The Commuter Challenge

1 December 2013

The December 2013 Challenge

by CC @ 22:17

Purchase a newspaper this month. This newspaper will provide the raw material for two pieces of visual art.

The first piece is the collage. For this, you can use as much or as little of the newspaper as you choose, but you cannot introduce outside pencil, ink, or any other source of marks or coloring other than what you can gather from the newspaper.

The second piece is the transformation. For this, feel free to color and draw on a newspaper page as much as you wish. However, you cannot include material taken from other pages, nor can you introduce any other source of paper.

The Results

Brian Raiter



Ryan Finholm




  1. Early in the month I bought a Sunday New York Times. The first thing I did was just go through and cut out a bunch of interesting textures and faces. Eventually I found the photo up above; I had been looking for something almost exactly like that to use. After selecting a number of figures to remove, I shuffled through my previously selected textures to find the ones to fit into the holes. Originally I had this grand idea of replacing all of the people in the image with textures. I would layer the replacement image just under the photo as I cut out each figure, thus cutting out a figure-shaped replacement from the lower layer. Alas, this didn’t work at all; newspaper is nowhere near stiff enough for such an idea to work. So I dialled it back to just replacing a handful of people, plus the sky and the arrows in the foreground sign. (Cutting out the sky was the most fun. Like the other figures, it required careful detail work. But unlike the other figures, doing an incomplete cut and tearing the paper slightly improved the appearance, giving a nicely indistinct edging to the clouds of smoke.)

    I never came up with a good idea for the transformation half of the challenge, so I finally gave up and went with the best idea I did have, which was to take an image from an advertisement that was mostly white space and embellish it. If this was forty years ago, the result would have come off as a typical psychedelia poster.

    by Brian — 1 January 2014 @ 03:54

  2. For most of the month I assumed that I would spend most of my time on the collage and then more or less phone in the transformation, but it turns out that I did the opposite. My first thought for the collage was to do a combination collage/origami project: for some reason I’d decided to do a frog pond, with wavy strips of paper for water, lily pad cutouts, and origami frogs. Instead I spent a lot more time than expected on the painting of my dog, and then raced to get the collage done before leaving for a New Year’s Eve party.

    My transformation does not effectively incorporate the newspaper at all; the newspaper ended up just being a surface for the paint. Looking at it now, I fear that the project looks like an odd Gelson’s ad. I started it out using watercolors, which are awful on newsprint. Late in the month I bought a cheap set of acrylic paints, and most of the dog was re-done with those. When I switched to acrylics I abandoned my attempts to get the backgrounds right – the darker section to the right of the dog was a corner of rug, but I didn’t continue it in the lower right quadrant. I even went back to try to smudge up the section of rug I’d already painted in hopes that it wouldn’t seem so very out of place. I figure it doesn’t matter, since the focus should be on the dog anyway. The actual finished painting is more interesting than the scan, because the brown fur on the dog is actually streaks and swirls of red, green and yellow when you look at it up close. I used to have an irrational aversion to acrylic paints, but not anymore.

    I ran out of time for my frog pond collage idea, so I flipped through the newspaper hoping for alternate inspiration. I noticed lots of stacks of things. For no good reason I cut out every picture of stacked items I could find in that one newspaper (mostly wrapping paper, linens and clothes) and glued them to a sheet of newsprint I’d cut just large enough to fit into my scanner. Ta-da, art. Done. I’m the new Andreas Gursky. While making it, I was thinking how strange it is to advertise something by just showing a two-inch-high cylindrical section of it: “This stack muted colors is actually a selection of beautiful cashmere sweaters that you should come to our store to purchase.” Ridiculous.

    by RyanF — 1 January 2014 @ 22:41