How I paint with paper and why.
(with a little help from the universe!)
What I love about collage.
- I am free. I am in the zone. I exist as a star floating in the universe. I am the light within as a higher power guides my hand.
- I enjoy solitude. Hours pass. I forget where I live.
- I create space in my mind. I go within and grab the good stuff. It flows out like a river from the ocean. All I need to do is direct it.
- I am in fourth grade again with my finger paints and wild imagination. I’m good.
There are really only a few steps to creating a collage but some essential ingredients are needed.
First and foremost, decide and pin down the passion inside that drives you. Ask yourself these questions. Who or what lies beneath the surface of who you are lately? What recent thoughts have been swimming in your brain? These thoughts come to you for a reason. To come to the surface. To be expressed. To be seen by yourself and others.
When I first began collage work, I decided on a theme. I choose famous creative women that I admired. I was reading a biography on Frida Kahlo and I needed her to be more than words in a book. I needed her to be real, visible and in front of my eyes. I wanted her to be on a wall so I could be reminded of her essence and her energy. So Frida was born.
Next came Pink. ( and unless you just landed from another planet, she is the ultimate rock star).
Tina Turner is next on my list (no intro needed).
So, what passion moves you? An exotic place you have visited? A beautiful child you noticed picking up shells on the beach? Or maybe it’s an unrealized vision brewing in your mind somewhere in the solar system?
Whatever it may be, spend some time in thought or meditation to realize the collage inside of you that is waiting to be born. It’s there. Grab it.
Now, you can get to the “drawing board” of logistics and materials. Before, even beginning a collage you must learn to be a hoarder. Yup, sorry, even if you are a minimalist, as I try to be, you must collect bagfuls of “ephemeral”. Cut up/torn magazines, greeting cards, junk mail, newspapers, paper sewing patterns, old crappy watercolors you have done that you no longer consider masterpieces, handmade papers, stamps, maps, words, letters, paint chip samples, etc. You get the idea. I also use watercolors and inks to add depth and interest.
Organizing this mess is another ingredient needed. To make life easy, I have a system. I make separate piles by color and category. Then stash these lovely papers in large Ziplock bags and label them. Faces, legs, phrases, words, colors, stamps, maps etc. This makes it easy to “see” what you have, move from room to room or even travel with if needed.
As you can see, you may soon be the owner of 419 Ziplock bags! Try to narrow down your categories to about a dozen. Devise a system that works for you. This works for me because I have easy access to see right away what I am working with. Having your tools at hand speeds up the collage process and make life easier. Collage work can take time if you are not prepared ahead of time.
I may work on a piece for a few days or a couple weeks. If I am on a roll and in the zone, I will work nonstop for hours. (even forgetting to eat a meal occasionally, so collage work is also good if you are on a diet!)
Okay, onto other supplies needed. A mat or light canvas board is needed to actually paste your dream pieces onto. Choose a size you want your finished piece to be. I normally frame mine under glass, so I also want my board or mat to be the correct thickness to fit inside the frame. Most times I use a piece of cheap heavy watercolor paper. Foam core or cardboard may also work for you. Experiment. Think ahead before you start. If you want to save a few bucks, then be sure your piece is a standard size so you can avoid a custom frame.
Other essentials- glue sticks (not liquid glue) or mat gel medium, cheap watercolors, and some brushes, inks. Whatever moves you! And finally, an image. Either from your imagination, or a printed image.
- Tape a piece of heavy watercolor paper onto a wooden board or heavy piece of cardboard. Use blue tape or masking tape on the corners to keep it flat.
2. Sketch or transfer your image (unless this is abstract or from your creative brain) onto your paper.
3. Apply a light wash of watercolor paint (any light color) onto your paper. This is just to get a base and make it feel started. Let dry.
4. Now add a few more colors to your subject to add a bit of depth, shadow or detail to you piece. This is just to give you an idea of where some of your collage pieces may end up. Some of these colors may show through on your final collage. And that’s fine. It can add to your design. Put some green or blue where you think you may want it.
5. Now, the fun begins! Get out your glue stick and go crazy ripping up papers to match areas you want to cover. I prefer a more organic ripped look but cutting with scissors is fine too. Or use both. There really are no rules to follow. Your collage can be abstract, realistic, wild and mesmerizing! You are the creator so you make the rules. Art is subjective so no one can judge you. You are the boss, so just play. Be a fourth grader.
6. From here on, keep pasting pieces wherever you think they belong and need to be. You can start or stop in any area. Some pieces can be large, some small, some tiny, some overlapped. You can also leave your watercolor background showing if it adds to you piece. This will develop good contrast too. You can also change your mind. If you don’t like how something looks, then paste over it or pull it off. I’ve done this on almost every piece I’ve worked on. Something may not vibe with you or look out of place. For a final touch, add some inks or gel pens etc. You are literally painting with paper! Have fun!
As you work (actually play), move away and step back from your work of art in progress to evaluate where you are with it. Does it excite you? If so, then you are on the right track. If not, let it sit for awhile and re-visit in a couple days or hours (or minutes!) Just breathe and reflect. This will give you some perspective as to where your heart may want to go with it. Are you loving the colors, the shapes, the feelings your art brings to you? It doesn’t have to make sense. It only has to feel good. If it feels good to you, then you are creating an authentic work of art from your soul. You will see your soul in your work and so will others.
Some tips and things to get the creative juices flowing:
- Create a work space for yourself if you can so you can work without interruptions. The creative brain works better when it is not disturbed. This puts you “in the zone”
- Hit play on Spotify, iTunes, Sonos or whatever is your “go to” place for music. Music re-arranges, stirs, excites, and soothes the soul. Another zone space.
- Enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea as you tear and glue. Make your collage experience exactly that. An experience. This is your life, your time. Living your passion is what make a life a beautiful life.
When you are done, smile, scream, jump up and down. You are an artist, a creator.
Frame your amazing work of art.
Nail it to the wall in your home, a friends or a gallery!
Then go start another one.
Here are a few of my other favorites!