Use Collage Designs to Show (or Find) the Artist In You

Fact: We are influenced by our surroundings throughout our lives. The landscape or cityscape we grow up in helps to make us who we are, and may make an appearance (both subtle and obvious) in our art. Creating collage designs that reflect this is a natural way to pay homage to those influences. My early collage story would include a creek, a secret hideout in the woods, a garden that spanned what seemed like a mile, and one of my favorite visual memories of nature: shadows of clouds and large birds sailing across the grass of our backyard.

Collage designs | Ro Bruhn,
Dreaming in Colour (Acrylic paints and inks, variety of the artist’s hand-decorated papers, gel medium, hand-dyed thread, soft pastels, spray fixative and matte sealer on wrapped canvas, 10×8) by Ro Bruhn, who says, “I have a passion for colour and circles, so that explains the lollipop trees; I’m not so sure where the sheep-and-houses influence comes from, maybe my early days as a child in the UK!” (Pin this collage!)

Roxanne Evans Stout speaks to creating collage designs based on memories and more in her new book, Storytelling With Collage: Techniques for Layering Color and Texture. (This book is included in a special Mixed-Media Storytelling Book Collection. Scroll down for more info, including how you can WIN this collection!). Today’s inspiration comes from Roxanne, and speaks to the artist that’s inside of each of us.

How to Collage | Roxanne Evans Stout
Collage by Roxanne Evans Stout

Note to Self by Roxanne Evans Stout

“There has always been an artist inside of me. I think there is an artist in all of us, just waiting to find a chance to be discovered. The artist who plays with vases or glass bottles on a windowsill, the artist who buys that unusual scarf or tablecloth and hangs it on a wall or drapes it across a table, or the artist who writes poems about the first day of spring or lists about the flowers in a garden. The artist who collects sticks and stones and loves them as much as a piece of jewelry or a beautiful ring.

“Some of us have already discovered the artist inside ourselves and embraced him or her. We joyfully spend moment after moment playing with line and color and design, we love our art tools and are always on the lookout for a new way to express ourselves. We stitch and mold and carve and build layer upon layer. We embrace the happy surprises that happen on a journal page or canvas. And we joyfully create.”

Collage designs | Sharmon Davidson,
From a Far Country (Vintage letters, ephemera, vintage map, vintage dress pattern, vintage trunk latch, vintage photo, vintage buttons, vintage keyhole escutcheon, lace, image transfer of image from vintage dictionary, monotype, brads, stitching on a vintage book cover, 9.5×14) by Sharmon Davidson

Roxanne goes on to assign us with a task: Share how your home (think land/city/surrounding area) has contributed to who you are today. Share your response in the comments section of this blog post, and then think about how you can apply this knowledge to your collage designs to tell your story. We’ll choose one lucky winner* from those who respond, who will receive the Mixed-Media Storytelling Book Collection.)

For three amazing resources on creating personal and creative collage designs, check out the Mixed-Media Storytelling Book Collection, featuring:
Storytelling With Collage: Techniques for Layering Color and Texture
Mixed Media Handbook: Exploring Materials and Techniques
Incite 3, The Best of Mixed Media: The Art of Storytelling

Use these books to give your inner artist the voice to sing your stories out loud.

Be the artist you are,

*Winner will be chosen Tuesday, February 16, 2016. Must be a U.S. resident to win, due to international contest rules and regulations.
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39 thoughts on “Use Collage Designs to Show (or Find) the Artist In You

  1. The LAST thing anyone…including myself…thought I’d pick up at some point in my life is art. But 3 years ago, I started with a stamp. Now, I experiment with watercolor, collage, paper art, art assemblage…you name it and my ADHD has taken it and run with it. As for my style and how my home life dictates a lot of what I do is I find I have a hard time with layering. I have an image and that piece is the star. The layers are complimentary, or they’re MEANT to be, but there’s only ONE focal point. Perhaps that’s because I had a great deal of chaos in our home growing up. The ‘layers’ of my life were distractions and overwhelmed me. In my art, I think first and foremost of the one main idea I want to project and use a little subtle layering to compliment. Too much and I lose focus and it ends up in the trash. I never thought about this until I read this post so thank you!! Being able to put it into words gave me a great deal of clarity…that’s amazing! Btw…I love this publication and look forward to reading the emails. I always find something to use…what a great all-around tool this is!

