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Collage art has become a very important type of art that I work on. The more I do it, the more I love it.

When I started doing collages a few years ago I had no idea how to begin or what to do. Now that I have reached a stage where I am much more comfortable and confident in creating collage art,  I’d like to pass along some advice for anyone who is new to collaging, or looking for new inspiration to do collage art and glue books.

Based on feedback comments on my youtube videos, I see two types of groups interested in collage art. First are people who have valuable, family history pieces like photos, letters or documents, and want to display them in some kind of collection, like in a journal for example.

Second, are people who simply want to use up scraps, images they’ve torn from magazines, leftover project remnants, or whatever paper ephemera they have on hand to fill up a page. It’s this second group I will be focusing on in this post (I’ll get to the first group at another time).

One of the great things about doing art is the sense of accomplishment after a project is done. I feel that sense of accomplishment after I complete a collage, and it doesn’t matter how big or how little it is. A collage can be done on a canvas or a journal page. It can also be done on a postcard, index card, or a playing card. It can be great for people who feel like they don’t have a lot of time to devote to art but feel the need to do something creative.

Here are collages on index cards.

A low stress, exercise collage book, as a way to relax and have fun using up scraps is a great project to take up. It’s also a great place for you to experiment with your creativity and practice improving on how you put your collages together. You won’t always love what you create but practicing what you do will make you better.

So what kind of paper should you use for glue books and collaging?  

For me it’s good to have a mix of things like text, illustrations, images, color, black and white, paint, handwriting, etc, but  paper choice is arbitrary. As individuals we are drawn to things that interest us. The reason why you like something may or may not be important, and often it’s better not to think too deeply when considering what to save or not. For me, it’s a split-second decision to keep something or discard it. If I pause longer than a few seconds or come back for a second look, it’s worth keeping.  

If you are starting out fresh and need some ideas of where to look for paper ephemera and scraps, here are my notes:

Where should you make your collages?

You’ve got many choices here. I mentioned before, you can go as large as a canvas, or as small as an index card, or smaller. My friend Pamela has a Rolodex project with a collection of collages on hundreds of Rolodex cards.

If you want to create a book or journal, I recommend starting off with something simple. Craft stores or discount retailers like Target have basic 5 x 7″ journals in their bargain bins that you can get for a dollar. These are good because you are going to be tearing out pages to thin out the book. For every page, tear out 3. It seems like a lot of pages you are getting rid of, but your little book will have a big alligator mouth unless you take drastic measures.

If you’re starting a brand new collage project, it’s good to remind yourself of what your plans and goals will be. Here’s a forward I wrote to myself.

For a more in-depth look on creating a collage book, as well as my thoughts on how much is enough when it comes to scraps, please see the video I made.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared much about the process of making journal covers. I do them all pretty much the same way, so I thought I should write a bit about it.

I start with cutting down some heavy weight card stock to the size I want. I don’t have specific measurements but it’s usually around 5 x 8″ with a spine of 1.5″.

After I cut the board, I cut a piece of tyvek paper that will cover the width of the spine and a half inch over to the front and back covers. Tyvek is a “paper” made with plastic fibers that help give the joints strength so the book covers don’t tear off over time. I use double sided tape to attach it.

Once the tyvek is in place I cut down the paper I want to decorate the cover with and glue it or attach it with double sided tape. I create 6 pieces: 3 for the front, spine, and back, and then 3 for the inside front, spine, and back. In this photo I’ve moved the pieces below the cardboard so you can see the layers. Normally the pieces of decorative paper would be flush, or very near the edge of the page.

The cover should be in one continuous piece by this point. Lay it flat on your work space with the side you want to be on the inside covers lying up and take 2 large pieces of white tissue paper, laying them on top of your cover. Cut the two pieces of tissue a quarter of an inch larger than your covers, on all sides.

With a paint brush and some matte medium or glue, attach the first piece of tissue paper over your cover. I usually start with the spine and move out to the covers. With the tissue paper glued on, there should be a bit of extra paper hanging off the edges.

Once it is dry (I usually use my hair dryer to quickly dry it), take your scissors and carefully trim off the extra tissue paper. Turn it over and lay your second piece of tissue paper down. Use your paint brush to glue down the second sheet. With the extra quarter inch, wrap it over the edge and use the medium to glue it down.

