This post is about how I make my collages. Starting with either photographs taken on location, plein air landscape studies (observed in nature), or some combination, I begin to assemble the materials I will use.
The Androscoggin River runs through Topsham and Brunswick into Merrymeeting Bay where it joins a confluence of rivers that merge with the sea. It is a lively and rich motif. I spent Sunday mornings last winter with my artist friend Lib, working from the river as seen from large plate glass windows in a studio in Brunswick’s Fort Andross Mill.
The gallery (above) shows two plein air studies that I painted with acrylics while observing the river on wintry Sunday mornings early in 2008. Painting from observation is an essential compliment to my more imaginative and playful collage works. I used the acrylic study on the easel as a visual guide while composing the collage, Androscoggin River, February.
My collages are constructed mostly with paper I paint myself. I also have a small collection of old wallpaper samples and other types of paper that I use on occasion. For painting paper, I use acrylics because their capacity for opaque coverage as well as expressive brushwork makes them very versatile.
The element of surprise is a constant in collage. I enjoy the process of painting the paper and visualizing possibilities. I usually brush on the paint with the thought “sky” or “water” but often find that the hand colored papers find uses I do not anticipate. As my work on a collage progresses, I give myself over to the image and what it requires.
Making a collage is a fluid process that occurs over time, allowing for me to build complexity and detail from simple planes of color. I am interested in animating the space and suggesting the varied textures, movement, and rhythms of nature in an evocative rather than purely descriptive manner. I want the viewer to experience the image in a tactile sensory way so that the picture is felt rather than just seen. I also enjoy how the cut and torn edges of colored paper remind the viewer that they are looking at a construction.
In the gallery of photos you can see the starting point for Androscoggin River, February, the large collage in my Little Dog Coffee Shop show. To begin, I chose large pieces of painted paper for the water, sky, and land and glued them to the paper support. I use sturdy 100% cotton rag paper for the backing of the collage which I tape securely to a board. For a paper backing, I use Arches cover or another mold made printmaking paper that can handle being wet. I keep the entire collage taped down on the edges until it has dried completely.
The glue I use is a viscous mixture of clear cellulose paste (like wallpaper paste) and white glue, in varying proportions. I use a broad bristle paintbrush and coat both the paper support and the colored paper. I use a sponge to smooth the paper to the support and also mop up any excess glue. The white glue insures adherence and the clear glue allows some reversibility, so I can change my mind and remove a colored paper that doesn’t work.
PS. In the gallery you can see our cats Tabitha and Misty (adopted from our local animal shelter and beloved family pets) enjoying a rare visit in the studio. Tab has been known to walk on a wet palette of paint–she can’t resist checking out every surface and Misty has a bad habit of shredding the edges of paper with her sharp feline teeth. You can see why cats and collage don’t mix too well.