Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buried Treasure- Getting Serious About Collage

Today is Buried Treasure Day, when Seth, at The Altered Page asked friends to post their own personal favorite blog posting. My favorite isn't a post on my own blog but rather it's an article I wrote 9 years ago for an online 'zine called The Muse with a short intro by the editor. Here it is:

Getting Serious About CollageBy Jo ReimerMay 2000

Following is an artistically inspirational article written by Jo Reimer. It is accompanied by several of her previously unpublished collages both here and in the gallery. When I asked Jo about them she said that they were "practice" collages and she was very off-hand about them. Perhaps greatness doesn't always recognize itself.

Question: I've been working on my very first collage and I have questions about where to go from here. What does one mount to paper? How do I get that soft hazy look? How can I make the elements look like they belong together, like there's a connection?
Answer: Just keep working. Work some more. Work some more. Work at it every day, if you can, and if you can't do that at least make time to approach your art work 2 or 3 times a week. Consider nothing as precious. Few pieces of paper are precious. Adhesives and paint can be replaced; there's more where that came from, so use it, whatever it is. When you look at something you've done and are scared to take the next step, take it anyway.
I've just started drawing and my teacher told me to feel good about every bad drawing I make because I'm that much closer to drawing the way I'm intended to draw. He said we each have thousands of bad drawings in us blocking the way for the good work to get out, so it's really important to do lots of ugly work and get it out of my system. I believe that. I've done some hideous work, but once in a while something good squeaks its way to the surface to surprise me and encourage me that this is the right road to travel.
Some of the questions that beginners ask has to do with composition which we learn by doing and by studying what others have done. Good collages usually are made up of elements which relate to each other in some way. They may be related in color, theme, imagery. They may be formally composed, i.e. done strictly with attention to design elements of line, form, shape, and so on,or they may be narrative, (tell a story).
Have you taken a Basic Design course? Enroll in Basic Design at a university or at an art center and tell the instructor that your primary interest is collage. A collage workshop might be the way to go for someone who's experienced in other kinds of art. Check with local schools, art supply stores, art guilds, or look for collage courses at Arts and Crafts schools such as Penland, Haystack, or Arrowmont. You'll find workshop information in art magazines such as American Artist, Fiberarts, Watercolorist. Learning good composition comes both from working and from careful observation. Get an idea of what's being done by attending exhibitions at museums and galleries. Read books about collage.
As you look and read ask yourself questions about the work you're seeing: What's the background? How is it prepared? What is applied to this surface? Where does the color come from? What is the artist conveying? Is there a story or is it formal design? Why is some work in the middle of the page while in other pieces the artist worked out to the edges? What is the compositional structure? Do I like this work and why or why not?
Start making what I call Collage-A-Day. Using a journal or cardstock cut to 5 ½ X 8 ½ make one collage every day. Work fast, spending no more than 15 minutes on each collage. Use no more than 5 elements. Look and consider before you glue everything down, but don't agonize over it. You'll just naturally get better as you become more experienced. Remember that bad art I told you to get out of your system! Set up a small space where you can do this. You'll need scissors, glue, your substrate (journal or cardstock) and scraps of paper which could include junk mail, magazine pages, photos, decorative papers, pattern tissue, wrapping papers, street papers. That's all you really need.Start collecting collage elements. A collage artist by necessity becomes a collector of ephemera. While you might start with junk mail you'll learn to ransack magazines for appealing images and blocks of color and text. Eventually you'll want to add a wide variety of quality papers and you may want to paint or dye your papers, or even create handmade paper to use in your work.And you'll need to go through the glue selection process. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of adhesives available to use. One good basic glue mix is 1 part white glue plus 1 part acrylic matte medium, applied with a brush. Each artist will tell you something different, and you'll learn that you have your preferences for different purposes. You may want to use UHU glue sticks for your Collage-A-Day work.
Supports-substrates-backings can vary, also. Heavy cardstock works, as do other heavy papers. 140# to 300# watercolor paper is great for special work. Cardboard is stiff enough but has so much acid in it that it's not recommended for work you want to give or sell.Now, go to work. Work some more. Work some more. Jump in and do it. Enjoy the process of working and have a good time.


  1. Great choice Jo. I'll remember to steer people here who have these questions.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post from the past.

  3. what a great post! I just found your blog courtesy of Buried Treasure! thanks!

  4. Anonymous6:57 AM PDT

    Your article came just in time for me to read about Collage, since I recently took a class online and didn't do enough of it, so the page looks "empty", I should continue doing it!!!!!!!

  5. Thanks to all of you who've taken time to comment either here or personally.
    Leslie, I sent someone to your blog who's learning to work abstractly... there's no better blog about abstraction.
    Poetic Artist... you're welcome.
    LDV, welcome. I hope you return.
    Hermila, just keep working. The key to getting good at anything is to just keep working.

  6. this past year i have been exploring and collage is one of the mediums i have toyed with..alot
    i love the whole concept...i am with ya gal!
    nice to meet you off of seths list
    see you soon

  7. Great choice for the post and sage advice. So glad I have found your blog, I'll be back again.

  8. I'm really having a great time reading the re-posts, thanks for sharing! :)

  9. there are so many treasures to be found in this article "we each have thousands of bad drawings in us blocking the way for the good work to get out, so it's really important to do lots of ugly work and get it out" provides a great glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  10. Your post made me want to go and work some more. Somedays I am just plain lazy. Liked the quick collage idea.

  11. I love collage abstracts. Thanks for sharing.

  12. As someone who struggles with collage, I read your post with joy. What a great article for Seth's collaboration. I truly enjoyed your gallery, too, my favorite being "Wise Rabbit."

  13. Thanks for sharing this interview and the timely information!

  14. Great post. Filled with good advice and a lot of support. Thanks for being a part of this!

  15. Great post! Good advice for inexperianced and experianced collage artists. And I agree with the other comment that you have to get out of your system the bad art to get to the good art. Just do it!


  16. Thanks to all of you who commented on the article. I'm so glad it was helpful and encouraging.
    Being successful with collage or painting depends on setting goals and doing the hard work it takes to reach that goal.
    If I can do it so can you.


I appreciate comments and questions.

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