Dry everything again. Now the fun begins with paints, dyes, and whatever tools you’d like to use to decorate your covers. I like to use Distress Stain, acrylic paint, rubber stamps and permanent ink, and lately Gelato pigment crayons.

Here’s the cover I made with these:

This cover has a simple element from a rubber stamp and ink. Simple but effective, I think.

This one also has a rubber stamped impression.

After you have done enough to your covers, seal them with a varnish. I use Liquitex Satin Varnish but I think just about any varnish will do. If you have experience with Mod Podge that might work too. I ruined an important piece of art with Mod Podge (I couldn’t get rid of the tackiness, even after days of drying it, and it stuck to something else causing major damage to the cover and the other piece next to it) so I never touch the stuff anymore.

I sometimes attach metal pieces or other decorative elements. Some planning is needed for that, but they do get attached once the varnish is dry.

 

 

One of the neat things about sharing your art through the internet is that other artists reach out to you and connect with you over shared styles and interests. That’s how I came to be in contact with Trishia at the French Kissed Postcards shop online.

Trishia and I both love collage art from vintage paper sources. We initially connected through our interest in Mary Green‘s glue book art, and then I learned that Trishia herself is a wonderful source of some really gorgeous vintage postcards.

But first let me explain about my interest in postcards.

I use postcards a lot in my artwork. When considering a postcard I look for several things:

  • The image on the front: is it in color or black and white (I look for both kinds). Is it interesting?
  • The back for writing: is it blank or has someone written a note? What does the handwriting look like? Is it legible? What language is it in?
  • A stamp: does the postcard have any stamps? More than one? Are the stamps attractive and in one piece? Is there a postmark? Is it legible?
  • A date: is there a date either written by the author or on the postmark?

Sometimes I place the entire postcard in my journal, in a page pocket for example.

Other times I will glue a postcard down so that just a single side is showing. I do that if I am making a larger collage and need only one side as an element in the over all piece.

It’s handy when you have a bunch of old postcards and either the picture on the front is ugly or boring and therefore you don’t feel guilty about covering it up permanently, or if the note on the writing side is dull (or it’s blank), then I don’t feel guilty about gluing it down.

Trishia knows I use a lot of postcards and she sent me a packet of vintage postcards that are just beautiful. She sent me some that are a perfect example of classic penmanship and some that are written extra fancy.

Here’s one with a nice illustration and a stamp with postmark all on the front. I haven’t see many like this.

She also sent some with neat illustrations or photos. My absolute favorite are postcards with architecture. This one is of architecture with the bonus of writing on the same side. Wow!

Trishia specializes in French postcards. At her shop she sells vintage postcards as well as digital images of postcards for quick download. Those are useful too for printing at home and using for personal projects. Check out her shop if you are looking for some really unique pieces of postcard art.

She sent me more postcards but I didn’t photograph all of them. I did take a picture of the card she sent them in. It’s so pretty I’m tempted to use this in a collage too!

 

 

Last Saturday I took a day-trip to San Francisco to meet my friend Pamela. Pamela is an amazing collage artist  — one of the most talented that I know. We’ve discovered that we share a similar style, or at least are drawn to similar types of images and illustrations.

We’ve been admiring each other’s work for several months now and knew that if we’d get together we’d have a lot to talk about, so when we made arrangements for me to come up to her studio I was so giddy, I couldn’t resist telling my kids, “Mommy’s got a play-date on Saturday!”

Her workspace is filled with so much inspiration and neat projects. Here’s some of the loveliness on her desk.

Pamela's desk

And her tower of index cards. I love all those tabs.

index card tower

One of her awesome projects to make a piece of art on a Rolodex card, every single day.

Rolodex card art

Other artists also contribute to her collection, including me (yay!). She’s been doing this for a couple of years so her collection is extensive. See her blog post for more amazing photos. All those cards represent a work of art. It’s astounding, really. It would take a pleasant period of time to go through them all. I’d love to do that some morning, along with a cup of tea.