  2. Telling a story is the hardest part of a painting! (For me anyway!) It is what makes a painting go from good to exceptional! We just have to keep on trying!! I would love to win the collection of books to get some great hints about how to go about telling my story! Thanks!

  3. We moved to the beautiful sierra nevada foothills almost 16 years ago and every day is a chance to capture the essence of wooded life and wild birds and beautiful creatures through color. I’m an abstract artist and my surroundings motivate me daily.

  4. I grew up on and acreage in Iowa surrounded by corn and bean fields. I love big skys, far-away horizons, and the colors of sunsets! The rural Iowa landscape is a regular inspiration for my artwork, and my country roots are constantly influencing my ideas and plans even as a current city dweller-container gardening anyone?

  5. “I’m going for a walk in the wood, mom,” was often my call through the house while growing up. A safe, familiar, soothing and inspirational place to be, the woods were a pleasant refuge, a place to think, a classroom to examine the smallest of natural items from mosses and leaves to the view from a branch in a tall tree. It was my place to fall in love iwth nature and with the God of Creation. I cherish those hikes, those days, and those experiences and I try to work them into my art now more than 40 year later.
    Ann at

  6. I think we were all born with an innate longing to create and connect – it is deep inside ourselves. Since home is where our thoughts, feelings, preferences, and desires were formed, naturally we will take those ideas and try to form them into expressions of ourselves that will help us relate to our neighbors. And they in turn will do the same so we can get a better understanding of them as well. Art is the bridge all of humanity uses to bond ourselves to each other. It tells the story, sometimes wordlessly, of where we came from, where we are now, and where we are headed. And the basis of that is love.

  7. Since being a teenager, I have always loved collages and fabric. After retiring I was able to do more with these mediums. With trees all around me now, I see leaves change with every season. The summers and fall inspire me to sew and work with cloth and paper. I am also motivated when I go to our local coffee shop. I don’t know if it’s the aroma of the coffee or the interesting people who come through, but I never leave uninspired to go home and create something. There seems to always be someone there working on their art, whether it’s a group of ladies crocheting or an adult coloring with colored pencils. I am so inspired by other artists and am always wanting to learn more. I hope to pass along what I’ve learned to my grandson. Thank you!

  8. I think my new home influences me because now we have more land and in the morning I can look outside and see nature and not just more buildings on all sides. Seeing green grass, trees, earth is very good for my soul. Even yesterday as we got a quick snow storm, I just couldn’t deny the beauty of the backyard. It filled my soul with happiness and my mind with inspiration.

  9. I’m a city girl, Okay, a small city, but within walking distance of Cincinnati. I love the feel of concrete under my feet. I love skylines, tall buildings, bridges….

  10. Vivid colors always inspire my artwork. I think it comes from visiting my dad at his work and pouring thru the wallpaper books in the 70’s. With my passion for papers and color; I love mixed media because it allows me to use two of my favorite things.

  11. I am a believer that each piece of art we create encompasses a bit of our own “story” or history in some way. I feel like a part of my soul goes into everything I create…and it is therapeutic in a crazy busy world of our own creation. Of particular importance and fondness of memory is, of course, my childhood. I was very fortunate to have had a wonderful time growing up. I was “old number seven” of eight kids and grew up in national parks – I was a Park Service Brat :). Flora and fauna are the most peaceful and wonderful parts of a blessed life. Annual “vacations” at grandma and grandpa’s ranch in Kansas with miles of wheat and corn, lots of cattle, beautiful horses, crazy chickens from whom we gathered eggs, fishing in the pond and just being outdoors without boundaries…ahhh…icing on the cake. I am drawn to old grain silos, rundown buildings and rusted corrugated tin but especially little farm houses surrounded by rolling hills.

  12. I grew up in Florida and as a child I had a secret place inside a patch of bamboo with a creek running through it. This sanctuary is frequently reflected in my art and is always in my heart.

