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Choosing Papers for a Collage

November 16, 2013

In the comments section from my last post, I was asked how I choose papers to go into a collage composition. That is such a great question, and I’m not sure whether or not I can answer it adequately, but I what I can say is that it’s very intuitive for me.

Starting a collage-making session, it’s important for me to narrow down the choices, because I’m easily overwhelmed by too many different papers, which start to attract me for their own beauty and not for the purpose of the work at hand. Therefore, I like to have just a small selection of papers on my work space. That usually means my current favorites.

Since I do love surprising color combinations, I don’t consciously limit my choices to a color scheme. That’s just me. There’s no wrong or right in that regard.

So my process goes something like this: choose one piece that could serve as the basis or theme for the collage. Then choose another one that plays off it or complements it in some way. A third piece might be something to contrast with the first two, or might serve as an accent in color, pattern, or texture — for example, the one pop of bright color in the design. The one shown below is “Cardinal’s Reflection” – titled for the cardinal who kept looking at itself in our front window on a snowy day. This collage has five pieces of paper. The long narrow red piece was  added to repeat the red showing in the background paper, a painted magazine page.

Cardinal's Reflection - Collage, 8x8"

Cardinal’s Reflection – Collage, 8×8″

Or it might be an eye-catching pattern or interesting texture. In this one, made up of five papers, everything is relatively quiet, and possibly on the boring side, without the small piece of Japanese origami paper with an intricate pattern near the top.

If Walls Could Talk - Collage, 5x5"

If Walls Could Talk – Collage, 5×5″

Anything beyond three or four pieces becomes risky, because less is more. But I like to take risks sometimes. This next one is an example. Maybe it was because I was caught up in anticipation of spring.

Next Spring - Collage, 4.5  x 5.5 mounted on 6 x 8" paper

Next Spring – Collage, 4.5 x 5.5 mounted on 6 x 8″ paper

I seldom end up with a collage made up of only two elements, because I don’t like even numbers. Once in a great while a collage will insist to me that it’s finished, even with only two papers. This one is an example. These were weathered papers, and the corrugated piece added to the background paper was enough to complete the design, and I added the penciled rings to the background.

Spectre Sm

Spectre – Collage with hand painted and weathered papers, 8×10 mounted on 11×14″ paper.


Note: Clicking on each of these images will take you to my Etsy shop. I hope you’ll take a look at the rest of my collages there, and will feel free to ask about any of them in terms of the design process.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2013 9:44 am

    Great pieces and good direction – thank you as always

  2. November 16, 2013 10:27 am

    Thanks so much for your input and direction. Feel your words will help me. I was going on gut instinct as I chose papers, but sometimes became overwhelmed because I liked too many of the papers and kept trying to incorporate them. But sometimes a collage does not want to work…then I just stop to try another day. Maybe I will find the right papers then.
    Enjoyed seeing your examples. Very helpful, as were your words.

    • November 16, 2013 4:23 pm

      Well Pat, at least I hope you realize you are not alone in this! I go through the same thing, which is why I have to limit myself to only a small stack of papers.

  3. November 16, 2013 12:38 pm

    Cool. Wow, you have so many collages in your Etsy shop! If I want to buy one, I know where to look first. 😉

    • November 16, 2013 4:27 pm

      Yes, Krissy! I’m glad you now know. 🙂 Love your blog. I just now shared one of your posts on facebook. Thanks so much for stopping by.

      • November 17, 2013 12:10 pm

        I appreciate that you’re sharing the poem. 🙂
        I’m a little curious about the feedback. If any, let me know how the comments go, if you don’t mind.

      • November 17, 2013 1:35 pm

        I will!

  4. November 16, 2013 6:16 pm

    I can imagine you being a bit distracted by too many beautiful papers Martha – your artists’ eyes have learned to see beauty everywhere. As always, your collages rock!

  5. Annette Bush permalink
    November 17, 2013 7:06 am

    Love walls & spectre, Martha. I cannot seem to make painting a priority with so much to do on the house. New kitchen last week and total house rewire next. Life is interesting.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • November 17, 2013 1:36 pm

      Thank you, Annette. Yes, I know how completely enmeshed we can be in house and garden stuff. It makes me crazy when I can’t be in the studio. You’ll get there!

  6. November 18, 2013 3:01 pm

    It looks like you’ve been working Martha! Great job! These are outstanding as always! 🙂 I love the creativity and texture in your pieces!

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