Design Exercise: The Grid and Found Objects

Last week I wrote about the artist Leonardo Drew. During the process of researching him I came across an interview conducted by Desa Beslic of the Denver Museum of Art. Among other things she asked him to talk about a “significant success” or “noteworthy failure.” His response centered around his experience as a resident artist in Brazil where he was involved with the organization Quiet in The Land.

Drew was brought to Brazil to interact with 250 street children, introducing them to the arts. He almost left shortly after his arrival when he found himself housed in a large penthouse. He felt it was inappropriate to be living in such luxury while working with children who had so little. The organization agreed to move him into a house in the surrounding poor community.

Drew’s idea was to introduce the children to art by having them find the value in their own neighborhood. Each child was handed a large plastic garbage bag and told to go and collect found objects. The children discussed why they had selected the particular items they brought back. Using a grid as an underlying structure for a communal artwork, Drew placed a large net on the floor to which the students attached the items they had found. The project was then suspended in a courtyard.

My first reaction when reading about this project was that it would be a great assignment for introducing the design elements and principles of texture, scale and the grid. So, here is a design exercise for you.

To begin I suggest you reread our book Design: A Beginner’s Handbook. Next, begin your collection of found things. These may be totally random or you may decide to employ an organizing theme such as color, size, function, etc. Perhaps you want to have your items represent a particular place or maybe an important memory.

Your next decision will be a technical one. What type of grid structure will be able to support the items? If they are lightweight you could use plastic deer netting, found at hardware and garden supply stores, or even make your own net out of thin thread. Heavier items will require either a thicker net or possibly a grid made from lengths of wood or metal.

Once it’s time to attach the found objects to the net what other type of organizing principles will you use? Will the items be placed any which way or will you create rhythms and shapes through the use of the organizing principle of unity and variety? Is color an important consideration, and if so, how will you use it? How will the size of the individual objects relate to the overall scale of the finished piece?

Consider creating two of these gridded projects, one as described above and the other using a two-dimensional grid combined with drawing or photographic cutouts. The point? To compare the two grid artworks and see how the materials and processes used influence the work. What are their similarities and what are their differences?

We’d love to see what you create. Please take a photo and share it with us on our Facebook page.

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