How to make a Collage

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Collage artists have been repurposing for years.

It was called recycling, before it became trendy, and frugal folks have always been involved in it.

Artists, generally frugal sorts, are recyclers extraordinaire.

Collage is a term derived from the French word for glue. Paper, string, ribbon, photos and other objects are commonly used to embellish paintings. Found objects, items that have a non-artistic use, are also incorporated into a work of art.

Centuries ago, artists used collage in their work, but it began to take a significant place in the art world just after the turn of the 20th century. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques both came up with the phrase to define the new approach of art they were creating as a specific style of modern art.

No Saggy Supports, Please

Anything that will fit on a support without falling off is fair game for the collage artist. The first thing to consider, however, is how much weight is going to be attached to the support.

If paper, threads, beads, photos and very small objects will be used in a piece, standard canvas or paper may be considered as the support for the work. If, on the other hand, the artist plans on adhering large amounts or heavy pieces to his painting, he should use a rigid support. Gessoed Masonite is a practical, sturdy support that can hold considerable weight without flexing. This is important, as movement of the support can weaken the glue holding the assemblage, cracking and dislodging the items.

Composition And Collage

Collage is typically pre-planned, to some degree. The artist has a theme or specific composition in mind, and plans to use found objects or additions to the painting. He will compose his work as he normally does, with the idea that certain elements will be added to specific locations on his painting to add interest and texture, become a focal point, or be the center of interest.

This artist has learned to see the found objects as an integral part of his work. They blend homogeneously with the composition and do not appear as postage stamps stuck on after the fact. It takes time to develop this ability. As the student learns to paint, he becomes comfortable with laying the two-dimensional paint onto a two-dimensional support. However, adding three-dimensional objects to the work without appearing as an afterthought is something experience teaches.

Seemingly random bits are actually planned additions to the piece, whether by design or by the artist’s innate feelings. Composing grows easier as the student practices, and the addition of found objects will become easier as he continues to produce works that include collage.

Start Small And Simply

A student should get comfortable with integrating found objects into a painting. This takes time and repetition to add items in a subtle and understated manner. Perhaps a memory painting, incorporating things from a subject’s life, is an easy way to start.

For example, a still life for friend or family member could contain painted objects, such as favorite childhood toys, favorite flowers, a well-remembered tablecloth or memento. Add to that a photo, an often-quoted saying cut from a book or magazine and a scrap of a favorite shirt. The items can be anything that reminds the receiver of their past, or a specific event in their life. Try various compositions to integrate the pieces in a manner that is natural and keeps the composition flowing.

If the sketches are drawn in full size, the items to be incorporated can be easily moved about to give the artist a true sense of the compositional value of the items. Working in a small size allows the artist to see what his results may be, and ensures that the project is easily completed in a reasonable amount of time.

A Secure Relationship

Adhering items to the painting is something that the artist needs to research and consider before getting out the Elmer’s Glue. Different types of adhesives are used with various materials, and the artist may use multiple types of glue on a painting.

Acrylic medium is a popular choice, and is available in different finishes. This product is easy to use, and makes a good adhesive that is permanent and waterproof. Heavier items may need stronger adhesion, and the acrylic gel medium is suitable for larger, heavier pieces.

Two coats of acrylic medium may be used. The first coat absorbs into porous items such as paper or cloth. After allowing the coat to dry, add a second coat, which further seals the items to the support.

Decoupage medium is also used successfully, if the artist does not have access to acrylic medium. Collage artists use various other products such as glue sticks, spray adhesive and rubber cement.

As with any new product, testing for compatibility and chemical interactions is important. Some products chemically react with the paint, ink or dye in the collage item, and may alter the color or darken it. Other adhesives are water-based and may be susceptible to weakening if exposed to high humidity or moisture. An organic adhesive such as wheat paste could deteriorate if exposed to certain chemicals or conditions. Glue sticks may not have the permanence required for the life expectancy of the artwork.

The main point is to test out the adhesive product being considered to make sure that it will be suitable for the items the artist is planning to use in his work.

Get Creative!

Collage is a fun, creative technique to personalize art in a way that artists of all ages can enjoy. Young artists will enjoy creating unique masterpieces with scissors, paper, magazines and other easy-to-use items. A serious art student will find inventive ways to grow and expand his repertoire of artistic skills.

Collage appeals to everyone, and is a colorful and engaging medium that has limitless possibilities.

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