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Old Becomes New


University of Maryland



Course Level

I have only used this project in my 400 level drawing course because by then students have a large amount of past work to choose from, but this project could also be used in earlier levels, depending on the program.


Conversation points for instructors

Old Becomes New is a project I bring out at the beginning of each semester for my Advanced Drawing class because it is a good project for introducing students to more independent thinking in their artistic creation; ie not having to follow a specific theme or technique, and it makes students reconsider old works as pieces to inspire and build from, rather than as failures. This project requires students to look back and analyze old works; drawings from figure drawing, paintings from beginning painting, even beginning sculpture projects. They are prompted to consider that even when a work doesn’t turn out the way they want, are there still pieces that turned out well and could be used? I know from personal experience I have tossed away way too much paper and other supplies just because the overall outcome was not what I wanted. Now, I look at "failures" as pieces to new puzzles.


This project can be taught in all formats; online, 50/50, F2F, etc.



Project Prompt / Challenge

For Old Becomes New, each of you will develop a new drawing using a foundation of collage elements. These collage elements will be scavenged from older works you created that you feel fell short because although the final result may not have lived up to your expectations, that doesn't mean there aren't elements that did.



Begin by selecting a minimum of three to four older works that you feel "failed" in getting to the final outcome you were striving for. With these pieces selected, you will spend a class period cutting up the works in different ways that allow you to pull out the elements that they feel did make  the mark.


With this catalog of collage pieces, you will then spend time moving, placing and arranging the collage elements around on a 22"x30" substrate. Most students work on paper, but if you want to try another substrate you can discuss this with me. You do not need to use all the collage pieces you have collected or fill the entire picture plane with them. Negative space can be a good thing and collage pieces can always be added on at a later stage.


Once you feel confident in the layout of your collage pieces, attach them to your substrate and then consider what you can draw on top of this to complete the work. You may work realistically or abstractly depending on where the project takes you. There is no specific theme that needs to be met for imagery.


minimum three to four older works

22"x30" substrate; printmaking papers, like Rives BFK are recommended

scissors or x-acto knife

acid-free glue

other drawing materials of the your choice


Roughly 4 weeks or 8 class periods.

Some students work faster, but typically I find that means their piece needs to be pushed further. Very few students feel a work is done before the critique.


Student Examples:



Any artist working in collage,

but specifically Laura Berman's Reconstruction series and Jon Swindler.

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