Collage Art: Healing with Texture and Paint

What a week it has been. As I write this, I am in my home studio and can hear television and social media reports of the manhunt for those responsible for the bombings in Boston. Many years ago I worked in a building just above where the bombs were set off and later I covered the Boston Marathon as a reporter. While I live well west of Boston now, I have family, friends, and coworkers who live in Boston and in the surrounding area. With so many connections and so much unresolved, it's hard to focus right now.

My textured mixed-media collage.

This is not a space for news or politics, but it is a space to talk about art. Art heals and soothes. Art is therapeutic. Art is meditative. So that is why I'm in my studio making collage art.

Inspired by the texture of the burlap I have been working with for the past few weeks, I gathered a canvas board and as many textures as I could lay my hands on, plus paint, regular gel medium, and a box of found objects.

I knew I wanted to make a collage around the theme of healing, love, hope, and peace. Something tactile. Mostly I worked on instinct: what colors soothed me, what textures captured what I was feeling.

The first thing I did was make some hearts with Grafix® Shrink Film. After sanding the film lightly, I colored hearts with pencil and wrote "peace," "love," and "hope" on them with a black Sharpie®.  A few minutes after putting the cut-out hearts in the oven, I had hard, 3-D hearts.

Working off the colors of the hearts, I applied a wash of acrylic paints with a sponge brush. I used Claudine Hellmuth acrylic paints combined with Jacquard® Lumieres. Dabbing off some of the excess paint, I accidentally lifted off some of it to reveal the canvas below, but I liked the effect and kept it.

Now for some texture. I added gridded mudding tape (used for drywall-got it from hubby) with gel medium and cut a strip of burlap to put on top of it. Then I tore some pieces of old text and applied that with gel medium, too.

three hearts collage art cate prato

I wanted to put my hearts over the burlap strip, but then what would go on the other half of the collage? (Full disclosure: the hearts came out smaller than I thought.) I decided to use a piece of dried, crumpled, paint-stained paper towel as an embellishment, but when I opened it, out fell dry eggshells I'd saved from Easter. Hmmmm. The broken eggshells and the hearts seemed to want to be together, so I stuck them down with gel medium.

From there, things seemed to fall into place: the embroidered piece of denim, the buttons,and  the rusty keyhole all added to my sense of feeling frayed and staying behind closed doors, but also being open to hope and the beauty in life.

I think the tactile elements in my mixed-media collage helped me to convey more feeling than 2-D media could, at least in this case. And I feel so much better.

There are many ways to add texture to your collage projects; I adapted some of the ones I used here from Sue Pelletier's techniques in her Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video Textures for Collage, Build 'Em Up.

P.S. Does art help you heal? What kind of art techniques or activities most soothe you? Leave a comment below.

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Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques

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