The Art of Collage

Collage, from the French word “coller” (to stick), is a technique that incorporates fragments of paper and collected or found objects into artistic compositions. The National Gallery of Art credits Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso with legitimizing collage as fine art. Today any material fixed to a surface may be termed collage.

1. Any collage starts with a theme or group of somehow related
objects. So look around you. Get the shoebox of family memorabilia
out of the attic. Keep your eye out for objects that appeal to you
and are mountable. Just a few suggestions: beach glass, shells, small
pieces of driftwood, dried flowers and leaves, jewelry parts, charms,
doll house furniture and accessories, machine parts, e.g. gears from
a watch or small motor, kitchen utensils, or old silverware.

You may have several groups accumulating at once; and objects may be
moved at whim from one group to another. Once you have enough in any
one group, lay them out on a table and arrange them. Let them talk to
you. Leave them for a few days, glancing at them from time to time and
moving items around until you are satisfied with the arrangement. Or if
you’re really inspired, you may be pleased with your first arrangement!
It happens sometimes.

You may want to enhance or alter some objects for a special look. Paper
can be “antiqued” by carefull singeing the edges and/or washing over
the paper with tea. Some items can be painted or shellacked. You may want
only part of a photo. Tear or cut away the unwanted portion or create a
pretty mat from textured paper in a coordinated color. Objects can be
painted or colored: polka dots on a scrap of metal, a stained glass
design painted on clear glass, a matte finish on one item that would
otherwise clash with all the glossy ones – or vice versa.

2. Depending on the size and weight of your arrangement, choose
your substrate. If the collage will be large and heavy, consider masonite,
hardboard or wood, at least ¼ inch thick. It is a good idea to glue two
firring strips to the back for support, both while you work and when you
go to hang your collage. Metal can also be used and is very effective in
combination with objects welded to it.

If you are scrapbooking, your substrate is most likely 12 X 12 inch paper
and your items need to be lightweight. Other possibilities are stretched
canvas, cardboard or wooden boxes, poster board, or for cards - any type
of cardstock or decorative paper including handmade papers.

3. Prepare your substrate if necessary. For example, you may need to
shellac or seal if you are using wood. You may want to put a wash of color
or sponged pattern as a backdrop to your theme.

4. Decide what you will need in order to mount your objects. Choose glues
appropriate for the object and the substrate; preferably ones which dry
transparent. Try to avoid any glue seeping out from the edges by carefully
placing and spreading the glue and letting it come to a proper tack before
placing each object on the base. Follow the manufacturer’s label
instructions. Be sure the adhesive is permanent and, if you are working
with photos, also acid-free. Some consumer tapes, glue sticks and liquid
adhesives are not permanent or may react with photographs and cause them
to deteriorate. Some of these adhesives contain acids and other materials,
such as plasticizers or softening agents, which can migrate onto a
photograph and cause discoloration, fading and brittleness.

Other possible fasteners are nails, tacks (especially decorative ones such
as upholstery tacks), pegs, bolts, glue dots, stick pins, wire and tape.
Or you might take up welding.

 

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