The Beauty of Irony, Contrast, and Collage

A friend of mine was at an airport in Thailand, preparing to board his flight home to Bali. Relaxed from his vacation, he had a thought: Nothing bad ever seems to happen to me. He was grateful. But moments later he reached for his wallet, only to find it missing.

The irony! The angst! Long story short, he soon found his wallet in a deep pocket of the new pants he was wearing. This is a tale of contrast. We’re at peace, we’re stressed. Things are good, things are bad. This is life.

And, this is art. Mixed-media artist Laura Lein-Svencner, who’s featured in the book The Art of Expressive Collage: Techniques for Creating with Paper and Glue, explains how a contrast of emotions and experiences weaves itself into her work.

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Hanging by a Thread (paper, thread, acrylic, mixed media) by Laura Lein-Svencner

“I like to challenge my abilities by limiting how many collage papers I use,” says Laura. “In this case (above) I chose one piece of paper that I’ve used to create a variety of colors and visual textures. The paper I started with was brown packing paper from a shipment of art supplies; applying some acrylic paints to the surface starts the process. I arrange the paper by thinking about contrast, working with the straight and torn jagged edges which, like our lives, have smooth and rough spots. I arrange the paper starting from an emotional state to self-express through an abstract composition, working with size, color and value.

“Being aware that I have only this one piece of paper, I push myself to try something different, like folding over the paper and exposing the backside. Intuitively I listen and add the black thread; at that moment the collage takes on a direction all its own. Simply adding a hand-sewn stitch and making a spontaneous choice to leave the thread hanging in some areas made me realize I had been thinking of those around me who struggle through life. Not realizing I had been carrying these thoughts. I asked myself, What is it that gets us through times like these, where you are barely hanging by a thread? For me, it’s hope.”

Crystal’s step-by-step demo
on how to make your own marbled paper

Indeed, hope can get us far–it can help calm us when we lose our wallet, or push us toward finishing a piece of art that we’ve created to express the contrasts we experience daily. The Art of Expressive Collage by Crystal Neubauer is a book that can help you express yourself, successfully and with confidence. To give you a taste, I’ve included a 5-step demo below, where you can learn how to create your own marbled papers to be used as collage elements.

If you want even more collage techniques, I encourage you to join Crystal in Mary Beth Shaw’s Mixed Media Book Club. It’s an hour-long web session in which you can listen to Crystal and Mary Beth discuss all things collage, and then ask questions during a Q&A session.

Wishing you all the best,

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DIY Paper Marbling: An Exercise by Crystal Neubauer

Paper marbling is an art form in itself. Many antique books have beautiful marbled endpapers that are excellent accents to use in a collage. This short exercise is only meant to give a small overview of the technique.

Choose a variety of papers and pages to experiment with. I’ve found some papers take marbling really well and hold the pattern, and some simply run all over the place. One of my favorite papers to use is old blueprints.

Step 1. Pour a small amount of each color of ink into a different well in your palette.

Step 2. Starting with two small paintbrushes, dip each one into a different color of ink. Lightly touch one of the brushes to the surface of the water, creating a small circle of ink. Touch the second brush to the surface of the water inside the first circle of ink.

Step 3. Continue to alternate, loading more ink onto each brush as necessary. This will create an effect similar to the rings of a tree. Using the handle of one of the brushes, lightly swish through the water to move the ink across the surface in an interesting pattern.

Step 4. Now lay a sheet of paper on top of the surface.

Step 5. Lift the paper out of the water. The pattern of the ink should have transferred to the page. Set aside to dry. (Excerpted from The Art of Expressive Collage: Techniques for Creating with Paper and Glue)



Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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