Parking Lot Project: Mixed Media Collage inspired by Lorna Simpson

ColorWheels’ Parking Lot Projects are designed to bring creative experiences to you when can’t visit ColorWheels at its favorite spots around Philadelphia. The projects are designed for families and artists of all ages and can be completed with minimal art supplies and easily obtained objects. This project was designed by ColorWheels teaching artist Amira Barnes. When you’re done, don’t forget to take a picture of your work and share your work online with #colorwheelsparkinglot! ColorWheels is presented by PNC Arts Alive.

Lorna Simpson is an African American photographer and multimedia artist. In one of her collage series, she magnifies the beauty of black women’s hair by transforming them into fluid, colorful watercolor paintings. Lorna took images of black women from Ebony and Jet magazines, cut their polished hairstyles, and replaced them with freeform ink and watercolor swirls.

Getting Started
As you dive into this project, take a few moments to explore Lorna’s work and ask yourself the following questions. We’ve included Amira’s thoughts to help get you started.

What does your hair mean to you?
The way you do your hair is a form of self-expression. Like most black girls, I didn’t always have the best relationship with my hair. But once I got older, I realized it was my duty to love every part of myself, including my hair.

Can you think of any positive memories involving your hair?
One of my fondest hair memories is when I dyed my hair for the first time. My mom wouldn’t let me dye my hair until I was responsible enough to take care of it on my own. Once I was allowed to, there was no stopping me. Since then, my hair has been an array of colors, and I have loved every one.


Instructions and Materials

Using materials such as salt, rubbing alcohol, and a straw, you will learn how to manipulate watercolor. You’ll also learn the wet on wet technique to create fluidity in your piece. You’ll need:

    Watercolor paints (you can also markers or crayons)
    Watercolor paper (you can also use any paper or a piece of cardboard)
    Paint brush (you can also use a toothbrush, cottons swabs, or your fingers)
    Cup of water
    Photocopy of a favorite picture of yourself, loved one, or a magazine image of a person
    Rubbing alcohol (optional)
    Straws (optional)
    Salt (optional)

Building Your Artistic Vocabulary

    Watercolor: watercolor is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork.
    Self-expression: the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.
    Wet on wet technique: a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint.

Step one: find a favorite picture of yourself, guardian, or loved one (a magazine image could work as well) and give them a trim by cutting out their hair. Glue the image to your watercolor paper.


Step two: take a brush soaked in water and block in your desired hair shape. Using two or three colors, paint them on top of the wet area. If you want to create a crazy style, take your straw and blow the paint in any direction.


Step three: while the paint is still wet, sprinkle salt around the painting to create a galaxy effect. This effect can also be achieved by sprinkling rubbing alcohol on the wet areas.


Step four: once the painting is dry, use a dry brush or your fingers to brush the salt off your panting. Admire your masterpiece!

About the teaching artist:
Amira is a Philadelphia-based painter who works in acrylics and ink. “My primary subject is portraits because I’ve always been drawn to the stories they tell. As I grew as an artist, I steered away from traditional skin colors and took more a colorful route to highlight the vibrancy in each individual I paint,” Amira says of her work. When she is not painting portraits Amira can be found supporting ColorWheels events as a lead teaching artist, inspiring Fleisher’s youth as a faculty member of our Saturday Youth program, and assisting visitors at Fleisher’s front desk.