  13. I was brought up in a house overlooking the Yorkshire moors. I then moved to the suburbs when I got married, I realised that staring at red brick walls in every direction kills any hope of creativity so when my husband was offered a job in Gloucestershire we moved and bought a house on a hill a mile high in the beautiful Forest of Dean. I get up every morning and look over Herefordshire and the Welsh mountains. On a clear day we can see over 30 miles of beautiful British countryside and have the glorious Wye Valley below us. Creatively, I have been re-born

  14. I have an affinity for what ever place I live so it is easy to reflect that in my creative processes. Otherwise I would be creating in a vacuum will stale ideas. The organic woods and lakes are an integral part of my art from inspiration to mixed media. Would love these books for my library.

  15. Some of my first memories as a child was in creating art in some form or another, either drawing or sewing. I was born in Florida and loved being outside amongst the beautiful flowers and plants we had in our yard. I developed my love of the ocean in Florida as well and loved collecting all kinds of seashells and bits of treasures found along the shore. When a was 9 years old we moved to Colorado.The majesty of the Rocky mountains and going on vacations up in the mountains cultivated a love of collecting rocks, pinecones and flowers. I loved writing poetry during my early teens and my poetry always reflected the beauty in nature that surrounded me. My pencil sketches were of dried seed pods, grasses, flowers and the beautiful clear blue lakes in the rocky mountains. I live in Savannah Ga. these days with my husband and our kitty, named Miss Daisy. We live by the marsh and have a deck and boat dock down by the water. My days are filled with the beauty of the marsh and the wonderful foliage, trees, moss and flowering plants. I still love to draw but I also love photography and love to capture the Blue Herons and Egrets that live in the marsh. My art is ever evolving and shifting as I grow older. I have a deep love of my natural surroundings and I love incorporating new techniques in art with my deep love of nature. This is what excites me and keeps me yearning for more year after year.

  16. My early home life was challenging so I often found reason to be somewhere else and, if not, I buried myself in crafting or books. Since I am also a self-described tree-hugger, I often find my art coming from nature and topics on healing and magic. I am fortunate that in adulthood things have been much less chaotic and more allowing of art creation. Art quilting and fabric collage have been pulling me lately and Cloth, Paper, Scissors and the sister periodical Quilting Arts have been extremely helpful in my quest for joyful creation.

  17. Roxanne Evans Stout helped me put my “home” into my very first collage as I used colors, textures, and treasures that remind me of our beautiful ocean beach! I also used a combo of my home and my sister’s for her collage gift. I love using items collected around the local area combined with family treasures in my collages.

  18. I grew up in a mid-century modern house in an urban suburb in the Midwest (aka, the Rust Belt). The land on which my house stood was once part of the prairie, so there were no trees when the house was built. Just a couple of blocks over, the legacy elm trees succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. My father planted birch and maple trees in our yard, but as long as we lived there they never grew to more than spindly size. I felt that my town was blighted and couldn’t wait to leave for California. But when I visited 30 years later I cried from the time I arrived until the time I left. My relationship with my place of origin is complicated and one I would like to explore in collage and words.

  19. My home – and my experiences traveling from and returning to home again – have definitely contributed to who I am today. I delight in creating mixed-media paintings layered with maps! I use maps as a medium in my art because I am captivated by the way they look – their lines, rhythm, movement and patterns. I find inspiration in vintage atlases I collect, fascinated by the antiquated pages and the ideas of time and travel they contain. Maps and cartographic elements are repeating motifs in my work because I love both the concept and imagery of maps.

  20. I spent a great deal of my childhood freely roaming the hills and hollows of the foothills of the Ozark Mountains where my grandmother live in a handbuilt tiny three room house. Life there was rustic, water hand drawn from an icy natural spring and more often than not coal oil lanterns were were in use despite having the amenity of electricity. There was no television and a staticky old radio listened to on Saturday nights was the only modern form of entertainment. Instead, stories were told and retold, long rambling walks in the woods learning names of plants and trees, porch sitting watching birds and learning their calls, and wading in cool streams or riverside finding fossil rocks and arrowheads were common entertainments. My grandmother taught me much about nature, uses of plants for medicines and dyes, she taught me simple sewing and embroidery skills, making twig dolls who had acorn cup tea parties, as well as so many other things that revolved around the seasons.

