10 Collage Lessons Learned in 2012

Making collage art seems simple. After all, schoolchildren do it all the time.

mixed media collage art by julie fei-fan balzer
Mixed-media collage art by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.

But, making an original, well-designed piece of collage art takes more than a session of cutting and pasting pictures from an old magazine (though that is a lot of fun and very relaxing). Over the last year I've learned a lot about how to make a collage, which I've shared with you via this blog. By practicing with these lessons, I think my mixed-media collage work has improvedand I hope yours has, too.

To keep the momentum going, I thought I'd review some of the collage art lessons we learned in 2012.

1. Get started. Sometimes, the hardest part of any piece of art, including collage, is just getting started. A list (or jar full) of art prompts can help you find an idea, get out of a rut, or just get something down on paper. Make a list of your favorite prompts and then swap them with those of another artist for fresh ideas.

2. Use the right tools for the job. For most artists, one good craft knife is worth 10 fancy cutting gadgets. White glue will hold most ephemera together just fine. But spending a little more for gel medium, a good set of paintbrushes, or fluid acrylic paints can be worth the splurge in the long run.

3. Use what you have. Along the lines of the tip above, be sure to use what you have on hand before shelling out for new tools and materials. Take stamps. Use found objects around your home (like toilet paper tubes) or cut apart some of your unmounted rubber stamps to create new variations.

4. Consider composition. Once you have gathered ideas and materials for a collage, how are you going to put it together? Make sure your collage has a background, a middle ground, and a foreground, and you're halfway to an artistic composition.

5. Strengthen your composition. Once you have a basic composition, make it stronger with tactics like limiting your color palette, using odd numbers of objects, and layering. Tips like these can help you turn a basic collage into one with a more interesting, unified message.

6. Mind the color wheel. Knowledge of the color wheel can help you make informed decisions about how you use color in collage, creating harmony or tension, a mellifluous mélange, or mud.

7. Face up to proportion. Proportion is a basic design element, but nowhere is it more important than when creating a collaged face. Some of collage expert Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's tips for creating a pleasing face are to make the eyes a little larger than normal and to place the nose and mouth a little closer together than they usually are (think puppies and babies).

Once you've learned the basics, try using mixed-media collage techniques.

8. Start with a textural foundation. Fabric, gel medium with gritty inclusions, and plaster will give your collage substrate a leg up on texture, making a more interesting art piece.

9. Wax on. Encaustic collage techniques bring a new dimension to collage as the paper, fabric, and found objects you include are "glued" together with hot wax and seem to glow from within.

10. Add paint. Paper, glue, and found objects are fine on their own, but paint can bring these elements together, unifying the piece, adding color, or knocking back elements that seem too prominent.

Now that we've reviewed last year's collage art lessons, let's learn something new! I'm happy to introduce the first of the new Art Lessons series  we'll be rolling out this year, Art Lessons: Paint Over Collage by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. In this budget-friendly download, Julie offers tips, techniques, and inspiration for creating a mixed-media portrait project that features mixed-media layering, painting, and portraiture.

Happy New Year!

P.S. What art techniques are you looking forward to learning more about in the New Year? Leave your answers below and we'll explore them together in the coming months.


Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques


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