If you’re done cleaning and are looking for something creative to do with that random drawer of odds and ends I have a couple of suggestions. Making fine art with found objects might feel like a stretch, but keep in mind, there is a way to take it to the next level. The idea is for you to start with what you have - try to really take stock. Sometimes you may have to let go of using a specific item just because it doesn’t fit with what you already have. Remember - volume is key. Feel free to take inspiration from some of these tips and examples!
Look closely at the mosaic-looking paper sculptures made by Lee Kyu Hak. This technique gives an impressive sense of movement that works well with the composition. While Lee uses Styrofoam wrapped in paper, you can opt for a more simple process of shredded paper and craft glue. If you still want a similar effect as Lee’s but don’t have a large amount of styrofoam, try using rolled up paper to add texture.
Lee Kyu-Hak, Monument - Branches with Almond Blossom, 2011. Mixed media on board.
John Morse offers a less systematic approach that takes advantage of irregular shapes to create dynamic images. To mimic a similar style draw the outline of the image lightly with a pencil on the canvas or paper. Cut irregular shape in different colors and lay them down carefully, staying in the lines. Glue the pieces down once you have decided on a placement.
John Morse, Angel Hair Flag, Original Found Paper Collage
Consider cutting the same pattern and color using Paul Villinski’s work as an example. You can cover more room with multiple copies of small figures while creating a large statement piece. An alternative to Paul’s choice of aluminum cans is to get a hole puncher of an interesting shape used on construction paper. If not on a wall, you can mount the piece on some plywood or a large canvas.
Paul Villinski, Return (Paradigm exhibition), 2014. Aluminum (found cans), wire, Flashe.
Don’t discard a sculpture from your possibilities. Will Kurtz’s life-size newspaper sculptures are an ode to the versatility of newspapers. If not a person-sized paper mache sculpture, then why not something smaller. Don’t forget to build some sort of skeleton or frame. Aluminum foil, wire, and cardboard can be used. Allot for space to make a mess and plenty of drying time.
Will Kurtz, Brighton Beach Bench, 2012. Wood, wire, cardboard, newspaper, matte, wigs, jewelry.
Rondle Royce West’s sculptures are expansions of what can be accomplished in terms of composition and creativity. It’s key to ground your work - build it on a shelf, table, or even one larger item and lots of small ones. For the monochromatic look make sure to prime the piece after it’s been glued and be mindful of how you glue. Automotive spray paint is cheap, fast, and dries beautifully.
Rondle West, X-Ray and Tights, What a Great Combination. Found objects sculpture.
Joseph Cornell explores the possibilities of found objects through assemblage art. If you don’t have the room or resources for something large, try an item you already have. Make use of a mirror, drawer, or a well-reinforced box. Use foam core to form layers that give the illusion of depth and to attach larger objects. For a cleaner look try a canvas or some sturdy cardboard.
Sculpture made from: Glass-paned wooden box with brass handles, taxidermy parrot, music box parts, dried and varnished leaves, mirror, cardboard, colored and printed papers, wooden branch, metallic stickers, wood, paint, and string
A perfect example of wearable art is Jeremy Scott's skirt from his 2016 Fall collection. Embellish with your found objects. Make sure that the article of clothing has a fabric that works well with the project and also make sure to choose light objects that are easy to attach. If you’re looking to rid yourself of a few spare board game pieces or happy meal toys, this can be a great option.
Jeremy Scott, Skirt, 2016. Found objects on skirt.
Since you could be working with items that might not pair well visually make sure to use color to your advantage. Jane Perkins establishes clear lines by staying faithful to the shape and color pallet. Buttons, jewelry, and smaller items help with the effect. If you have left over beads of any kind you can either glue them individually or string them up and use them to create patterns (like hair).
Jane Perkins, Frida Kahlo, 2016. Found objects.
Next, we turn to Sheila Hicks. This style lends itself to experimentation through manipulation of textiles. To mimic a similar process work with a large piece of fabric - a shirt or pillow case can work and bring a focus on how you handle the change in color and texture. Consider the constructional aspect of the piece as well - architecture holds a strong presence within Hick’s work.
Use anything from plastic spoons to toy cars to puzzles that have missing pieces. Whether it’s for environmental reasons or because you’re being thrifty, don’t get discouraged when using found objects!
Sheila Hicks with work.
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