The Art of Collage: Making Art From Trash

Updated on August 20, 2018
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Collage piece titled "Home Plate."
Collage piece titled "Home Plate." | Source

The Sin of Hoarding

It started out because we were moving from a large house to a small one-bedroom apartment. In packing you find things you never knew you had been hoarding and usually are embarrassed to admit you have and how long you’ve had it. I found that I must have had hundreds of magazines and old calendars I had hung onto because they were either pretty or there was some article I wanted to save. The funny thing is that none of the articles I saved magazines for did I ever revisit. I was hoarding trash. How embarrassing.

"Still Life"
"Still Life" | Source

I Was Hooked

I had seen a few things done with collage in the '70s and '80s but I was never impressed. Not until I came across the work of Derek Gores. His work is truly masterpieces of design and color. I became obsessed with his work and technique. Eventually I wanted to try it with my own style and subject matter. Derek creates mostly beautiful model-worthy women in collage. I however, love children and children’s book illustration, so after doing a collage of two using my niece and stepdaughter for models, I was hooked.

I won the Portrait Award for the SWA Annual Show in San Francisco, 2014.  My stepdaughter "Kim."
I won the Portrait Award for the SWA Annual Show in San Francisco, 2014. My stepdaughter "Kim." | Source

Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.

— Paul Klee

Children's Images

When I began my Master’s in Illustration work I showed the panel some of my collage work and they were impressed and intrigued with the idea of using collage for the illustration of a children’s book. I hadn’t thought of that before. The collage was just something I did for fun and for me. But I like the idea of using my passions, children’s book illustration and collage, for a project. Since then I’ve been working on this book project.

"Hmong New Year"
"Hmong New Year" | Source

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

— Pablo Ruiz Y Picasso

Long Process

The process however, is very arduous. It takes a good deal of time to search for just the right colors and values to create the tones on a face. Then it takes even longer to cut or tear the pieces and glue them in place. I work for weeks sometimes on a single illustration. If I were working with oils, acrylic or watercolor for example, I would simply blend the colors and tones I wanted and apply them. With collage I must search through stacks of magazine photos to find just the right transition value that will make the shadows and create the form. Often I think I have found just the right value and glued it in place but after standing back and looking it over, I decide it isn’t quite right and have to start the search again.

"Friends & Family"
"Friends & Family" | Source

“Every time I paint, I throw myself into the water in order to learn how to swim.”

— Edouard Manet

Materials

  • Paper
  • Rubber Cement
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Pencil and Eraser
  • Magazine or Calendar photos

The Process Steps

  • To start, choose a good piece of drawing paper or watercolor paper depending on the size you want to work. I find that larger pieces warrant heavier paper.
  • I use rubber cement for the adhesive glue for these collages because it doesn’t shrink and buckle the paper after it’s dry.
  • I find a pair of tweezers indispensable for placing the small pieces in the right places. I use a pair of tweezers made for stamp collectors.
  • Draw your design in pencil and only begin after you are happy with the drawing. It’s pretty difficult to change things after you have glued paper over the drawing. Work your drawing till it is perfection but don’t worry about any smudges or erasure marks since they will all be covered up with glue and collage.
  • Gather magazines, calendars, catalogues and circulars that have good weight paper and a glossy or semi-glossy surface. Try not to mix glossy and matte finished photos together on your image. It will look off in the finished product.
  • Decide on your color theme and begin gathering appropriate photos from the magazines and calendars you have assembled. I like to keep them separated by color and value in little folders for ease of searching later.
  • Don’t forget to also gather words. The fun thing about collage is that you can purposefully add words and phrases to the image, whereas in oil painting, words painted on the image look ostentatious.
  • With oil painting it is the norm to start painting the dark colors first and apply the highlights last. With collage, you can really begin anywhere. However I have begun working from the back to the front. For example I will put in the background first so that when the foreground needs to go over it there won’t be any problems with gluing over it.
  • On a face I often put the facial features last and put the skin of the face first. Next the hair over the skin and last the eyebrows, eyes, lips, etc.

"Lamby"
"Lamby" | Source

“A good portrait… has more than just accurate features. It has some other thing.”

— Alice Neel

Words

The last step is adding appropriate words or small images like catsup bottles just for fun. When my work was being juried for an art show, one judge was heard saying that the artist was portraying more than a face but also telling a story. It’s true. I want the image to have more than pleasing colors and form. I also want a story to come through.

"Ivy and the Chicken"
"Ivy and the Chicken" | Source

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

— St. Francis of Assisi

My Children's Book

As of today I am only half way through my children’s book effort. There is much more to do but I am enjoying the process and the work. It may take me another year to complete but the end product will be unusual and unique.

What Is Art?

I think that art is such a joy for me and a joy for others to view. The world would be a bland and colorless place with the dedication of artists. Art in all it’s many forms is what makes the world beautiful and intriguing. Art is what sells products and magazines. Art is what we drive to work everyday. Art is the music we listen to and movies we watch. Sure, I may never be paid what I think I’m worth, but I do this for the passion I have for it more than the paycheck I receive or don’t receive. Very few artists ever received in their lifetime the recognition and compensation they deserved for their life’s work. Still they painted on. I will do the same. I have often said that I will never retire. I will stop painting when they pull the paintbrush from my cold dead fingers and not before. Like Grandma Moses I hope to be doing just that until I am 105.

“There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through.”

