How Do You Collage? Five Ideas to Try

cate pratoWhen did you first learn how to make a collage? Was it in elementary school where you cut pictures out of magazines to concoct a self-portrait? Was it an Earth Day exercise to see how you could repurpose trash into a piece of art? Or maybe a watercolor class where you added dimension with papers or fibers?

found object collage
Found object collages by
Erin Partridge.

I think my first collage was probably one of those magazine-cutting assignments. I wasn’t really aware that there were many different approaches to making a collage other than cutting and gluing paper until I was in college, at least. Imagine my surprise and delight to find out there are so many ways to make a collage, including mixing fabric, paper, and stitch or collaging with wax.

I think I'm drawn to collage because of the variety of textures you can achieve. I find collage to be akin to jazz dance: free-wheeling and go-with-the-flow, whereas painting or drawing is more structured, like ballet. Yes, there are always design principles to follow, but collage gives you more freedom to interpret those principles, in my opinion. Not so many rules.

Plus, I like variety in what I collect and what I do. Just look at some of the ways you can use different kinds of art supplies and found items to create collage art.

Longtime watercolorist Wanda Edwards turned to collage when she wanted to add more depth and texture to her artwork. Now she “paints” with little pieces of torn paper.

paper collage
Torn paper collage by
Wanda Edwards.

I love this tip she offers while demonstrating her Torn Paper Collage technique in the Collage in Color interactive eMag: "Watch how you tear your papers. When you tear some papers it leaves a white edge. Tearing these papers in the opposite direction will reduce this. When tearing a piece for a curved area, I tear in the arc of the curve. I plan the placement of text and design around my tearing as well." This always happens to me, and now I know how to fix it.

Sue Pelletier builds up her mixed-media collages with up to 15 layers of papers and supplies you can find at the hardware store, like plaster and tile-backing tape, plus vintage textiles and paint.

Encaustic collage is quickly becoming one of my favorite techniques, thanks to the patient and methodical (and fun!) instruction of artist Amy Stoner. There’s something about the warm glow of the wax that pulls a collage together and takes it to another level. There's also an element of serendipity in this technique that I find fascinating; it's like you and the wax are partners in a creative dance.

mixed-media collage
Collage by Sue Pelletier.

Fabric collage is my favorite way of using all those scraps of lovely fabrics I can’t seem to resist and combining them with my limited (but enjoyable) machine and hand-sewing skills. Few can bring together screen prints, fabrics, and stitch like Lynn Krawczyk. The way she combine’s her engineer’s eye for composition with her right brain’s eye for color inspires me to play with fabric and printing in new ways.

If you really want to flout the rules (but use up a lot of your stash in a beautiful way), try found object collage. I find this a very rich and varied way of conveying your art piece’s story. Using found objects in collage really makes you think way outside the box. A terrific creative exercise. Erin Partridge’s methods for mixed-media found object collages are truly inspirational and have me thinking in new ways.

If your collage repertoire has been limited so far, I encourage you to try at least one of these other methods. Each technique you learn will build on the next, expanding your skills while whittling down that stash of papers, fabrics, and found objects you plan to use “someday.”

You can learn these techniques and many more with our new Collage in Color interactive eMag (so much fun) and Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop videos that are instantly available as downloads. Both platforms give you instant gratification and a faster way to attack that ever-burgeoning stash.

P.S. How did you first discover collage? And what are your favorite methods or elements? Leave a comment below!

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Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques

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