Collage (pronounced ko-lahj’) simply means pasting or gluing papers or objects onto a surface. Its name is derived from the French word coller, meaning “to paste” and was first used as a fine art medium in the early 1900’s.
When we think of collage today, we might think of the beautiful picture books from our childhood, like Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar where he links learning with beautiful collage illustrations.
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In our adult life, however, we can use collage to stretch our art to another level and join Braque, Matisse, and Picasso to produce unique pieces of art. Originality comes from using our own photos and hand-painting personal pieces of paper to create our own, individual style.
So today, instead of letting your acrylic painting be the finished product, consider using it as the foundation for a mixed media/torn paper collage (like my Texas longhorn collage shown above).
Here’s my collage process
1. Choose a support, canvas or board. The longhorn collage is on a 16“ x 20” piece of MDF board that you can find at any local hardware store. Amersand gessobord could be used also.
2. Attach a map of your choice for a background using a liquid or gel medium and let it dry. Any other image or graphic would work too, or you could paint a background instead.
3. Draw on the design of your choice in a dark pen. Create basic shapes, movement, and composition.
4. Loosely paint over the top of your design to get an idea of values and where the basic collage will be placed. Also it’s good to have some analogous color behind the collage if you miss an area.
5. Now for the fun part. . . start hand painting some papers, or use found papers to correspond to your painted foundation. Found papers might include magazine pages, vintage stamps, song books, old book pages, children’s story books or other paper ephemera such as ticket stubs or an individual’s handwriting.
I like to hide hidden messages in my collage paintings. In the longhorn collage, I used the words “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” cut from some sheet music. You can also use rubber stamps to stamp on the paper and decorate with multiple layers of acrylic paint (tube, folk craft paints, or liquid acrylic works).
6. Use Liquitex Medium and Varnish or Soft Gel medium to adhere the papers to your painting. Put some liquid medium down on the support with an old brush, place the paper down and then cover it with the medium and continue until the image is covered.
Try both mediums to see which work best for your purposes. The convenience factor of collage is it can be stopped and started again easily.
Collage is also a very forgiving medium. If it doesn’t look good, paste another piece over it. One of my collage instructors, Gerald Brommer says, “You can keep working on it until you can’t pick it up.”
7. When you’re done, let your collage dry and then varnish it with Minwax Polycrylic in a semi-gloss or gloss, or with a Golden UV varnish. After that, just hang and admire!
For more articles and artwork from Nancy Standlee, please visit her art blog.