Creating Collage Backgrounds

This is another one of those fun lab series from Quarry Books.

Collage Lab
Collage Lab

There are 52 labs divided into 12 units. Author Bee Shay starts with building the foundation and textures and continues on through the book to unification and composition.

All of the labs contain materials list and instructions. The labs also include Play and Experiment where she shows the reader options to explore, and Food For Thought where she asks questions encouraging the reader to evaluate the newly created project.

Although she seems to be adding on each lab as you progress through the book, the labs don’t have to be worked in order. She even suggests that you pick and choose what you want to do.

There are so many great techniques in this book so by the time the reader has worked through the book, he or she should be able to feel more at ease with collage. This might not be the book for someone who has been “into” collage for years, but for those of us who have been a bit collage-challenged, this is a great workbook.

One thing she said that I loved that has changed my thinking about collage and art in general was, ” It’s not about the product, it’s about the dance.” And on that note I’ll show you what I created.

The first was Diffusing Imagery.

So I printed out a picture from my computer and used gel medium to attach it to watercolor paper.

Then painted over it with a gesso wash (40% gesso, 60% water). I held my breath. I thought the image was gone – but it wasn’t!

Image covered with one coat of gesso wash

Interesting! Now on to add two more coats of this wash.

Image covered with three coats of gesso wash

I thought for sure now the image would disappear, but it was still there. I was surprised that I really liked the looks of this diffused image.

Then it was on to textures. I had worked with corrugated cardboard when I made one of those Earth Day projects. I again tore and cut through the top layer to expose the fluting.  This time I used acrylic paint thinned with gesso for the background. Then when it dried, I painted over it with the full-strength paint.

Corrugated Cardboard painted with gesso and paint

I really liked that.

The in Lab 43 she writes about borrowing images in composition. So I took this picture – really just part of the picture of my dad’s school in 1924 – and scanned it.

St Benedict's School 1924
St Benedict's School 1924

Unfortunately, I can’t pick my dad out of the couple hundred of kids but I really liked this part of the group. I especially liked the girl with the checkered dress who just happens to be standing in front of a girl who has an “L” on her dress. Anyway, first of all, I attached the printout with gel medium to a sheet of watercolor paper. Then I covered the image with a gesso wash – just one coat.

I went into Photoshop Elements, got the magic extractor, and cut everyone out of the image (on the computer) except her. I didn’t clean it up real good because I would be printing and cutting her out.

Girl Cut Out Of Photo
Girl Cut Out Of Photo

I then sanded over the group picture after the gesso wash had dried. I painted both of the girls with Faber Castell artist pens. I chose those pens because they were close at hand and also are waterproof. I decided I didn’t like the girl in the photo to stand out, so I again covered her in the gesso wash. Well, the pens bled a bit which caused an unexpected effect. I attached the cutout girl and covered her with Mod Podge Sparkle and inked the edges and the group picture.

Borrowed Image Exercise
Borrowed Image Exercise

Pretty neat.

As I said, this book is not for someone who is real experienced in collage. For those of us who’ve never collaged or want to bump up our collage techniques and learn something new, this is a great book. I see working through the labs in my future.You can purchase this book at your local bookstores or online.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review and received no monetary compensation.