mostly kids, in activities using art, but also discussing and leading conversations about a number of those texts and stories that are so important to him. I asked him how he chose the libraries, and he said that he had written and published a book. He looked up which libraries carried his book, and just called them up and told them what he was doing. So, he has been driving from city to city for a number of weeks, maybe months now, visiting small towns and big, and getting to know people. Once again… very cool.

He calls his collage work “cerealism” because so much of it is found in the packaging for cereal boxes. So, it’s a lot of fun to see the images in his art, originally on cereal boxes I know well from my childhood. It’s sometimes a bit educational, if not sobering, to see how he uses the text in his work. Some of my favorites were Psalm 23, the preamble to the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address. There’s lots to choose from though, he’s a well-read guy.

Terri chose to make her version of our state flag. She had some symbolic fun and included some numbers in the work that are personally very important to her. I thought it turned out very nice.

Lone Star Flag
Paper and glue
12″ x 14″
by Terri Reed

I have a tradition of working on self-portraits whenever I’m at making-art demos, working in new media, and I don’t know what else to do. So, I sat down and did a 30 second self-portrait sketch in pencil, and then started cutting up cereal boxes. I decided to do a layering technique, whereas Michael and Terri both do more of a mosaic effect where they cut the shapes out to piece them together like a puzzle. I overlaid mine, one on top of another, and got more of a 3-D effect, which really worked for the self-portrait.

When we were finishing up, Terri asked me where the grey was in my beard. I really was taken aback. It turns out that my self-portrait is not a bad likeness, but it’s more life-like to my appearance 30-years ago, than it is now. While I was making the portrait, I was actually thinking of myself with dark brown hair. So, I blamed it on the cereal boxes and told her that silver was not really a cereal color.

There are a few important things to me about going to these art-making studio demos. I love to meet artists who are doing their creative thing and are willing to share their time and ideas with me. Michael was so generous, gave us some fantastic posters, and talked about his creative background and experience. It’s really nice to just listen to artists talk about what inspires them. I think occasionally it rubs off and something important and perhaps philosophical might find it’s way into my art or my creative habit.

But, it also allows (forces) me to try something new besides oil painting. The painting is so serious and these different media allow me to relax and just have fun. Try cutting up some cardboard packaging like a 6 year old and make something out of it that’s meaningful. It’s fun. These new media really stretch me and push me into something new. I’m terrible about making art in front of other people. I like to be alone, alone, alone. But, in the middle of the chaos at the Crystal Bridges Art Studio there’s nowhere to hide and you just have to go for it. Give yourself permission to have some fun and be silly.

Self-portrait
Paper and glue
10″ x 8″
by Russ Reed

2 Replies to “Permission to Have Fun”

  1. Love this! Would have so enjoyed taking a collage workshop. Do you have a link to other cities Michael Albert is going? Wonder if I could catch him in Atlanta or if he’s already come through my area. 🙂

    1. Michael mentioned that he put his itinerary on the front page of his website, but even so, I had to look for it. Go to his home page and scroll down. He has a few more weeks left, but unfortunately for us, they are all up north, from Wisconsin to New Jersey. It was just luck I saw him in Bentonville AR, because he came through Austin and Dallas only a couple of days before that. Next time!

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