    Today the rusticity and natural surroundings of happy childhood times reflect themselves in my artwork often as personal symbols of birds, leaves, flowers and feathers. Coming from a place where everything had a use until it was used up is often are reflected in the odd bits of leftover fibers or snippets of old crumbly papers that often collage my backgrounds. These tid bits remind me of the frayed edges of worn out overalls and the many layered peeling papered walls of the old house. My love for all things of the natural world learned at my grandmothers knee inspire my artful stories.

  21. My surroundings have changed over the years. From growing up in the city to then moving to a rural area and discovering the differences in each of them, and how they affect me, it has all become part of me trying to figure out who I am. In many ways, I haven’t felt like I fit in in either place. And this is why I create artwork, to try to help me find answers.

  22. Born in Paris, France, as an “Air Force gypsy,” living in SE Asia, moving around the country and around the world, going to 13 schools in 12 years, I had quite the cultural education but always somewhat envied the kids who were born and raised in one place with a set of friends and a family they actually knew. My friends eventually dubbed me “Jenny Appleseed,” because I keep planting gardens, trying to put down roots and then having to be uprooted and move on yet again.
    All this shows up in my work now, and having had to relocate and reinvent my life once more at 50-something in order to come take care of my mother, I suppose the common thread of my various artistic endeavors has been working in mixed media because everything around me changes, and I change in order to adapt.
    So I take from the parts and pieces, skills and perspectives, cultures and languages, teachers and students I have been exposed to along the way, and create my art journals, my environments, and my next-stage dreams…

  23. I live in a quiet neighborhood with gardens, birds, critters, and lots of natural architecture. But, just a few streets away is the bustle of people racing to the big city. Tranquil beauty is juxtaposed with energy and deadlines. My art is a mixture of capturing moments to make them stand still and to magnify their beauty while trying to avoid the angst of modern day living. Even if we can’t choose our ideal home environment, we certainly can choose how we direct our creative concentration within that place. Like a collage, we have to decide what is in the foreground and what remains in the background.

  24. Moving to Florida forever green, warm, and surrounded by water, from a big city where I had lived all my life has healed me in so many ways. I am endlessly inspired by all the greenery, the wildlife, the ocean and the abundant sunshine!

  25. Cherie, These are all such beautiful and heartfelt stories, I am so moved and want to thank you for giving us this chance to remember, connect and understand a bit more about ourselves. Thank you to all of you who have posted here… you make me sigh and smile at the same time… xoxoxxo roxanne

    1. @Roxanne, isn’t it wonderful! It’s my honor to share your work and words with this wonderful community. <3

      Everyone, thank you for giving us a peek inside your own lives and inspirations with us! I'd love to see the art that comes from such eclectic backgrounds (remember, you can share your work with us in the Online Gallery any time!).

      I'll be getting in touch with the winner today. Stay tuned - more contests to come! 🙂

  26. My home is more than a house: it’s a garden (with all my lovely roses) and a forest (in which particular trees mark the places where the ashes of my beloved pets were scattered) and a rural neighbourhood (where my dear friends and kind neighbours also live). Best of all, my home is in the province I grew up in, where familiar seasons evoke memories of my childhood on our family farm. If I ever leave this place, it will be feet-first and in a box.

  27. I absolutely love the idea of “storytelling” in art and using your “place” and your roots as a basis for that.
    There is a wonderful poem that feeds into that very theme.
    It is called:
    by Carrie Shipers

    please describe
    the weather in great detail. If possible,
    enclose a fist of snow or mud,

    everything you know about the soil,
    how tomato leaves rub green against
    your skin and make you itch, how slow

    the corn is growing on the hill.
    Thank you for the photographs
    of where the chicken coop once stood,

    clouds that did not become tornadoes.
    When I try to explain where I’m from,
    people imagine corn bread, cast-iron,

    cows drifting across grass. I interrupt
    with barbed wire, wind, harvest air
    that reeks of wheat and diesel.

