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Creating Surreal Collages With Old Magazines or Books

Keelin works in design, marketing, and communications. She uses art as both therapy and a low-cost way to decorate her home and have fun.

Collaging is a simple form of art that many begin practicing in grade school art class or younger. However, as individuals get older, collaging is often overlooked as an art form in both practice and value. Collaging is a great way to be creative as well as reuse magazines, old books, or paper waste. Additionally, collaging is very accessible and cost-effective as you most likely have the tools readily available in your house. Finally, you may be surprised at some of the beautiful or funny surrealistic pieces you create out of what was once an old magazine or book. These pieces make great holiday cards as well.

Step 1: Gather supplies to begin collaging.

Supplies needed for collaging: old magazines or books on various topics, thick paper, scissors, and a glue stick.

Supplies needed for collaging: old magazines or books on various topics, thick paper, scissors, and a glue stick.

The tools needed to begin collaging are minimal and inexpensive. You will often find these supplies already in your home or at a grocery or dollar store.

You will need:

  1. Old magazines or books: You will probably already find some in your home, but if you do not have these, ask your public library if they have old magazine copies or books you can use. You could also ask co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family members. Additionally, thrift stores often have interesting and cost-effective or cheap print items. Try to gather print items with many photos or images from a variety of markets such as fashion, design, nature, travel, sports, or business. Fishing and golf magazines have some very funny images in them.
  2. Thick Paper- A pad of vellum, watercolor, or other thick paper will provide a sturdy base to your collage.
  3. Scissors- You can use any type of scissors, but a pair that you have more control over will be helpful when you need to cut out small pieces or tight corners.
  4. Glue Stick- A glue stick is a cheap and non-messy way to keep your clippings attached to your paper.

Check your house for these items before buying them to save money.

Step 2: Cut interesting shapes or scenes (with or without vision).

I thought the tile on this building in Quito was really cool. So I cut it out even though I was not certain I would use it.

I thought the tile on this building in Quito was really cool. So I cut it out even though I was not certain I would use it.

Collaging can be as purposeful or unpurposeful as you would like it to be. You can cut out shapes with a vision of your final piece or cut out pieces as you find them.

If you do not have a vision in mind, take your scissors and begin cutting out shapes that appear beautiful, interesting, funny, or otherwise intriguing to you. Sometimes I will just cut out pieces I think I might use. Sometimes I will set out to create a surreal landscape or other scenes.

Set pieces you cut out aside until you are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Play with the placement of shapes you cut out. This is the fun(ny) part.

I cut out these shapes because they had nice colors or made me laugh. I played around with placing them and creating a piece I liked. If I do not use these shapes for a particular piece, I save them for another time.

I cut out these shapes because they had nice colors or made me laugh. I played around with placing them and creating a piece I liked. If I do not use these shapes for a particular piece, I save them for another time.

Once you have enough shapes cut out, you can begin playing with the placement of these pieces. In the above image, I had a person from an exercise magazine holding up a large bowl of lemons. You can create any combination of pieces that make you laugh, smile or whatever emotion or feeling you are aiming to achieve (or not).

Play around with these pieces and try out several before the next step.

Step 4: Glue your pieces into place for the finished product.

I created three different pieces-- the two on the left are meant to be more humorous or weird. The piece on the right is a blood orange rising over a cowboy outside of Quito.

I created three different pieces-- the two on the left are meant to be more humorous or weird. The piece on the right is a blood orange rising over a cowboy outside of Quito.

Finally, place your pieces on the thick paper for the final layout. Take your glue stick and apply glue to the corners and middle of your magazine or book pieces to ensure that the edges stay glues. I usually start with the bottom pieces and move my way forward.

You can use your final pieces as art in your home. I often mail these pieces to friends and family members and have created some pretty great holiday cards from collages. Happy collaging!