Collage Poem

In this project, you’ll incorporate all you’ve learned in your design course to this point in the creation of a unique work of art. You’ll need to have mastered the use of a variety of tools and media and to be fairly fluent in using the terms of art and design to analyze and describe your work as well as the work of others.

Learning Goals

  • To enhance your ability to translate words and concepts into images — to think allegorically. (Look up the word so you understand the definition!)
  • To improve your craftsmanship skills
  • To strengthen your ability to construct meaningful compositional design.

Attending and participating in studio discussions and demos is critical.


  1. Glue, spray adhesive
  2. Mixed Media (magazines, color papers, old art projects)
  3. Illustration Board
  4. Scissors, x-acto knife
  5. Self-healing cutting board


  1. Study collages created by other artists. Here are a few to check out:
  • Romare Bearden
  • Hannah Hoch
  • Robert Mars
  • Mark Bradford
  • Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson, Ultra Blue, 2013

Richard Hamilton. Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? 1956

Hannah Hoch

Romare Bearden

Questions to ask while you look at these artists’ images:

  • What materials and mediums is the artist using?
  • How does the artist create a new meaning from using elements that have existing meanings?
  • How does the artist unify or control the various elements in her composition?
  • What does the artist do to make the composition work? (What do I mean by “work”?)
  • Why is it important to unify our compositions?
  • What happens if our compositions become very unified?


The following studio exercises prepare students for the assignment.

  1. Collage Practice

Your instructor will demonstrate the process during studio class.

Use images and colors cut/torn from magazines to create a collage. Use scissors and x-acto knives to carefully trim out your images. Use spray adhesive to adhere your collage elements to illustration board.

  1. Select an image that communicates a message
  2. Select another image that communicates a message
  3. Combine the two images to create a third message

Student Examples:

Dujon Forbes, First-year student, Design & Color ART220

2. Unity through Grouping

Your instructor will demonstrate the process during studio class.

Artists and designers unify the disparate elements of their work in various ways. For these exercises, we’ll use gestalt grouping principles to create unity with variety in our compositions.

  1. Create a unified composition using the grouping principle of similarity (repetition of objects that are similar by color, shape, size, texture, etc.).
  2. Create a unifed composition using the grouping principle of proximity (objects overlap).
  3. Create a unified composition using the grouping principle of continuation (objects are group so that an implied line(s) is created).

3. Using Metaphor

By grouping elements together, the artist can create new meanings for them. The new meanings that are created can become metaphors that represent ideas that the artist wishes to communicate to the viewer.

  1. Assemble all mediums and tools around you for quick access. Place a couple of sheets of drawing paper or your sketchbook in front of you.
  2. Listen with your eyes closed as your instructor reads through a poem. Be aware of fleeting mental images that are inspired by the poem.
  3. After the first reading, open your eyes and quickly sketch the mental images you experienced. The images may be as loose as the quality of a line or the shade of a color. Capture them using any mediums and tools that you’ve assembled.
  4. Your instructor will provide you with a photocopy of the poem. You will have two minutes to capture each of the following categories of words:
    1. colors
    2. nouns/things
    3. adjectives/describing words
  5. From your collection of word categories, select four words from each category.
  6. Using the elements of art, interpret each word. (For instance, find the color red in a sheet of a magazine and cut it out.) Put your visual interpretations into a pile. You aren’t yet trying to compose these elements, just collect them. Use the photocopier to create multiples of an element (repetition).
  7. On a piece of illustration board, compose your elements using the grouping principles you learned in the exercise above. You are working to create a unified and coherent composition with some variety thrown in. Your instructor will work with you through several iterations of your composition toward a good one. Take a photograph (using your smartphone) after each iteration. Following are a few compositional iterations to try:
    1. Rule of thirds with area of emphasis
    2. Golden mean with the illusion of 3D space
    3. Grid with focal point
  8. Refer to your documentation photos and use one to refine a a final composition.



3. Read the chapter in your textbook on UNITY and take the quiz. Note: If you don’t have a textbook, search the Internet for information on Unity and Variety in Art.

2. Read/study the poem Brown Girl Levitation, 1962-1989, by Nikki Finney.

  • Read the poem all the way through.
  • Read it again, and begin to sketch what comes to mind. Take notes. Write individual words.
  • Read the poem again and circle words that evoke images in your mind.
  • Use paint and/or pastels to capture the colors that come to mind (color studies).
  • If you sense a word, texture, shape, etc., capture that as well.

