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Romare Bearden – American Artist – Part 2

Romare Bearden art lesson

Welcome back to another free online art lesson from the Golden Road Arts studio in Hillsboro. Last time we were here we talked about Romare Bearden and his inventive approach to creating collages.

Romare Bearden Curriculum

If you missed Part 1 in the series, you may want to watch that first.

In Part 2 of the series, we are looking at how Romare Bearden planned and completed his vivid artworks.

The Life and Art of American Collage Artist Romare Bearden Video

Learn about Romare Bearden and his creative approach to collage art. Follow along with Barbara as she shows how you can create your own collages.

Materials Needed for Romare Bearden Art Lesson 2

  • Wax paper
  • Old magazines
  • Astrobrite or construction paper
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil, markers and/or paints

Create a Collage in the Style of American Artist Romare Bearden

Follow along with the transcript below as Barbara talks about the life of Romare Bearden and how to create his signature collage art style.

So, the first thing what we want to do in making our collage is we want to talk about How we would do it? So, we’re going to kind of plan it a little bit. I don’t know where you will be looking at this video, but I live in Hillsboro, Oregon. Now, Hillsboro, Oregon is kind of between Portland, Oregon and the Oregon coast, and we have a great view when we drive over the hill, and we come into Portland. We have a great view of Mount Hood and so I’m going to do Mount Hood as I plan that out as my drawing that I’m going to do.

So, I’m going to say OK – Here’s Mount Hood. And on this side of Mount Hood, there’s kind of a bump. That goes like that. And then there’s a lot of trees. All around because you know, it’s the forest by the mountains. So, I’m going to do some trees. And then there’s a hills, of course, going up to the mountain. More trees. And then the city is here, and so often times we can see the city. And sometimes the sun is beautiful, and it just looks so great and other times fog, not so much because we live where there’s a lot of rain, and so, we have some clouds in the sky. And then because we’re coming over the hill and we’re looking down on the city sometimes there’s a lot of bushes in front of us, so we’re seeing the bushes, the bushes, then the city, then more hills, trees and the mountain. So that’s how we’re going to do our collage.

And so, I started it here already. And one of the things that Romare Bearden did in his work, which was pretty interesting – I’m going to put that here where I can see what I’m doing – One of the things that he did was that he would use a background color and he would put this color on the back of his work, and he would leave little bits of this color showing through the trees and through everything. So, it sort of tied everything together because you would be able to see the background.

So, we’re going to do this with – I guess we should start with the mountain now, that’s probably the most important thing. I’ve already cut some of this out, so that I don’t have to spend all my time cutting here while we’re doing this. So, we’ll start with the mountain first. Because the mountain is probably the most important thing. So, if you were going to do something like this in this city where you lived, would you do the mountain? Would you start with the mountain? What would be the thing that you would start with? I guess it would depend on where you lived.

So, we’re going to use a glue stick and I really like glue sticks because – here, I’ll do it over here, so I don’t get glue on my paper – I Iike glue sticks because they are pretty fast. They’re not too messy. If you have liquid glue, it’s pretty messy. So, I’m just going to make some strips like this. So, when you do your collage, you can do it any way you want. If you do something like this, you’ll probably get something that looks like mine. But if you do yours differently, you’ll get something different.

So, I’ve got these strips I’ve cut here and these I think are going to be the clouds. You know, we live in a city that has a lot of rain, and so, we have a lot of clouds because we have a lot of rain. So, I started to cut these clouds out, and then I thought “these clouds are looking a lot like birds here.” But I guess clouds can look – you know, have you ever laid on the ground on your back and looked up at the sky and looked at the clouds? They can look like a lot of different things. It’s a lot of fun to do that in the summer, to lay on the grass and look up at the clouds and see things in the clouds. You know – we can actually put that over the mountain a little bit, I guess. One of our friends, our mascot, Artey – he’s a rascal, that Artey – and he likes to do this kind of thing, laying on his back looking up at the clouds. That would be something that he would certainly like to do. OK, so now, I’ve got some on my clouds here.

Now, I want to make sure this is glued down, so I’ve got my piece of wax paper here because stuff doesn’t stick to wax paper, and I’m going to just use a roller. And I hadn’t really thought about using a brayer like this to do this, but I was watching a video about Romare Bearden on the Internet on YouTube and so, as he glued things down, he used a roller and he just rolled them down and I thought, well, that was such a good idea. You know to make them really flat.

