We often hear the phrase 'Art for art's sake', but how can we relate that concept to our everyday lives? When we actually have the experience of creating art ourselves, without any actual purpose in mind, we come to find that we've learned far more than any formal training can provide. I once had an art professor, George Kokis at the University Of Oregon, who, against the conventions of academia, advocated for just such a thing: "It's not about the product, it's about the process."
My favorite art collage process involves the use of small canvases, in sizes ranging from 3x4 inches to 4x6 inches. Each of the three pieces in this post are 4x4 inches and began as a 12x12 inch piece of cardboard which I cut down and applied several coats of gesso to. They are the perfect bases for those times when I just want to experiment with paints and papers.
This first work above has images that I carefully cut and placed around the canvas after having laid in some Cerulean Blue and Sap Green acrylic on the background. I saved the cuttings from that vase-like shape to use on the other two canvases. Some touches of dry-brushed gold, around and between the images as well as around the outside edges, gives it some highlight. Lastly I utilized a technique called mark-making, which means to draw with a black pen around the perimeter of each image to give the work some dimension. The secret to this technique is to smear the ink after a few minutes to make it blend into the background.
For this second piece I started with a layer of Iridescent Gold Deep acrylic, then ran a coat of Sap Green over that. Next I carefully laid the left over pieces of the vase-like image down and painted the inside with Cerulean Blue to get the negative shape of that image. I also painted the positive portion of the cut out for use on the third piece. While the shape was still on the canvas I colored around the perimeter of it with some Iridescent Gold Deep. Next, I painted red lines around the border, and finally, placed the images of the cherries and the bird and drew some mark-making on those.
This third work reuses the vase-like image negative, adhered to the surface after preparing the canvas with a coat of Sap Green mixed with Iridescent Gold Deep paint. Next I added another border of the Iridescent Gold Deep around the vase-like image, then added some gold around the outside edges, followed by purple lines around the border. Finally, cutouts of the stylized Thunderbird and a few tiny nude figures on the left, were adhered, again with some mark-making around the perimeter of each image.
Having a library of images cut and ready to go makes this sort of collage exercise easy to do. I spent the better part of a year carrying a variety of magazines around with me, and every chance I got I would flip through one and just keep my eye flowing around looking for pictures that appealed to me. The result is several file folders full of images that are a joy for me to look through whenever I have the desire to make my small works of art. And the best part is that the overall cost of the materials is very low.
I hope you also will consider trying your hand at collage. Once you begin the process of doing art for art's sake, you'll want to experience it again and again.