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The Art of Collage

September 20, 2009

collageHave you ever collaged? If not, I suggest you try it! Collage is a great, pressure-free way to explore and experiment. Free of the “high-art” connotations of painting and the technical pressures of drawing, collage is the perfect way to let loose!

I got into collage in my third year of art school. We were doing an independent project and I had decided to work in a sketchbook. My plan was to draw sketches from life that would later lend themselves to more developed drawings.

To my surprise, I found my drawings becoming more expressive and abstract. I began bluing little bits of paper onto the pages and everything took off from there. The collages seemed to take on a life of their own!






What I ended up handing in at the end of the project wasn’t several large scale drawings as I’d planned. I handed in my entire sketchbook, which had become more like a journal, probably the most honest journal I’d ever kept.

I’ve been hooked on collage ever since. You might even say that some of my paintings are a form of collage!

The most attractive aspect of collage for me is the total lack of expectation and pressure. Painting and drawing are so bogged down in art historical context that it can be difficult to shake the pressure to create an art piece. That expectation can be like a weight pressing down, smothering your creativity and expression.

Collage can free you from these expectations and let you express yourself in new ways!


How to Collage

Well, there really are no rules!

All you need is some paper or different colours, patterns or textures, and some glue. A glue stick works best, or rubber cement. Start tearing up and gluing bits of paper down. Try to work quickly and intuitively, responding to your work instead of starting with an idea of what you want to create.

I usually start by gluing down bits of paper randomly. As more paper is added, I become more elective and try to find where each piece fits. If I can’t find the right place for a certain piece of paper, I leave it and try a different one.

To start with, you might find it helpful to limit yourself to certain colours. The majority of my collages are done in black, white, gray and orange. This helps keep me focused and creates a sense of harmony in something that could otherwise become very chaotic.


Reductive Collage

Don’t forget that collage isn’t just adding paper, it can also be taking it away!

This is the fun part!

Try tearing up stuff that you’ve already glued down. Move it around, glue it somewhere else. Collage should be a fluid process of give and take, add and reduce. If something doesn’t feel right, tear it off or cover it with something else.


Adding Other Media

Once you feel you’re finished with the gluing part, consider reworking your collage with other media. You could use ink and water, charcoal, pastels or anything else you have lying around.

Drawing into your collage is a good way to finalize things. You can add depth, create a focus and integrate the bits of paper with each other. You may also find that you move things around during this process too!


What to Collage

You can collage basically anything! Get creative! I’ve used photocopies of old journal entries, old doodles and drawings, pieces of paper that I’ve written my name on, interesting articles printed off the internet…

You could also collage with anything lying around your house: magazines, newspapers, junk mail, old bills, packaging and wrappers. Anything goes! Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment!


From → Art General

  1. I love to collage and you are right about the freeing aspects of it. I love your idea of using a sketchbook to collage and how it becomes an honest journal. That makes a lot of sense and you have given me an idea I have been kind of turning around in my head, but I have not been sure how to get it all worked through. This is a perfect beginning for that.

    Your tutorials are so clear and wonderful. I know they take a long time, but you sure do have a wonderful thing going here.

    Thanks so much!

  2. I too love to collage. I sometimes just need that freeing aspect you spoke of. For me it’s like a break from the more serious and detailed work of drawing or painting that I do. I now keep a art journal and love to let loose in it often. And again I so hope you eventually do some video demonstrations of your lessons. I would be watching them often. Thanks for doing this site, it is a very needed resource for all of us..

    • Hi Kelley! Thanks for your comments! It’s great to have such positive feedback! Video tutorials are something I’ve considered for the future as the site grows. It’s good to know that you’re interested, I’ll have to keep it in mind!

  3. Hi Miranda, your tutorials are most inspiring, and the one here about collage comes just when I needed to get away from something (a commissioned portrait which frightens me a lot:) I am preparing here, into something else, something which would free my mind, and I can still stay with the subject. Perhaps tear a photocopy of the face up in many bits and play with it, why not. Your wonderful tutorial reminds me to go and experiment a bit with collage in order to get into this place where we don’t jugde anymore what we are doing…
    Have a wonderful day,

    • Andrea, I hope you tried collaging with your portrait image! It might help you loosen up a little. Commissions can be scary, it’s so different doing work for someone else than it is just for yourself! Best of luck!

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