So, as we work here, let’s see – I suppose we should do our hills next. Our hills that are back here like this or maybe like this? Then we can put our trees in.

So, I want to talk a little more about Romare’s life. One of the things that he did when he was a young man – he was in the army during the Second World War. He joined it in 1942, probably was drafted like so many young people were drafted in 1942, and then he was in the army until 1945 when the war was over. And he belonged to a regiment that was all made up, made up of all black people, and at the time that was what they did. They took everybody that was black, and they put them all together in a regiment and I’m not sure why they did that. They must have had some reason. Now, of course everybody is together, they don’t separate people in one regiment from another in the service, but at that time they did. We got our trees here. Oops, my glue’s coming apart here.

So, when he came out of the service, he didn’t know what he was going to do. He never finished medical school. He was so interested in art, and he thought, “You know, he thought maybe I’ll just work at being an artist,” but he had to have a job because you know you can’t just start out as a young person and make a whole lot of money as an artist right away. It takes a long time to get people to know your work, and like it, and to buy it, so that you can make a living. And so, he went to work for the City of New York as a social worker.

Now that seems kind of an interesting thing for somebody to do, doesn’t it? But he had a background in medicine, and so he had the credentials to do it. And a lot of the people that he talked with and helped were what we call the Roma. Now the Roma are gypsies, and they came from Europe, and immigrated to the United States like so many people. And because the United States is a big melting pot of people from everywhere. And so, he could see the Roma were an interesting group. They had their own policemen, and they had their own judges, and they had a very complicated, intricate society. And he could see that when they immigrated to the United States, that they were losing their culture. And he felt it was very similar to what was happening to the black people when they moved from the South to the north. He felt that they were losing that contact with their families and they were losing a lot of what made them who they were, and so he was very sympathetic to the Roma people. And I’m sure it made him a very good case worker for the city of New York.

I’m going to put a few trees on this side. So, when you do your collage, that’s going to look like something that Romare Bearden might have done, you can think about where you put things, what you want it to look like, and you can plan it out ahead of time. Or you can just make it up as you go along.

I think that in Romare Bearden’s studio, he planned it a little bit and then I think he made it up as he went along. Kind of the way I’m doing right here. I saw a video of work that I’ve worked that he had done. He had an assistant when he was older, and this assistant would say well “What do you think about this? Should we do it this way?” And Romare would say, “Oh no, let’s do it that way” and they would move things around and do it a different way. So, I think there’s a lot of back and forth when you’re doing artwork of what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and what you can do to make it work better.

I think I need another tree. Where’s my green. I don’t know where’s the green. So, this paper that I’m using is called Astrobrite paper, this really bright paper and I bought it at Office Depot – it was about $20 for this package of – how many sheets are in there? There are probably about 50 sheets of paper. But I looked online and there are places that you can buy it cheaper. And sometimes Office Depot will have it on sale, so I’m big at getting things on sale. Yeah, so this bright paper, I really like it because the colors are so vivid, but it’s expensive and I think you can certainly do just as well with construction paper and with pieces that you get out of magazines.

So, one of the things I want to do here is –  I was very inspired by Romare Bearden’s city – and so I wanted to do some city here because we have a really a beautiful city, and so I’m going to do some pieces that might be houses. Might be some kind of buildings. So, you can see I’m putting the glue on. I’ve got some little buildings that I’ve cut here, and I’ve cut these out of some catalogs, so,  what I’m using as buildings, they were actually pieces of shirts and bathing suits and all kinds of things? So, we’re just going to pretend they’re buildings here on our street.

So, remember, we’re looking down on this. We’re up on the hill, and we’re looking down at the city and then across to the mountain. That looks like a piece of a shirt, doesn’t it? Our city could have all kinds of interesting buildings in it. And the good thing about it being your artwork is you can make it any way you want. It doesn’t have to be like mine. You could make it like mine, but it would probably be more fun to make it like your own. You could cut out all these buildings.

I guess that really a Big dark building – Oh, I think I put the glue on the wrong side of that building. I just won’t use that one. Not paying attention here. It’s always fun when the teacher makes a mistake, isn’t it?