Rolodex collection

Another of her interests is in correspondence art, and actually this is where our paths crossed. We share a love of all things postal, so of course I wanted to see art she makes, she collects, and some of the ephemera she has for creating more.

letters and glassine

postage stamp book

Here are some of the postcards she has received from all over the world.

mail call

Field Notes

Another project that is very unique is her work on altered passports. She takes an old passport and tells a story with photos and ephemera of where this person has traveled. It’s so creative! Read her description of how she comes up with the ideas on her blog. I want to create something with one of my old passports. I’m going to do some studying of these for a while first.

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She also has glue books that I found fascinating. The covers come from hardcover Reader’s Digest compilations.

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All in all, we had a wonderful time. I brought some of my journals to share so with all of our sharing we didn’t have that much time to create. That’s ok. We’re going to do it again someday 🙂

rubber stamps

bingo cards

gummed labels

 

postal stamp art

Do you have a lot of old postage stamps sitting in a drawer somewhere? Then here’s a little project for you.

Wall art with postage stamps

Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Print out something you can make a silhouette out of. I chose my initial M, with the font increased to 450, and then printed in a lighter gray instead of full black. You don’t want to use up all your toner color on printing things out. This is your test page, keep it for step 4.

test initial

Step 2: Once you have your image at the size you want, do another print but instead of printing on regular white printer paper, print on to black card stock (Yes, the gray print will show on black card stock).

Step 3: Using an Exacto knife or something similar, carefully cut out your image so that you have the silhouette in tact.

initial silhouette

Step 4: Go back to your test page and use that as your template, carefully filling in the gray spaces with your stamps. You can line them up or overlap; however you want to do it. Periodically lay your black silhouette on top of your stamp collage to see how it looks.

fill in with stamps

Step 5: Affix your stamps to the page using matte medium or other kind of glue. I used a glue stick.

Step 6: When you’ve finished affixing all of your stamps, let the page dry completely and then press it overnight under something heavy so that it is completely flat the next day.

Step 7: Lightly paint your stamps with a sealing varnish to make the stamps look uniform and to protect them.

use varnish to coat

Step 8: Attach the silhouette to the white page using glue or some other adhesive. I used double-sided tape.

Step 9: Glue or affix your stamp silhouette on to a background card stock.

Step 10: Embellish or leave it alone, and then decide how you want to hang it. I punched eyelets and used copper wire for hanging.

There you have it! I like how I can see some of the cancellation marks on the stamps. The lavender stamp was posted from Vienna in 1915. Neat!

cancellation marks

more cancellation marks

 

 

 

junk mail
I’ve been convinced for a while that junk mail can be of some kind of artistic use. I’m still not sure exactly what or how it could be of use, but I wanted to start experimenting.

I started setting aside pieces to make small book bundles. I was looking for heavier- weight catalog covers, tri-folded letters on good, heavy card stock, slick oversized postcards, and maybe some return envelopes.

After I gathered them and staggered them as I wanted, I sewed them with a pamphlet stitch to make a single-signature “book”.

junk mail book

I had the idea to empty some of my scrap bins and just glue pretty much anything that I thought might work in a particular spot, not caring much about detail. First, I quickly and lightly painted over some of the glossy pages so that when I glue my scraps they would stick.

Then I got started gluing.

collaging junk mail jj 1

collaging junk mail jj 2

It took me a few days to get everything.

collaging junk mail jj 3

collaging junk mail jj 4

collaging junk mail jj 5

Here’s the cover:

junk mail jj cover

But now that’s done I have to choose to leave it as is, or do something else to it. I think I’m going to put some paints out and see what it looks like if I add smudges of color here and there. There are already tons to colors on these collages so I’m going to pick muted and dull colors. I want to tone the whole thing down.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Stay tuned.

sewing glue bookBack in August — 9 months ago — I began working on what I’m calling a memory book of my grandmother. I took a bunch of sewing related items like button cards, embroidery thread, sewing related paper sources and images, and then added photos of my grandmother to create something like a glue book.

I used an old book and took the pages out, just using the covers.

altered book cover

I sewed in 4 signatures of 4 pages, 8 front and back. All together that’s 32 pages that I collaged.

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It’s taken a lot of thought to complete, including writing a little essay on memories I have of my grandmother and why she is important to me.

