Unique Textural Foundations for Your Collage Art

When I was growing up there were often sweepstakes offers on television during the Saturday morning cartoons. To enter you were told to put your name and address on a postcard and mail it in.

Mixed-media collage art
by Sue Pelletier.

But children's minds work in strange ways. And so one day my cousin, then a preschooler, ran in from the TV room all excited about entering one of these contests, telling her mother they had to "put her name on a dress." Which brings me to our topic for today: foundations for mixed-media collage.

You can collage on pretty much anything that's stabile; paper, stretched canvas, canvas boards, and wood are just the beginning. Here are five substrates on which you can make a collage that will give your collage art depth and texture.

1. Raw canvas, muslin, or crinoline. Take a piece of canvas and paint it, dye it, or apply gesso to it. Apply collage elements with gel medium, stitch them on, or both.

2. Mesh screen. Leave the screen in its raw metallic state or paint with acrylics or gesso. You could also rust the screen or apply patina (be sure to follow all safety precautions and work outside or in a well-ventilated area). Stitch on pieces of fabric or other elements through the holes in the screen or affix found objects, papers, etc., with gel medium or brads.

3. Layered ephemera. Cover your work surface with a plastic sheet or freezer paper. Lay down pieces of lightweight ephemera like old receipts (I like ones from antique stores with handwriting or food service tabs with big numbers), sewing patterns, or tissue paper. "Paint" and layers the papers with watered down white glue. Let dry, peel off the plastic, then apply papers, fabric, found objects, etc.

Collage created on layered ephemera with mixed media, by Sue Pelletier.

4. Old textiles and home furnishings. A small, worn, but still interesting throw rug, a piece of embroidered upholstery fabric,  a piece of a holey afghan, or a section removed from a woven wastebasket all make unusual textured substrates for collage. You can paint over the surface to neutralize the colors, then let your imagination go from there.

5. Clothing. Doll or baby clothes make wonderful foundations for collage, and not just for fabric collage. I saw a piece by Sue Pelletier where she attached a vintage baby dress to canvas with gel medium, then painted it with chalkboard paint before adding other pigments, found objects, and motifs made with chalk.

See, you could use the chalk to put your name on a dress!

Sue inspires me, because she is up for just about anything when it comes to mixed-media collage foundations. She shares an hour's worth of ideas in her new video, "Preparing to Paint: How to Add Texture, Depth, & Personality to Your Art," now available for download or as a DVD.

P.S. I bet you can think of more suggestions for unusual collage substrates. How about it? What have you used, and how did that work out? Leave a comment below.

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Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques

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