There’s a building. I had somewhere –there’s another house. I thought I had another house. So, if you lived in a city like this, what do you think houses would look like in your city? Let’s get a real tall building in here. Sometimes if you live out in the country – you don’t have any tall buildings. So, we’re just making our buildings up as we go along here. OK, so let’s just put that here. OK, so now we’re going to take our wax paper again and we’re going to roll this down because we want it to stick really well. So, I think that might help it stick.

OK, so now we got our buildings, but in front of it was plants and so I found in one of the books that I had, there was all these pictures of gardens and I thought wow those would be great for this. So, I’ve cut out some gardens.

And so, in this video that I saw of Romeo Bearden, he had he was working with his assistant, and they were gluing down things and then he would say, oh, you know, I don’t. I don’t like that that that’s not working really well for me. And so, then they would peel it off and then they would get another piece and glue it down and they just would go back and forth with that. Peeling things off and sticking them down and peeling them off and sticking them down. And finally, they would get something that Romero said “Oh yeah, I like that. That’s looking real good.”

Oh, that’s covering up a little bit of our city, but you know when you’re up on the hill and you’re looking down, you don’t see really the bottom of that building, you just see the trees and shrubs that are right in front of you. So, you’re not really seeing the buildings on the bottom of them. Here’s some more greenery. Here was a little plant, I found that I thought was kind of pretty. It’s kind of – I don’t know what kind of a plant it is, but it’s got flowers on it. I thought that would be kind of nice here. OK, so we got our flowers.

So, now you can see we’ve made our collage that looks a lot like – oh, you know one of the things I had was a little snow, and I didn’t put it on the mountain. But maybe since I put the clouds on it, well, we could use this color, though maybe this would work. Does that look like snow? It doesn’t look like snow does it – it’s kind of the wrong color. Or maybe it could look like a hill. We’ll put it down there and make it look like a hill. So, I guess I could have put snow on the mountain. We have snow on our mountain quite often. So, we’ll just say this is a hill.

So, there we go. So, we have our collage.  It doesn’t look much like Romare Bearden’s collage, but it looks like something that Barbara Mason made. So, when you make a collage, it’ll look like things that you made.

And then I want to talk a little bit more about Romare Bearden’s life. You know it’s kind of hard to talk about somebody’s life where they lived 80 years. And talk about it in a short period of time because people have a lot of things going on in their life and they did a lot of things. One of the things that Romare Bearden did that was kind of surprising is he was a baseball player when he was young. And he was such a good baseball player that he actually got recruited to play on a professional league, but Romare had fairly light colored skin as a black man and the people who recruited him said “well, we want you to play on our professional league, but you’ll have to pretend you’re white.” And Romare didn’t want to do that. He said, “no, no, I’m not white. I don’t want to pretend I’m white. So, I’m not going to play on your Baseball League.” So, because he chose not to do that, I think he put his energy into being an artist. And we’re very lucky that he did that because his art is really, really amazing.

He married a woman that was quite a bit younger than he was. She was 27 and he was in his 40s. And so, about 16 years age difference. And I could think that was really a long time, except that you know that my own husband was 16 years older than me, and we were together 50 years. So that’s a pretty long time. So, age doesn’t have a whole lot to do with whether or not you have a happy marriage.

She was a dancer, and she actually founded a dance school in New York, and they had a second home in a beautiful tropical island and so that influenced some of Romare’s work. And one of the things that they had talked about doing is – when he became famous and he was able to sell his work for a lot of money – he wanted to start a foundation to help young people, and so after he died in 1988 – two years after he died, in 1990 – the Bearden Foundation opened and one of the things they do is they support a lot of talented young artists. They teach them and they encourage them, and they make things a little easier for them. So not only was Romare Bearden a great artist, but he had a great legacy of things that went on after he died.

So, if you live near a big city, you can check your local museum and see if they have a piece of Romare Bearden’s work, and if they don’t, you can certainly just go on the Internet and look at it. We’re going to post some images on the Internet. We’re going to post some drawings of outlines of some of Romare Bearden’s work work where you can fill it in if you want, and we’re also going to show a lot of pieces of things that he did, and we hope that you’ll make a collage after Romare Bearden and that you will actually take a picture of it and send it to us.

We would love to see what you do! So, thanks very much for coming to Golden Road Arts today and learning a little bit about a very famous American artist who just happened to be black, and his name was Romare Bearden.

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