And I still have 2 pages left to complete. I’ve run out of inspiration at the moment, but I’ll find it again.

Here are the latest finished pieces of collage art. I decided to make a few cards, sized approximately 5 x 8. I was looking to create something a little more elegant.

The first one has a window that frames a gate on the inside. On the top is a piece of a book page torn out of a 1950s mathematics book. For the black card I used a page from a Spanish book from the 1880s. It’s the original page. I didn’t make a copy of it. Also on the inside is a section of a page of an index of classical composers and that page was so old that the paper was falling apart as I was handling it. Now that it has been glued down it will be preserved for much longer.

I don’t see it as destroying originals. I like to have and see authentic pages, and also to use them in my work. Sure, I’ll use some printed images off of the internet, but I prefer having a stash of random old pieces that I can use in a variety of creative ways.

 

 

Vienna tapestry canvasHere’s my latest finished project: a collage tapestry on canvas. It seems like a lot of my projects are inspired by my experience of living in Vienna for a short time but I’ve had this canvas project in mind for quite a while.

This one I started a little over 3 years ago and just finished it this week. Why so long? Well, my little guy is 3 1/2 and I guess I’ve had other things on my plate. It also took me a long time to choose my images, scan and print others, and then assemble everything as I liked.

Some of the pieces like photos, ticket stubs, maps, and letters are mine. Everything else I found on the internet. I scanned things to make the paper sources all the same. I wanted everything to react the same way when I glued it down to the canvas with matte medium.

I really like the divider on the piece, about 2/3 of the way down. I like how it breaks things up a bit. I painted it using 4 different colors of acrylic paint. Then I decided I wanted to add a few metal pieces there of things I picked up on my excursions to Naschmarkt in Vienna. I have a coat collar fastening, a Helason key, and some Kärnten buttons. I sewed them or glued them directly on to the canvas.

Austrian coat fastenings

Austrian Helason key

Kartner buttons

I was inspired to do this kind of art on a canvas after I saw this blog post by Diane Bouchard. I fell in love with her concept and knew I could create something similar that was entirely my own. Diane and her friends used beeswax to seal the canvas. I was thinking about it for mine but then decided I would use a varnish instead. I used a satin finish varnish from Liquitex. Nice stuff.

A few more notes and pictures:

Otto Wagner

I photoshopped Otto Wagner on to a copy of one of his building sketches and then printed it out as a single piece.

Stephansdom

After I glued everything down, I went around the edges of each image with a black oil pastel to make a border or frame. It kind of compartmentalized everything.

Peterskirche

There are a few tiny details of structures like this little one of Peterskirche. I scanned them out of a travel guide and then fussy cut them out before gluing them on.

 

junk journal page1

I find that collage art is not easy. I love making collages but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Some people can easily throw something together while I take what seems like forever to do a single spread of pages.

I’ve wanted to start using up lots of the bits and pieces of scrap paper I’ve been accumulating over the years. I don’t consider myself a hoarder, by the way. I don’t collect or hold on to scraps or junk mail and papers intending to use them someday. I set aside pieces (magazine images, stickers, receipts, tags, etc) that I like and keep them in a small accordion file folder. When I need something random I go through my file folder and use it. My collection is pretty controlled because the fact that I have a collection of scraps seems a little crazy to me, and I want to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

I bought a blank little notebook for a dollar from Target and tore out a bunch of pages to thin it out. When I was ready to start collaging scraps I first used washi tape to reenforce the bind.

junk journal page 2

I tried not to over think my layouts. I mostly went with color themes when looking for pieces that would work well together. Sometimes it wasn’t about the coloring but about layers and making them work together.

junk journal page3

This spread has a theme with birds and nature.

junk journal birds

In addition to papers I used stickers and rubber stamps. I also used a few stencils.

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This was a great exercise for me. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of pressure to make things look beautiful. I simply wanted to fill pages with whatever scraps I could put my hands on. I tore edges instead of cutting them exactly straight. I used a smeared stamped image instead of throwing it out. I really liked the low expectations I set for myself and how it helped me relax with this.

junk journal page 5

For the complete flip through, see my video here.