Create Your Own “Trash Art”

            Art materials are expensive, but luckily old magazines and cardboard are free! This blog post will teach you how to create your own image using materials you most likely have lying around your house. This particular demonstration utilizes magazines but pretty much any piece of trash can be used if you feel like taking on a more challenging project. By using a grid on a cardboard surface, or any flat surface, your can create a pixelated image that becomes more clear the further you step back.

Step One: Choose a Photo

It is important when choosing a photo to consider how it will look when finished, so it is best to pick a photo that has high contrast and large blocks of color with not too many small details. Close up faces tend to work out well.

Photo we chose of Maria

Photo we chose of Maria

Step Two: Pixelate, or Grid Image

Next you want to take that image and overlay a grid on top of it. I would start by making the image black and white, and if needed crop the image so the areas of color are large enough that not too much detail would be lost if the image is pixilated. You can pixelate the image in photo shop, or if you don’t have that program you can easily just make a grid over top the photo with a straight edge and a pencil. It is important that your boxes are consistent in size and that you make them as small as you feel comfortable making them so as to keep as much detail as possible.

Our pixelated image

Our pixelated image

Step Three: Grid Surface

You want to find a nice, flat surface that is about the same proportions as your image. If it is a little off you can either cut the surface or crop the picture, whichever one is easier. You could also draw rectangle with the same proportions of your image on a larger surface if you cannot cut it. You then want to put a grid over this surface that matches the one you put on the photo. If you chose to make the image 10 squares across and 20 down, then the grid you put on the surface needs to be 10 squares across and 20 down as well. It is very important that the grid have the same number of squares or you will end up having an altered version of the image you chose. The best way to make a grid is to find a ruler and measure out on each side of the surface how long the sides of the squares will be. For this project our squares were 1’’ x 1’’ so we put tick marks along the edges that were one inch apart from each other. Next, find a straight edge that is as long or longer than the widest part of your surface and draw a line connecting the tick marks form one side to the other, making sure the line is parallel to the side of the surface.

art4ej3 art4ej4

Step Four: Gather materials

You then want to gather your materials. Try to find objects that are the same size as the squares on the grid you put on the surface, or use materials that can easily be altered, by ripping or cutting to fit in the squares. Old magazines are great but for the more ambitious actual trash can be used. Once you have a good amount of materials, reshape them so that they are size of your grid squares. It is easiest to do this with magazines or papers, and if you are willing it looks very cool to have them ripped instead of cut because the color blocks end up looking more organic and you can really see the work of the human hand in the finished product. If there are large areas of one color might be ok to use bigger pieces. Make them a little bigger than square rather than smaller–aim to be close though.

Step Five: Separate Materials

If you have chosen to do a black and white photo you want to separate your colors into whites, mid-tones, and blacks or dark colors. You do not necessarily have to use grey for the mid-tones; it looks very cool if you use colors that are not too dark or light instead because it adds character to the work. If you choose to do a color photo, then separate the materials by color and be sure to note that dark blue and light blue will create very different visual effects so make sure to have darks and lights of colors in different categories.


Step Six: Label the Grid

In this step you will label your grid with letters to correspond with the colors you are going to glue on. For darks you can use a D, for mid-tones you can use an M and for whites you can use a W. If you want to get more specific you can label some squares as light, or medium/dark if the grey tone is close to the white or black, but not enough to be labeled as such. This isn’t necessary and just having them be mid-tone colors will be fine. You then want to look at your picture, starting in the top left corner, and decide if that square is dark, medium or light. You then label the square on the surface that is in the same place as the one on the picture with a D, M or W. In order not to get lost it is a good idea to go in rows across or down; whichever is shortest will be easier. When you are done, you should have every square on your surface labeled with the color you are going to put on it.


Step Seven: Glue down your material

Since you will be using glue in this step you may want to lay down some newspaper or a towel so you don’t ruin any carpets or tabletops. You are now going to take your materials and paste them down over the squares, making sure that your dark colors go over squares labeled D, mid-tones go over the M, and whites go over the W. Sometimes it can be easier to do large blocks of certain colors at once, but do this only if you feel confident in your grasp of the image and how it should look. It would be best to start by doing one square at a time, one row at a time going left to right or up to down. Make sure the glue you are using dries clear, Elmer’s should work fine and Mod-Podge works great too if you have some. Putting the glue down is easiest to do with a brush, brush the glue on the surface, stick the color on over it, then do a layer of glue on top so as to make sure all the corners are stuck down flat.

art4ej7 art4ej8

Step Eight: Step back

Once you are done gluing, step back and take a look at what you have created! The farther away you are, the more it starts to come into focus!


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