— Dan Rice
"Scottie and Cat"
"Scottie and Cat" | Source

“How important are the visual arts in our society? I feel strongly that the visual arts are of vast and incalculable importance. Of course I could be prejudiced. I am a visual art.”

— Kermit the Frog

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Bede,

        You always truly make me laugh and blush. So sweet of you to say. I'm happy you think so. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Bede le Venerable profile image

        Bede 

        4 weeks ago from Minnesota

        Hi Denise, I hope you don’t have to wait till you're 105 to receive the recognition you deserve. These are masterpieces! I truly appreciate the skill and labor involved…you need just the right color.

        I have little doubt that your work will be in famous museums someday. Keep going with this genre. The historians will call you the Mary Cassatt of collage.

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Mercedus Long,

        I'm so happy you enjoyed my work. I do love what I do. Have a great weekend. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Izky,

        Thank you so much. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Azalea24 profile image

        Mercedus Long 

        4 weeks ago from Maryland

        Wow your work is very nice. It's great to not only do what you love but have others enjoy it as well. I really like Ivy and the Chicken.

        Keep up the great work.

      • Izky profile image

        Izky 

        4 weeks ago

        good

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Shyron E Shenko,

        Thank you. I'd love to see some of your work if you try it. I think you'll find it challenging and fascinating. What and unusual name you have (or maybe just the spelling). Do you have a lot of trouble with people misspelling it or mispronouncing it? Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        John Hansen,

        Yes, please do send it. I will let you know what I think and we can discuss particulars like how many pages you are thinking of etc. Since I have done it before with Create Space I know just how to format the images and text so it comes out perfectly.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        4 weeks ago from Texas

        Denise, this is amazing and I would like to do something like this. You are a beautiful artist.

        Blessings my friend.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        Yes, Denise, I will probably self-publish through Create Space or Lulu, but not sure how to go with illustrations. I can send a copy of the poem to you via email through here if you wish.

        John

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Mary Wickison,

        Thanks. I love trying different mediums and stretching myself. I had one artist friend and peer tell me that buy not focusing on just one medium in my work that I was scattered. He said I would never get into a gallery with a scattered portfolio like I have. I don't know what to say to that except it's my passion and I do what I love and what motivates me. What else can I do? I know it makes me sound stubborn and contrary but I hate have art dictated to like that. Anyway I'm glad you like the Susie video. I had fun making it and creating the collage. I'm gifting the finished collage to Susie. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Dora Weithers,

        I wasn't sure anyone would want to hear about the process since very few have the patience or desire to try what I'm doing with collage so I'm happy you liked that part. Thanks for being a faithful follower. Have a blessed day.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Carrie Kelley,

        Thank you so much. I'm so happy you like them. Sometimes we artists get more from the appreciation of art lovers than we do from a sale. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Catherine Tally,

        Thank you. I am working slowly but steadily on it and doing other collages just for me from time to time... and entering them in art shows or putting them on Etsy to sell. I've sold quite a few already. It's such a thrill when someone likes my work enough to pay money for it! I appreciate your compliments. Thanks for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        By the way, Bill. I don't know the story about billybuc but noticed with a smile for some time that that is your handle. It may give you a chuckle to know when I was a kid, my dad nicknamed me neesiebuc. No one seems to know why but he called me that for years. I have fond memories.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Thanks Bill. You are my biggest advocate and fan next to my husband. I appreciate your kind words and faithful friendship.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        John Hansen,

        Thank you. I love Ivy and the Chicken too. Ivy is my youngest granddaughter. You can't see him but her older brother picked her up and is holding her in one arm and the chicken in the other arm. I decided to focus on her and the chicken and not on him. It was cuter, I thought. To answer your question, yes. I would be interested in reading your manuscript when you have it reading and talking about a quote. Are you thinking of self-publishing? I've done that with a number of my own coloring books and craft books and really like it but the marketing can be problematic. Let me know.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise McGill 

        4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

        Mary,

        What a good question. I didn't mention that in this article. I don't spray them or anything but I have been toying with the idea of painting a Mod Podge over them to seal them. I just not sure if that would discolor the paper at all. After all, it is only old magazines and therefore not archival quality. I do suggest those who have purchased one to frame it behind glass to keep out dust and air and some atmosphere. That isn't sealing them but it is the next best thing. Thank you for commenting.

        Blessings,

        Denise

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        4 weeks ago from Brazil

        I am so in awe at your talent. The use of magazines gives these an extra dimension. I love the fact that you work in so many different mediums.

        I also enjoyed watching your collage of Susie.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for this lesson in creativity. I appreciate the Process section.

      • cat on a soapbox profile image

        Catherine Tally 

        4 weeks ago from Los Angeles

        I am a fan of both recycling and collage, so I was immediately drawn to your article. I love your creativity, helpful suggestions on this art form, and the great quotes too! Keep moving ahead on the children's book. No doubt it will be great!!

      • carrie-kelley profile image

        Carrie Kelley 

        4 weeks ago from USA

        These are really beautiful and creative, Denise. Thanks for sharing :)

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I love the title and I love your art. Well done, Denise!

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        Wow! I absolutely love these collages, Denise. My favourite is Ivy and the Chicken, but they are all wonderful. You re such a talented artist. I have long been considering writing a children's book, instead of being a ghostwriter for others. In fact, I have the text just haven't formatted it yet. If I do I would need an illustrator. Would you be interested in reading the work and giving a quote if that happens? I am talking painted illustrations not collage though.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        These collages are so expressive, some of the best I have seen. Do you spray something to protect it once it is finished?

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://feltmagnet.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)