Instructor’s note: It may be necessary to offer some interpretation of the poem.


(for Beulah Lenorah Butler Davenport, supreme watermelon, cantaloupe & pansy grower)

Something sharper than any blade cuts
the heavy roped balloon cord at the end
of my wrists; ascension begins. No tingle
of warning, just the thin, rising held-breath
of a brown girl, super sudden lift, then,
the instinctive dive & grab for anything
dependable, two ton, well tethered, close:

Shaggy, heavy-bellied, near blind sheep dog.
Bulbous, well-rooted, yellow meat watermelon.
Iron held, black leather, Detroit-Buick car arm.
Steel blue, cavernous, baby brother crib roof.
Brass, honeycomb canopy, octopus jungle gym.
Mesozoic era, roots, trunk, cane field of azalea.

I could smell it inching closer to full power,
like a storm nearing from across the field of
my young life. Except, it wasn’t over there,
coming. It was inside, gaining on me, blooming.
I could not grab my girl hat and run. Could not
turn my long yellow feet into brown girl spikes
and beat it home. Wherever I happened to be
when it hit—I had to hunker down.

I would lean hard into that high, elephant-lifting wind
with everything I had, carrying my girl mind & muscle
to the thing that I knew had been grandmother sent,
engineered, just for me. And there she would appear:
straw hat, cotton dress, cow boots, rabbit grass stogie
between her two front teeth, walking the dirt road back
to the old homehouse. Her humming heart in mighty step
with the bee wings of the July air. Her arms full of as many
bowling-ball headed, green-striped melons as she could manage.
The red sweet flesh, the jet-eyes, my just-in-time juicy
body weights passed from her arms to my lap,
until the great gray wind retreated & agreed
that I’d had enough & turned
me loose, disappearing back
beyond, into the indigo
heaven, until the next
lifting time.

3. Read the chapters in your textbook and take the quizzes to check your retention of the information.

4. Study the project’s grading rubric (below) for the project parameters.


  1. As you prepare to create your project, refer to your color studies and sketches from readings of the poem along with the research into other collage artists’ work to generate rough sketches of the composition you wish to create. Consider how you will incorporate the principles of art into your composition: unity with variety, emphasis and focal point, scale and proportion, and rhythm.
  2. Collect collage materials
    1. What type of materials and processes were used by the collage artists that you research? Can you apply the same methods?
    2. Consider how the materials and processes you will use will bring greater meaning (content) to your composition.
    3. Look around your environment and collect materials that lend themselves to collage work — typically flat materials: magazines, wrapping paper, paper sacks, tissue, newspapers — basically, anything you can stick down with glue! You can also search for images online and print them.
    4. Tear and/or cut materials to begin composing your picture. Move the materials around. Try different groupings and materials, You can also incorporate painting and drawing into your collage.
    5. Note: If your camera skills are at the intermediate level, you can use one of the Art department’s cameras to collect original images. You will need to complete a camera certification workshop before using one of the cameras. Coordinate with your instructor.


To receive your grade:

After critique, and if you have not been instructed to do more work on your project, photograph your work and upload it to this assignment on Canvas. The instructor is available to help you (if you need it) in photography and uploading your work. You can use the computer lab in Goodnow as well. If there is no critique, you will need to write an essay of at least 80 words in which you use the art/design vocabulary associated with this project.

Refer to the grading rubric (below) as to how your project will be scored.

Additional quizzes, discussions, and research projects may apply.

Grading Rubric

CRAFTSMANSHIP – 25 PTS.The finished project reflects good craftsmanship: cut edges are clean and straight (if applicable); glue isn’t showing; the project is clean and wrinkle-free; photos of the project are well-done and accurately reflect the project and process.
The student has maintained a clean, organized studio space.
APPLICATION OF CONCEPTS – 25 pts.Project reflects application of concepts presented in chapter readings and during presentations, i.e., unity with variety, scale and proportion, emphasis and focal point, and rhythm.
INNOVATION IN PROCESS AND MATERIALS – 25 pts.The finished project is the result of rigorous experimentation and iteration resulting in a unique and creative solution that employs a diversity of materials and media.
RESEARCH AND DEEP THINKING – 25 PTS.The finished project is based in a thorough research process where the student has studied the work of other artists and has experimented with a variety of media before addressing a final solution.

Student Examples

Krystal Bently, 2020. Acrylic, cut magazine paper, spray paint on canvas.

Terrell Williams, 2019. Graphite, color pencil, cut magazine paper on paper.

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