It’s Jana here today and it’s with pleasure that I offer you this week’s challenge for the Art Journal Adventure Week 35 – Create a Collage. I hope you enjoy creating your response to this challenge as much as I did mine! Follow along with me, as I create a collage and use hand stitching as a form of alternative mark making to tie it all together.
Whenever I create a collage or an art journal page, I always start with my ephemera and scrap paper. I find the greatest inspiration in a pile of papers that I’ve collected. My ephemera stash ranges from old books, ledger sheets, vintage advertising, black/white photos, receipts, old lace, embellishments, gift wrap and under paper. My eyes are drawn to patterns and colors and all things vintage.
You probably have a good stash of ephemera laying around already but in case you don’t, look for interesting patterns and colors in everyday paper items (tissue boxes, junk mail, food labels, catalogs or magazines, a phone book, etc.) If you’re anything like me, you might already have a box (or five) of just papers that you’re saving for the right project. Dig into your ephemera and start assembling a small pile of things that strike your fancy. Don’t over think it, stick with color and patterns you find appealing. If you pick something that is dear to you, I suggest that you make a laser copy of it and use the copy, since you might end up covering it up or tearing it apart.
Once you’ve gathered your pile of ephemera, start playing around with the color and textures of your papers; trying them out to see how they look together. The purpose in this step is to create your palette of papers that will tell the story that you’re going to create. Find combinations that are pleasing to you. While I had a lot of lovely greens in my inspiration pile, I was smitten by a red stamped image found on some tissue paper, and that became the element of color from which I started to build out my palette.
Remember, you’re just auditioning papers at this point. You’re not creating a composition yet.
A bit about my journal page substrate: Canson 140# Watercolor paper, torn to size using a metal ruler. There’s something very appealing to me about that deckled edge. You can work directly in your journal or on Bristol or Watercolor paper, and then glue or bind it later into your journal.
Once you have built your palette, you can begin those second auditions and start editing your pile. At this point, my muse tends to kick in as I pull from the pile and start playing with placement and exploring the adjacent effects, just as one would do if paint were the medium. Don’t be afraid to tear your papers, look at the backsides (sometimes, the backside is more interesting), place things upside down. As you play with the placement, your composition will start to take form. Keep auditioning until you’ve found something that pleases your eye. Still no glue!
Once you’ve found a composition that is pleasing to you. Stop and take a photo with your cell phone or quickly sketch out the layout on a blank sheet of paper. This will help you remember where you had this piece of paper or where that lace went. It’s good to have a reference photo but don’t be married to your composition. Be willing to change things up as you start working the papers. Things will move and change as you start gluing things down, adding stitching, etc.
Carefully move your collage elements off to the side. I tend to move them in groupings. Make any trims necessary so that your elements fit on your page (unless going off the page is something you are intentionally doing.)
Collage papers used from L to R, Top to Bottom:
Binding strip from an old book, scrapbook paper, translucent fibery paper, a page from a Braille book, the unfolded handle to a paper grocery bag with ribbon and the stitching from the binding strip of the old book on top of it, the backside of an old carbon paper receipt layered with that fibery paper and a butterfly from a scrap kit, under paper (newsprint that is under my work area that catches my extra paint), a vintage lumber ledger, that yummy tissue paper that wrapped a gift at one time, the top to the cat litter bag (no shame!), more scrap book paper and a little bow that I’d found.
I use a combination of both Liquitex fluid matte medium and heavy gel matte medium to glue my collage pieces down. The thinner papers take the fluid medium well, and the heavier materials really need the gel medium to get them to stay put. I like to use a Ranger Craft Squeegee to smooth over the delicate papers, removing any air bubbles in the process.
Note that I haven’t glued all my elements down at this point. I want to incorporate stitching so I need to determine where that alternative mark making will pack the most punch. I’ve decided to glue the gauzy ribbon onto the brown paper grocery bag handle and stitch on it. I used the heavy gel to adhere the ribbon to the brown paper. Once it’s dry, I’ll begin my stitching.
For this collage, I’m using a regular needle and sewing thread. You may want to use embroidery floss or even waxed linen thread depending on your composition and the weight of your collage papers. If you’re sewing through thicker papers, you may want to pre-punch the holes with an awl or other device.
Meanwhile, I’m still playing with the composition and layout. That bow no longer works for me. I don’t want to use it. I haven’t found a place yet for the old book binding, so I tear a piece from it and know that it will replace the bow. I’ve also brought out some little embellishments and am holding a final casting call.
My embellishments have been selected and I think I’m ready to put this together, but something still isn’t working for me, so I add a line of stitching with black thread down the middle of the page from top to bottom. I leave some of the thread hanging off the page, because I like it – it works. Since I’ll be gluing this into my art journal, I’m not too worried about the backside of the page and how it looks. Still, I add masking tape to the backside of the page to cover the stitches. If you are concerned about your thread showing through on the other side, you can make your mark with a pen instead or using the masking tape approach, paint over it or cover it up with ephemera as your base layer.
I’m happy with where my muse has led me. The only thing left to finish up at this point is to place my stitched pieces down with heavy gel medium and add the final embellishments.
Voila! As you can tell, I added a little bit of lace and added a little more stitching to my embellishments. Overall, I’m quite pleased by the result and am reminded once again that letting my muse take over always leads me to a better result than I had originally imagined.
I hope you enjoyed peeking into my creative process and are excited about exploring and creating collage. Thanks to Bonnie and Barb for asking me to help support the group and share with you. I can’t wait to see what you create!
Collage Artists I am inspired by:
Crystal Neubauer – http://crystalneubauer.com/home.html
Caterina Giglio – http://caterinagiglio.blogspot.com/
Roxanne Evans Stout – http://www.roxanneevansstout.com/
Below are some books on Incorporating Stitching in Mixed Media Art
Jana Freeman is a mixed media artist, living in San Diego and is the owner of Way Art Yonder Studio (www.wayartyonder.com). She hosts a variety of art workshops at her private studio and can be followed on Instagram @janamfreeman and @wayartyonder.