Experiment with mixed media and collage and even make your own collage paper with Doris Charest, who says, 'The best way to learn how to make mixed-media collages is to experiment. Follow my techniques, but don’t be afraid to experiment, too!'
How to make your own collage papers
Shop-bought tissue papers are not always archival and lightfast, which is a problem of the collage medium. And as beautiful as handmade papers from other countries are, they can fade, so try making your own collage papers instead. Here’s my method:
- Cut a white plastic bin bag in half so that it is a large rectangle.
- Lay tissue paper on top of the plastic.
- With a 2in. brush, gently apply watered-down acrylics (to the consistency of skimmed milk) to the tissue. Be careful, as the tissue paper will tear if you press down too hard with your brush.
- Paint the tissue papers one or multiple colours. Spattering paint of a different colour on the tissue creates wonderful effects. The papers take about half an hour to dry.
- Once the papers are dry, they will lift off the plastic. Notice how the front of the paper is different from the back. Wonderful surprises come out of this! So, unlike bought papers, you get two for one – two surfaces from the same paper!
Choose your colours
Now that you have a surface and these wonderful handpainted papers, what do you do? First, choose three different colours, a black and a light colour. No more than that, especially if you are a beginner. Generally, I would suggest you pick one colour, its complement and a neutral. For example: orange, its complement – purple, and a neutral would be a greypurple or a grey-orange. Notice that I have not mentioned white. Sometimes, beige is light enough depending on the colours you pick. The black could be a dark purple.
Demonstration: Blue poppy still life
1. Start with shapes
- Tear or cut the papers into basic shapes.
- Make sure the shapes are different sizes.
- For every colour used, have three different sizes: small, medium and large.
- Arrange the shapes into a pleasing design.
- Only when you are happy with the design should you start to glue the pieces to the surface.
To make it easy for yourself, have two boards. Arrange the pieces on one board. Then, when you are ready to glue them down, take one piece at a time and glue them in the same location on the second board. This saves you having to remember where everything went.
2. Transfer you image
- When the background is dry, you are ready to add a photo-transfer (see method below).
- Decide what image (or images) you would like to incorporate into the collage. You may not want to add any images at all and leave the collage as it is – an abstract.
- Alternatively, add images by drawing or painting them on top of the collage or by photo-transfer.
I often do both. I photocopy my drawings then photo-transfer them onto my collages.
- Take a fresh photocopy (old photocopies do not transfer well), and place it carbon side down on the painting.
- Dip a Q-tip (cotton bud) into some acetone-free nail polish remover and gently rub the paper until it is soaked with the remover. Rub only a very small area at a time. Take a spoon or hard object and rub this dampened area. Press hard.
- When you have repeated this process over the entire image, lift the paper and the image should have transferred itself onto your painting. If the paper sticks, dampen the area again and lift. Remember that you will get the image in reverse because it is face down.
3. Add some colour
Now add colour to your drawing or photo-transfer using acrylics.
Don't completely finish the subject as this allows the image to blend with the background, allow the work to fade in some places and stand out in others.
People who have bought my work say that every time they look at it they see something different. Aim for this and, above all, experiment and have fun with your collage making.