Collage Techniques: Try Taking a Non-Linear Path

15 Feb 2013

Do you find it's easier or harder to create abstract art? In theory, I always think it's going to be easier: there's no particular shape or features to represent, no perspective to achieve. But in practice, I find it more difficult. There's no picture in my mind of what I'm trying to achieve. It's just me and the principles of design. It scares melike flying without a net.

mixed media collage by Adrienne Shishko
'Asian Landscape,' 30" x 30."
Mixed-media collage by Adrienne Shishko.
I started thinking about this when I stumbled across an article in a back issue of Cloth Paper Scissors (May/June 2010) while looking for something else. In her piece Painting & Collage: a Non-linear Process, Adrienne Shishko describes how she creates mixed-media collage art based on the patterns and graphic elements that catch her eye throughout the day.

The word "non-linear" caught my attention, because I am a linear thinker and I have to work hard to get out of the mode to be more creative. I thought Adrienne's process would be a good exercise for anyone who tends to think in a linear fashion and who also hesitates to create abstract collage art or paintings.

Adrienne uses the typical collage supplies: tissue papers, found papers, fabric scraps and fibers, liquid medium and heavy gel medium, acrylic paints, and a variety of paintbrushes.

Starting with a stretched canvas painted with leftover latex house paint or a wood panel, she layers cut and torn pieces directly onto the panel in appealing geometric forms using liquid medium and a paintbrush.

Adrienne experiments with laying down the papers and fabrics. For example, she overlaps torn tissue paper pieces of different colors to create a third color and balances the translucency of the tissue with opaque pieces of fabric.

Adrienne doesn't pre-plan her collage base. She goes by what feels good visually. For example, she describes the process for her mixed-media collage painting "Asian Landscape," like this:

collage technique adrienne shishko
collage technique adrienne shishko
In these two examples, done on a wood substrate, Adrienne creates her collage
in a non-linear fashion, experimenting
with color, line, and texture.

"Using gel medium, I laid out a grid of cut newspaper over the canvas in varying orientations. I painted into the grid with transparent paint, partially obscuring some of the papers, and added pieces of torn tissue paper with liquid matte medium.

"I drizzled thick paint and brushed in more opaque colors and forms, pulling and scraping at some of the wet papers to reveal what was below. Once the paint was dry to the touch, I outlined some of the random negative spaces with marker. To finish, I added the green nylon mesh with heavy gel medium."

To me, using collage techniques intuitively like this is scary, but also exciting. I'm awed by the results Adrienne gets from her process, so I'm willing to give it a try.

Adrienne offers the following guidelines for building your stash and design inspiration sources:

  • When you are reading a magazine or newspaper, explore the photos and graphics, and cut and save visual finds.
  • Watch for great colors, interesting graphics, and compelling patterns.
  • Keep a treasure box of paper scraps. Mine your treasure box before you start the project, looking for pieces that inspire you.

Adrienne says, "The process of combining collage and painting in abstract art is a very fluid and experimental process. I hope these examples help you to explore new directions and paths that enrich your art and enhance your creative expression. Remembering to work non-linearly can be the first step to creating your next masterpiece."

I think the fact that I found this article in a non-linear fashionon my way to looking for something elseis a testament to the fact that the non-linear approach can yield some very pleasant learning opportunities.

Try it yourself: take out your back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors and randomly go through them. You might stumble upon mixed-media collage techniques you missedor weren't ready forthe first time around.

P.S. Do you prefer to create abstract or representational collage art? Why? Leave your comment below.

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gadkinso wrote
on 15 Feb 2013 6:28 AM

What a G-R-E-A-T reminder. Love this article...Love the forgiving note, " I am a linear thinker and I have to work hard to get out of the mode to be more creative" the specifics "house" Love the challenge...Try it yourself: take out your back issues of Cloth Paper Scissors ...It's early and I am getting in my art clothes...Thanks for the energizing email...from linear to laughter...glenda

jensaz wrote
on 15 Feb 2013 6:17 PM

I am also a linear thinker.  I see abstract art in galleries and think, that is so visually stunning and looks so easy, I can do that... Then get home and it's so hard to NOT want to do representation in my art.  This article reminded me that it's not necessary to represent a subject to create a great collage art piece.  The tips are very helpful.  Thank you for the reminder

lmbms wrote
on 15 Feb 2013 7:05 PM

So just a little updating on vocabulary.  Look up the word abstraction - it is a process derived from reality. From this article I believe the proper definition of this process is non-objective art. This is a common mistake made in the art world.

artgirl715 wrote
on 15 Feb 2013 8:55 PM

I agree with Imbms 's comment about the difference between abstract and non-objective art. What was described here was non-objective.  I am definitely a representational type artist.  All my art tends towards illustration.  But I do like some abstraction rather than super realism.

on 17 Feb 2013 11:27 AM

For me it's easier do to abstract works but it took some time...

I come from classical oil paintings and moved to acrylic paint but still worked figurative. Until I saw some abstracts that made me cry because of there beauty. They really do hit me at a point, that I didn't know it existed.

Since several years now I'm an abstract painter, but the beginning was hard. It was my goal to made the same kind of touching art, that made me turn to abstract working.

I love it now, cannot even think anymore to do something different and I'm really glad with what I'm doing

on 18 Feb 2013 3:19 AM

Although my painting style is semi abstract and some of my artwork leans toward realism, I prefer working abstractly:starting with my very own thoughts and ideas give me freedom to create spontaneously, without thinking and too much planning.When in 'abstract mood' I often combine collage with acrylics,gold leaf and pastels.Using a variety of media is additional challenge!Majda Zorko,