Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beginning Collage (Not for Dummies) Lessons #1 Through #4

Collage is alterationmodification, or revision of images. One adapts one’s materials to suit the image in the mind’s eye.  It is this adaptation, more than the reshaping or rearrangement of paper,  that is the metamorphosis I crave. It is what I strive to create. WHY?

We, our lives, are in constant motion, but also in constant transformation.  We evolve, we seek, we find, we change what we find. 

We make seek beauty, or truth, or to express intense or ephemeral emotions. The results will therefore vary between gorgeousness and hideousness, between sumptuousness and simplicity, between meaning, and chaos. That is the transformative power of art. 
I usually don’t have a message to speak though my collage. What’s going to be hard to express in this attempt to teach collage, [and why I have avoided it thus far] is that I make what I think is “pretty” what looks “right” to me. Then I see the meanings others place on these pieces, perhaps not my intentions, but valid meanings nonetheless. 
So to fulfill the promise I made to “teach” collage:

Lesson #1  You don’t have to have a purpose to make art. It will be art if you express yourself. 

Lesson #2   All you need is paper, glue and scissors. Also something to glue them too, you can start with the back of a writing pad, the thin rigid cardboard can work well. 
Regular glue sticks are what I use. A large and small scissors is nice. I use an embroidery scissors with curved edges for fine little pieces. 
You will need materials, what kind of paper?  I would suggest you start with ordinary paper, perhaps from cards you have saved over time.  Or those little bits of wrapping paper we don’t want to throw away.  Then look at them, the colors, and start making a simple  “card” of your own. Just a small thing that no one has to see until you’re proud of it.  Later you could go to your favorite magazine, or even (gasp!) an old book, and cut out somethings that you like.

You do NOT need to draw or paint, or even handle a pencil or brush. 

Lesson #3 You CAN do this. 

If you’ve ever arranged a photo album or a done this newfangled “scrapbooking” or decorated you house you know what you like and how to arrange it to “look good."

Lesson #4   Stick to "like" at first.  
The images  just have to be attractive  to you, or mean something to you. If you like my work, and hence are reading this blog, you like “pretty” Just go with this notion and forget it’s relative “value.”
You have a creative streak, you know what you like, you know what you think is pretty, so just start. Make a background with some of the paper if you like, a bit here and a bit there, just what looks good to your eye. 

I will post my first 3 collages, so you can see what it can be like to start. 
My first three collages were done in a book.***  But you start where ever feels best. 

I don’t like these first two anymore, but I was VERY HAPPY with them at the time. That happens with old work. I did not have a sense of composition beyond what “looked good" to me. I’ve been told I learned focus and probably “composition" after a while. How did I learn these? Just by creating, I learned. SO will you.  

[By the way: The new stuff is not better, it’s just different. My friend likened it to going to a concert by your fav band, and you want them not to just play their new stuff, you want to here the oldies but goodies. It has turned out that my first pieces are  generally in the most requested. Go figure! ] 

The third one I still enjoy, and so did my husband AKA by best friend. He said, "I’d hang that on the wall if it were bigger.” So I made bigger. And those first five large ones I loved, and other people saw them and some of them liked them. Some people, I’m sure didn’t like them, but didn’t want to disappoint me. (Like my Dad didn’t know what to say, poor man!)

***I read about something called Altered Art meaning that you make art on something other than a canvas, in a book, or on an old plate, or on a piece of wood. 
       On plain paper it can be called mixed media, if you use more than paper for your materials or if you add some doodles with a pen or marker. SO doodling actually makes it sound more important! You will then become a “Mixed Media Artist” Fancy no?  The first two above I used wire, a button and a bead. I almost always doodled on my work and wrote sentences and fragments of thought. But I have the gift of gab … obviously! 

Next up: A Fuller Materials List … It’s got everything but the kitchen sink. If you’d like a breakdown of what I used here and where I got these bits and scarps, leave a comment and I will show you and tell you. 

Also leave comments with questions.  

All my best wishes  to for a creative and peaceful day.

Good”night” from New York,


  1. Isn't it interesting to look back at our early art? I love looking at how it evolves over time- sometimes almost imperceptibly. I love that the steps in your process are not just physical steps in the art-making process but include explanations of the intuitive way you work.

  2. Very good teaching! It's exactly what I said to my begining students, when I teached! Just make what you enjoy, just make what you like with what you like, and don't mind about the rest!Give to your work what you are, and then, your work will give you back what it has to give you back!

  3. I've spent the last couple of days recycling old canvasses! Nice thing about collage is that nothing goes to waste!

    1. Yes, never a thing to waste with collage! Good to hear from you, sorry to reply so late!

  4. The mark of an excellent teacher is that she gives freely of every detail she knows. Greetings, Excellent Teacher!

  5. You are an incredible artist!
    Congratulations:)) Love the way you express it in words:)

    1. I am so sorry to take so long to reply to your kind and thoughtful words. I am glad people enjoy my art, and your compliment is quite meaningful to me.
      Also I love to communicate with others, so all the feedback I can get regarding my writing skills is also welcome!

      Thank you with all my heart,