    I hope your sleep comes easy now
    that you’ve surrendered the upstairs,
    hope the sun still lets you drink

    one bitter cup before its rise. I don’t miss
    flannel shirts, radios with only
    AM stations, but there’s a certain kind

    of star I can’t see from where I am-
    bright, clear, unconcerned. I need
    your recipes for gravy, pie crust,

    canned green beans. I’m sending you
    the buttons I can’t sew back on.
    Please put them in the jar beside your bed.

    In your next letter, please send seeds
    and feathers, a piece of bone or china
    you plowed up last spring. Please

    promise I’m missing the right things.

    “In your next letter,” by Carrie Shipers from Cause for Concern. © Able Muse Press, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

    1. @ginnystiles That is so beautiful…I’d like to print it out for myself and hold on to it, to read again and again. Thank you for sharing this!

  28. When I moved back to Maine 14 years ago after leaving as a girl, I found that my creativity just blossomed.Today I’ve retired from writing, which for many years was both my profession and my creative outlet, and I have taken on other forms of creative expression: collage, watercolor painting, card making, and the like. I owe it all to living in Maine, with its natural beauty, calming spaces, and creative people. Maine is my home, it is my idea of a perfect place, and it is my inspiration.

  29. My childhood home backed up to the most wonderful woods. I would spend hours exploring, collecting leaves, flowers, pieces of bark, vines, etc. to make things. My “special place” was a creek with huge, flat stones large enough to have a picnic. Violets grew in the cracks. I would sit on those stones and draw, play guitar, or just enjoy the beauty. Of course, I came home with armfuls of violets and other mementos.
    Years later, on a weekend home from college, I noticed that the light at the end of the driveway was different. Investigating, I found that a neighborhood had replaced my beloved woods! What a disappointment.
    My disappointment gave way to wonder when I saw that my father had carefully dug up the violets, carried them home, and replaced some grass with a huge violet patch under some trees in our yard. How did he know? I gained a deeper appreciation and love for my fathers that day, which renews itself every time I see a violet patch.

  30. I have always been a rural/small town girl and when recently starting to learn about art my passion is for simple themes that reflect this. I love houses, trees, birds, all nature. i am so excited to learn more about putting these loves into art – thanks for the opportunity.

  31. As I was reading Roxanne’s Note to Self I was reminded of my childhood and how it left a lasting impact on how I see the world around me. Although i live in the Midwest now, I grew up in a small town located on Lake Champlain, in the north country of New York state. A large part of my time was spent enjoying the wonders of that lake and also exploring the Adirondack Mountains. As a young child I started my art adventures with a camera trying to capture the beauty of what I saw around me. To this day I am drawn to the beauty of a mountainside covered in autumn leaves that reminds me of a patchwork quilt. The clouds that form intriguing shapes in an unbelieveably blue sky. And, the flowers and fauna that grow along the pathways. I continue to capture as much of those things that I can with my camera but I also am inspired to share what I see and feel about them using other media as well. As an adult I was introduced to using fabric to create postcard quilts which gave me the opportunity to see fabric as something that could be used creatively. From that time forward I have made use of fabric in a monoprint piece of a leaf that reminds me of those leaves from my childhood. And in mixed media pieces that incorporate the beauty of the flowers contained in my photos. As I am creating my artwork it is those pleasant memories I try to recreate and I hope when people see my work it creates pleasant memories for them as well. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to put into words how the world around me has shaped how I create art.

  32. I suppose we can’t help being influenced by where we live, and there are several things to like about this area, but if I’m honest, I have no desire to tell stories about it. The stories that appeal to me are those that dwell in the distant past, in the mystery of civilizations long past and people long buried or even in those that have never been except in the imagination of myth, legend and lore. Sadly, I suppose this eliminates me as a candidate for the collection.

    1. @Triche Not at all! I think the fact that your own past surroundings don’t inspire your work is just as valid as those who do feel moved to show how it reflects in their work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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