What is Collage?

Collage is a type of art which combines pieces of diverse materials such as magazines, types of paper, fabric, paint and photographic material into one composition.  It started in the beginning of the 20th century.  A good starting point in understanding what collage is, might be to look at some of these artists who pioneered the idea of collage:

Kurt Schwitters, Picasso, Matisse, Hannah Höch

There are many modern day collage artists who are using a range of media and materials to create a collage.  Many collage artists now use Photoshop to manipulate images and photographs digitally.  There really seems to be so much scope with this medium which makes it very exciting.

Digital Collage
Digital Collage – Rebecca Mills

So where do you start if you would like to experiment with collage?  The first thing to do is probably to do is to start collecting some interesting materials which you could use.  This could be anything that interests you; tissue papers, images, buttons, threads, fabrics, textured surfaces and so on.

Just like any other piece of art you need to have a clear idea before you start of what you are producing, develop the idea and plan the piece.

Collage doesn’t have to be abstract, a good starting point might be to observe something in real life by drawing it first and adding collage materials.  Some collages are completed based on cut outs of photographs, papers or magazines items and some combine drawing and painting with collage material.  Blended collage means blending in collage materials with drawing or painting.    The still life below is a ‘blended collage’ as it is painted with paper elements added (tissue paper).

Developing a collage from real life objects
Developing a collage from real life objects
Gloss Medium Varnish
Gloss Medium Varnish

Glue is an important material for collage, pva glue can leave a texture which is difficult to paint on and it can dry with a film over it which doesn’t look professional.  A professional artist glue will produce much better results, these are available in most art stores.  I like this one featured in the photo made by Liquitex because it is easy to use, it produces a light layer of glue over the work and dries clear to a slight gloss finish.  It doubles up as a varnish so it protects your work as well as acting as a strong glue.  The bigger the elements you are using for collage the stronger the glue will need to be.  This varnish glue is fine for paper based collage.  The glue is important for collage so don’t cut corners on the price as it will make a difference to how the work looks.

The next stage might be to experiment and try out some ideas in your sketchpad.  This is a good place to start learning about materials and how they look together.

Experimenting in your sketchpad is important for developing ideas
Experimenting in your sketchpad is important for developing ideas

When you do start your final piece be aware that collage needs thick  paper to cope with the layers of material you maybe sticking onto it.  Some collage artists work on card or even hardboard, the thicker and stronger the surface will need to be if you are sticking heavier items onto it.

This website is very useful for finding out more about collage www.collageart.org

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