Collage is a very exciting medium for expressing ideas. Essentially, collage refers to the assemblage of chosen objects together on a flat surface. Working with solid objects and combining them on a surface can be an excellent way of introducing yourself to the world of art. It is also a way for the experienced artist to experiment with different forms, shades, and colors and as possibly as a form of preparation for other works of art. Many famous artists, including Picasso, have developed collage as a legitimate and viable art form in its own right.
The surface on which the collage will be created on is all-important. As we will be discussing collage with solid objects, the surface must be solid, rigid, durable and preferably inexpensive.
One of the most popular surfaces for creating medium collages is masonite of hardboard. You can use any wooden material, but always ensure that it is at least a quarter of an inch thick. This will ensure that there will be very little buckling as a result of wet materials or heavy objects. It is also a good idea to support your surface from behind. This is particularly important if you wish to work with very heavy objects.
To create support for your surface, cut two four-inch strips of wood to fit the edges of the support. Using wood glue, attach these strips to the edges so that the wooden surface is supported and strengthened from behind. Allow the glue to dry completely before proceeding with your collage. You may vary this procedure by creating a wooden cross at the back of the surface.
There are, of course, many other surfaces for solid college, including metal. This is very useful support, especially if you are considering adding very heavy objects to your collage. With a metal surface, you can also add techniques like welding to your collage-making repertoire. One need not always use a flat surface when creating a collage. Wooden boxes, frames, or stretchers can be used. Let your imagination dictate the choice of a surface, but always remember the basic technical requirements.
Preparing The Surface
If you are using a wood or hardboard surface it is a good idea to prepare this surface with a layer of shellac, this seals the wood and allows you to paint without fear of rooting the wood. Alternatively, a few layers of acrylic paint can also provide a surface that will accept paint and that will act as barrier between the collage elements and the wood.
What You Need
There are a few items that you should have handy before beginning your explorations into collage. Make sure that you have a supply of old cloth and paper. Collage work can get messy. To this end, have some glue solvent and turpentine at hand. You will also need a few ordinary paint brushes for various purposes and, of course, a supply of glues ranging from wood glue to more industrial purpose epoxy glues for heavier objects. Some common metal tools will also help in the manipulation of collage elements. An old knife, old spoons and a screwdriver or two, will prove to be invaluable in collage.
Collecting The Collage Material
The material should be collected before the collage is planned. I have a number of wooden containers that I am continually filling with odd pieces of material. These materials might range from a piece of glass with an interesting shape, picked up on the side of the road, to an old kitchen utensil that offers hidden artistic possibilities. A collage is successful because of the particular combinations of materials used and also because of the way that these are treated.
When starting a college collection, you will be amazed at how you begin noticing potential beauty in objects that you might normally have thrown away. Even a piece of wood or a burned piece of cardboard can become something unique in combination with other elements. The secret of a good college is the way in which different elements and materials are brought together to form a unity. Another aspect to consider is the preparation of found materials. You do not have to use objects exactly as you find them. Painting, burning, carving, and other treatments can produce interesting and exciting college material.
The Aesthetics Of Collage
When preparing a collage it is not sufficient merely to place a number of dissimilar objects on the same surface and hope for a work of art. It takes careful planning and thought before a work emerges. This is part of the reason for collecting materials beforehand. A suggestion if you are a beginner to this medium, is to study the works of Picasso, Braque, and the Surrealists. These were some of the first artists to bring collage into the artistic limelight. You will notice that very often it is the subtle use of only a few objects, combined with paints and other material, which suggests the artistic perception.
Beginning your first collage can be a daunting experience. Here is an example of the process that you might find helpful. Once you have assembled some materials and prepared your support, it is a good idea to focus on some theme. The theme may be suggested by the elements that you have collected. The collection process should however be completely without intention. In other words, you should collect those objects that appeal to you and not for any other purpose. The subconscious mind will choose those objects, textures and forms that appeal to the deep artist within you.
For example, say that you have collected a number of materials from the sea. Begin with a sea motif in mind. It is always best to make a few sketches of what you would like your work to look like, even if this is a very rough approximation. Begin by using acrylic paint to paint a blue wash on your support. Allow this to dry and begin selecting materials from your collection. Remember that there are no rules to confine you. Depending on how the work is developing, you can use other elements like steel in your work.
After you have selected your basic objects, begin with the lightest objects first and glue them to the support. Allow each object that you place on the surface to suggest relationships with other objects. These relationships need not be logical but can be relationships of form and color alone. Once you have one or two objects on the surface you might decide that the different colors and textures are too obvious or that the objects tend to clash rather than create a unity. In this case, it is a good idea to paint over the entire surface with a diluted wash of acrylic color.
This wash has two functions. It tends to strengthen the work technically, and secondly, the overall color tends to blend the different objects into unity and the relationships become clearer. From this point onwards there are no rules and you will have to rely on your innate aesthetic sense and imagination to guide you. You can even work directly on the surface of the collage with sandpaper. One very successful collage that I once saw had been partially burnt and the burnt areas blended with paint into the general format of the work.
One of the secrets of collage work is preparation. Although it is essentially a very spontaneous medium, preparing your objects and taking time to consider their placement and relationships to each other on the surface, can result in an effective work of art.One of the secrets