Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Creating Collage Backgrounds

"Floating Mushrooms"
some of the papers used are from the artist Anahata Katkin

What does it take to make a interesting collage background, that gives way 
to light, dimension, and texture? 

I started making collage backgrounds at the Art Nest in 2008, with artist Misty Mawn, and Sally Jean Alexandra.  Since then I have taken classes from many mixed media artists, like Anahata Katkin, Pam Garrison, and Stephanie Lee.

What have I learned from these artists is really quite simple.  Don't Think! 

"Windows of Light"

I know what you are thinking?  How do you do that?  Here are the steps that I have learned, and am still learning on my own artistic journey.

  1. Have your supplies ready. I like to either start on thick heavy watercolor paper, or vintage wallpaper (the ugly type) that is strong and sturdy. Set out your paints, glue, and paper collection. I use golden gel medium for adhesive, and some of my favorite paints are yellow ochre, burnt umber, and titanium buff.
  2. Prepare your surface.  Give your background a coat of gesso if needed.  I only do this if I am using something other than watercolor paper. You may want to do this a day in advance, to let it dry completely.  This allows for a good sticky base, and will save your paints from playing tricks with your color palette.
  3. Start gluing your papers down.  I have a collections of black and white copies of architectural  buildings and spaces that appeal to me, also wallpapers, newspaper clippings, vintage scraps, and words are a good start. I like to use a brayer to flatten out the paper as I go.
  4. Try not to compose your work, just let it develop however it does.  I know when I am trying too hard.  I am in the "think" zone.  You want to be in "the flow" which means that you are relaxed and the composition is flowing out of you.  This takes practice.  I am still working on this.  Artists who have felt this are very aware of the difference.
  5. Use your inner artist, for me this means using my hands.  I like to put down the paper, glue and paint with my hands at first, this allows me to add paint with the medium and saturate the background with light or dark.
  6. Resisting. Try no to take a break when you feel resistance this a natural process, and working through this will give you the ability to see the work  differently.  Try looking at the work standing up,  turn your work around, try it in a different room with additional lighting. 
  7. To tie the work together, use one color over the top of the piece, then quickly wipe it off where you want emphasis.  I like to use burnt Umber or Titanium Buff.  Then use wipes or a wet cloth when bringing out the color hues.
  8. Use your finished backgrounds for journals, as a background for another piece of work, or just as is.  I have a hard time cutting them up, so I have a pile that I don't really now what to do with yet. 
  9. Enjoy the process, making art is not a means to an end, but a process of expression and delight. hey that sounds like a quote, blah blah blah, If you are still reading this you are either bored out of your wits, or you haven't quite had enough caffeine for the day.  I  do believe.... What???  no matter how a piece is finished it has the ability to move us forward artistically, and is an expression of our creative journey.
  10. Start again.. See quote below, and if you made it this far, make a comment below telling me "why you need to create art" and I will select a random winner to receive a box of my favorite art supplies for making a background.  You deserve something free for getting this far.

"a work in progress"

I  did find this fabulous quote here which applies to every medium, or anything really.

 To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there is no guarantee that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters. - Harry Callaha

"Summer Nights"
 Rena, Shannon, Diana, Cheryl, Amanda, and Julie

Here's to the journey....

Candice and little Gracee ( my shadow)


  1. I need to create art to escape. Escaping into my world of paint, paper, and glue and make something beautiful allows me to forget about time, deadlines, and the pressure of everyday life. I feel the most relaxed when I am working on my art. It's good for the soul.

  2. I love your collage pieces Candice, and you too!

  3. Love this post, Candice! I think women are innately creative and even though many don't think they are "artistic" we all want to create in some way. Beautiful what are you going to do with them?:)

  4. Fabulous post!! Love all of your insights! I have to create art for my own peace of mind...something just for me!

  5. I need to create to be complete, to be fully happy, to enjoy life!!

  6. I need to create art as my outlook for emotions that pester me through the day. I usually spend time making art in the evenings so that I can process the daily events and mentally prepare for the following day.

    Great blog, by the way!


  7. Great post Candice! Beautiful backgrounds. Excellent steps. Love the quote!!!

    And, by the way, I need to create because it's cheaper than a therapist!!! :)

    (But don't put my name in for the goodies -- I've got plenty already!)

  8. When I think I can be in the "flow zone" must try doing a collage. thanks for the inspiration Candice.

  9. What a wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing~ This was great! I love the quote, too~

    I need to create art to breath. If I tuck it away or don't do it, I feel like a piece of me is lost in translation. My family doesn't get it, but it is okay... I was born with colored finger prints, lol
    When I create my heART sings and my soul dances in the joy of letting myself be free! It is our birth right to find what makes us sing and jump for joy each day~

  10. Creating is as much a part of who I am as any other part of my anatomy. I carry it around in my heart and bring it to the surface through my hands.I feel lost when too many days pass and I have not had adequate time in my studio. I am like a long distance runner, instead of running each day I must create each day...I is as simple as that. Thanks for all the detailed info...really, really good stuff for those of us with an insatiable appetite for anything art related.

  11. I never thought I could draw or paint or do anything creative - I'm very tech brained oriented you see and thats my work, but one day when I wanted to "run away and escape" - I picked up a pencil and drew. Then I bought some watercolours and played with paint and then I began to find out thanks to blogs, youtube videos and generous teaching online, that there are so many different ways of creating art. These days I do some collage, some straight acrylic work and mixed media. Creating now is what I actually enjoy most - I work during the day but I'm thinking of what I'll do in the evening - and my life is calmer and more enjoyable. I love colour and paints and papers and inks.... Thank you then for sharing yet more of your talent with us.

  12. Wonderful post Candace! I want to paint now! I have to create to feel connected to something! (Somehow a deeper level than any other things I'm connected to)
    Shannon porter

  13. I love all the info you shared. I appreciate being reminded to "not think" that is probably what holds me back the most. Thanks for sharing your beautiful work.

  14. The creating process for me is all about relaxing, letting go of self awareness and just creating. It always suprises me at the end of a piece what it says about what i am feeling or thinking at the moment. Thank you for sharing ur creative process with us. Your friend in Texas, Cindy

  15. Hi Candice, That was a great post! I loved learning how you put together your collage backgrounds. They are gorgeous. I really love the one with the buildings on it. I appreciate that you let us in on all your secrets! XOXO