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FrankenCollages + FrankenSculptures


School of Visual Art & Design, University of South Carolina



Course Level

3D Design, Beginning to Upper-level Sculpture, and could, certainly, be used in 2D courses, too.

Previously used in face-to-face classes, adaptable for hybrid or fully online.


Conversation points for instructors

This exercise helps students become more playful and familiar with abstraction. It often precedes projects like Floppy/Sturdy or Structure/Skin, so I ask students to do image research on found and observed structures. They, then, create hybrid forms using photocopies of their research. Students physically cut up and move parts around. They try out different configurations, and build new forms.


A million examples exist for how to create abstract collages. This one happens to be my version.

It draws from:


And, since I mentioned the Floppy / Sturdy and Structure / Skins Projects, here's a rabbit hole for you:

(Sanjit Sethi. 4.322 Introduction to Sculpture. Fall 2003. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.)



Project Prompt / Challenge

This exercise introduces students to abstracting found structures into hybrid forms using photo collage.



Part 1:

Find 10 images of real world examples of structures (biological orarchitectural) you find interesting. Wandering around out in the world to find your own examples is strongly encouraged, but book and online research is also acceptable.

  • Please print images 1/2 page or larger. 

  • (If the class is doing this online- upload images to designated communal location.)


  • In person: At the beginning of class, your professor collects all images and makes several copies of each.

  • Online / In person: Students choose a variety of images from all collected.



Part 2:

Create at least 3 different collages using the research images. Cut up and rearrange the parts into things you have never seen before.

  • You may choose to: Manipulate / Alter / Adjust / Duplicate / Multiply / Make Better / Make Worse / Duplicate / Multiply / Deconstruct or Reconstruct any part of the found images you use.

  • You may also try combining whole parts, structures, or forms.



Part 3 (optional for 2D courses):

Create 3 small-scale sculptures (maquettes/models) that are interpretations / hybrids of your FrankenCollages.


Collages: found and printed or photocopied images, magazines, books, photographs, any visual research students find, paper, scissors, glue sticks, rubber cement

If building models from the collages:

Suggested materials: Wire, toothpicks, skewers, or wood-related material of your choosing (please, no more beloved craft sticks, unless they no longer look like craft sticks in the end...I've stopped using them), hot glue, hot glue gun, long-nose pliers (2 pairs per person). Many other materials also have serious(ly entertaining) sculpture potential- use what you can find.


Students collect images as homework and bring printed images to the next in-person class. Or, they may upload images to share (online).

The 2D collages often take them at least 1.5 hours. When students finish those, they are encouraged to start building the 3D interpretations of their 2D collages.

3 collages and at least 1 three-dimensional model (sometimes 3) are due at the beginning of next class.


Student Examples:



The artists I share depend on what project they will be doing next. Often, I don't give students any at this point, so they may quickly play around with their found images. But, giving them history, context, and contemporary references isn't a bad idea, either. I wouldn't mind teaching an entire semester framed around collage...


Another rabbit hole... want to join?

Additional Tips:

This exercise could be used in all sorts of ways, depending on the theme of the project and the material parameters. Sometimes, I set up the image research as a scavenger hunt and ask them to go for a walk, look around, and make their own photos of structures they find out in the world.

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