Collage Ideas for Your Art Journal
Collage for Beginners
Starting an art journal seems like a good idea – until you are faced with that first pristine, white-as-snow first page. It's a beautiful book, you chose well, and, in your mind's eye, you can see the finished journal - inviting, colorful and bulging with your creativity... but how to start? How to break through the paralysis of the first white page?
Usually, I start by painting a few pages. Splash on some uneven washes of watercolor or acrylic, maybe spray with diluted ink or gently lay down some water soluble crayon or pencil. Anything just to overcome white page phobia.
The next stage is to add some focus for your journaling – how about a drawing? A painting? No? If you are like me and not entirely confident of your skills, then collage is the answer.
Collage can be funny, eclectic, surreal, contextual, beautiful, perfect, imperfect, colorful, peaceful, reflective, energizing, engaging and absorbing. Collage is quick and fun to do. It can be doodled on, torn, messed about with and even pulled off if you hate it.
So how and where do you start with collage?
Gather some collage supplies or 'elements'. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cut out photos of faces, whole people, parts of people, hats, hair, shoes and any other bits of people that catch your attention. Magazines, especially fashion mags are a good source of human collage material.
- Cut out trees, flowers, birds, mammals and fish, National Geographic magazine is a great resource.
- Cut out words and phrases from any printed source – junk mail is one of the best places to find nice fat words.
- There are tons of free collage sources on the internet. Print out a few sheets full.
- Save greetings cards, birthday, Christmas, etc. and cut out interesting parts.
- Photocopy or scan other art that you have done, cut it up for re-use. Do the same with your kids' drawings and paintings. Every time you look at a page that includes your kid's art you will think of them.
- Draw some silly faces or people on printer paper and cut them out.
- Use masking (decorator's) tape – write on it with markers or pencils and stick it straight down on the page.
- Buy some old 80s and 90s coffee table-style books at the thrift store and cut them up. Yes, really. It's better to repurpose and upcycle a book than it eventually end up in the trash. You might as well take advantage. Of course, please don't destroy any book that would be enjoyed or perhaps be valuable one day.
- Scrapbook papers are readily available and you can cut them into borders or cut out interesting elements.
- Print out your own photos and cut them up.
- Tear images as well as cutting them, a torn edge makes them more interesting.
When my children were younger we used to spend whole afternoons 'cutting out'. They really enjoyed amassing a stack of collage pieces – some they would turn into works of art themselves but often I would snaffle the remainder for my stash! Slave labor – hmm, maybe, but we all had fun.
Beware of Copyright Restrictions
A word about copyright. You are completely free to use images that you cut out of magazines or print from websites on your personal work. However, the minute you upload it to a blog, Flickr or anywhere else where the public can see it, then you'd better make sure those images are either copyright-free or altered so much to be unrecognizable.
Collage Glue and Adhesives
Use what suits you best. If you are not trying to create an heirloom piece then glue sticks, Elmers, craft PVA etc. will be fine. Craft glues like Mod Podge are pretty good. For elements like words and borders, I very often use a double-sided tape applicator. The collage continues to get stuck down as I paint and work on the page.
If you'd like to try something different then acrylic mediums are beloved by collage artists. They can be used as glue and also as a sealer. Some will allow you to work on top of the collaged page after drying.
The thing to do is experiment – for instance, it is possible to glue down collage pieces on to wet acrylic paint, after all it is the same as acrylic medium, the difference is that the medium has no pigment.
Teesha Moore Demonstrates her Method of Collaging
Before you get your glue out, have some fun trying out some layouts. Ask yourself some questions – do you want to keep to a theme? A mood, A color? Do you want the collage to be the star of the show or do you prefer it to fade into the background? Are you going to alter the collage elements.
Move the pieces around on the page. Try some unlikely combinations – leaves for hair, long legs on a small body. Add some random words. Make up a sentence with cut out words. I wager that inspiration will strike as you play with the collage pieces. Suddenly, you'll know exactly what you want for the page or spread (two facing pages).
Once you have decided on a layout, then glue the pieces into place. One thing I often do is to go around the edge of the piece, partly on the paper as well, with a charcoal pencil or grey marker pen. This seems to make the collage look as though it is part of the page.
You can alter the collage anyway you like. Draw on it – markers are good for working on top of magazine paper. Add false eyelashes, beauty spots, mustaches, stripy stockings. Add a touch of glamour with metallic or glitter gel pens. Don't be hesitant about journaling on the collage elements. Stick on more collage pieces – layers are good.
If you want the images to recede into the background then swipe a layer of gesso over the page. This will give the effect of mystery as the elements appear like shadows. Once the gesso is dry, you can write, paint, draw, stamp or add more collage.
Hope I've inspired you to get out the scissors and glue. Have fun with collage in your journal!
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Bev G