To begin the project, students collectively create collage backgrounds to provide the underlayer for the mixed media project. Each student begins a collage and then passes it on to another student after 10 minutes. The passing and collaging continues until all the surfaces are covered with images or found text.

Each student is then dealt one of the collectively created grounds. That becomes the individual background or bottom layer. Students are also dealt one card from a traditional deck (eight of hearts, king of spades, etc.). The assignment is to then create their own unique cards, incorporating images representing facets of their own lives with the chance-derived grounds. suits, and numbers.

Tagboard or railroad board or cardboard
Acrylic medium--matte or glossy
Cups for medium
Magazines (one or two per student)
Oil pastels
Deck of cards
Handouts with example cards
Xeroxed worksheets
Y-me Deck of Cards

Discuss the role of artists in a society. Why do artists sometimes choose to assume social, political, and educational responsibilities?

Show images of Sigler’s artwork from the Breast Cancer Journal series.
Show Y-me deck of cards that she produced with other artists.
Discuss how Sigler’s life effected her art and how her role as an artist effected how she responded to her cancer.

Students complete a worksheet with such questions as “What things in your life create obstacles to success?” and “What are some risks you have taken in your life that you felt have paid off?” The worksheet (see below) is designed to inspire thoughtful consideration about how the card can be seen as a metaphor for much of our lives. While we have a great deal of autonomy concerning how we respond to life’s real difficulties and challenges, there are many things over which we have little or no control.
Questionnaires make a good homework assignment that can then be followed up with a class discussion.

Each student has scissors, acrylic medium, and magazines. While listening to music, students cut out images they like for their color, content, texture, text, or whatever. Pictures may be cut out closely to the edges of images or may take whatever shape the student desires. Encourage students to vary the cutouts--for example, small and large, geometric or organic shapes.

Adhere cutouts to the tagboard using the acrylic medium. Eventually the entire surface will be covered with medium so it isn’t a problem if some medium gets on the surface of the images at this time. The images should touch and may overlap. Starting at the corners and edges works the best. Each student should spend approximately 10 minutes adhering magazine cutouts to a piece.

After 10 minutes the teacher stops the music mid-song and switches the style of music. At this time students will switch to working on a different background collage, each passing his or her card to the right. This switching will continue until each background in completed. This will take 1 to 2 days of class time.

If anyone is absent, make sure extras are made. If some students work quickly and some cards are finished early, ask the students to start the extras for those who are absent.

After completing the collage backgrounds, coat the entire piece with acrylic medium. Try to create a texture with the brushstrokes on the surface. Allow the cards to dry overnight. Make sure brushes are rinsed well or they will become hard and worthless.

Note to the instructor: Make the size of the backgrounds 13 by 22 inches, 4 inches longer than the final project will be. After the boards are dry, cut off the extra 4 inches so that the final cards are 13 by 18 inches. The 4 by 13-inch cut off pieces can be used for practicing layering oil pastels onto the collage.

Deal each student a card from a full deck. The card that is dealt to the student will be his or her assigned number and suit. Also, for inspiration distribute xeroxes of examples of unusual artistic cards such as Sigler’s Y-me Deck that Sigler or cards depicted in The Playful Eye by Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding.
Y-me Cards available from Y-Me at 312-986-8338.

The Playful Eye at

Encourage the students to use feelings and ideas from their Artist Questionnaire to create their images and symbols for the card. Hints: remember the emotional effectiveness of Sigler’s naive style. Keep the imagery fairly simple because of the difficulty of manipulating oil pastels in intricate shapes and because the background/under layer is so busy with the collaged images.

Distribute one background to each student for his or her card and one practice strip. In order to affirm the conceptual meaning of the project—that life is not a tabula rasa, but rather an interaction between givens and choices—it is important that the distribution of backgrounds be done randomly. If the background is too busy to ignore, students might find it useful to draw their design on newsprint, tracing paper, or other scratch paper and then transfer the contours of their image onto the background with homemade graphite or oil pastel “carbon paper.”

Students should figure out where they want areas of exposed collage, translucent areas where the oil pastels partially expose the underlayer of the collage, or areas completely masked by the pastels in thick layers. Demonstrate that areas covered with pastel can be exposed by scraping and scratching away the pastels. Strive for unity in color scheme, contrast, and strong composition. Be open to unexpected layering and juxtapositions.

When the drawing is finished, use a template to trace rounded corners onto the cardboards and cut off the corners of the cardboards to make them look more like real playing cards.

Each student should write an artist statement to accompany the card. Ask students to reflect on the relationships between chance and personal agency in their lives.

Click here to print out Process Plans for the Life’s Deal project.

Click here to print out Artist Questionnaire for Life’s Deal project.

Click here to print out Artist Statement for Life’s Deal project.