From Matisse to Picasso, collage has inspired many iconic artworks and you don’t need any artistic experience to join the cut and paste fun. If you want to add a collage masterpiece to your wall, splice your way through this expert tutorial from the founder of Collage Club.
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I’ve adored collaging since I was a child and have managed to weave it into every part of my life since. I collaged my way through my illustration degree, I’ve kept sketchbooks full of mini compositions, and I am forever looking for interesting papers and materials to add to them. My studio is brimming with huge, tottering piles of paper and hundreds of magazines waiting to be cut and stuck into something new.
My passion for cutting and pasting led me to create the workshops series Collage Club. It started back in 2014 when I began inviting friends to the London warehouse I lived in at the time to eat, drink and collage together. It was social, relaxing and a brilliant way to switch off after work. I figured more people across the city could benefit from a therapeutic rip and stick session.
Collage is a brilliant entry point to reconnect with your creative side because it’s not nearly as daunting as picking up a pencil and trying to draw with spot-on proportions and working from pre-existing imagery can feel less scary. I’ve met so many incredible people running the workshops – some completely new to collage, some reacquainting themselves with it, and others who are seasoned pros. I adore setting a collaging task at the beginning of the workshops knowing everyone will approach it with a completely different style – humans are so creative.
Collage is a super-accessible technique anyone can get involved in, no matter what their age or skill. But, its accessibility doesn’t discredit its fascinating artistic roots. The word ‘collage’ comes from the French word verb ‘coller’ meaning ‘to glue’. Its beginnings are often associated with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who began using it at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the method existed long before they coined it, dating right back to the 1500s. The book Cut And Paste: 400 Years Of Collage is a brilliant starting point if you’re interested in learning more about its origins.
‘We Stick Together’ has always been the Collage Club tagline and this has felt even more relevant over the pandemic. I took my classes online when lockdown began and started sending out paper packs filled with hand-painted papers, shapes and stickers – all pieced together from my studio in south London. It was amazing to collage with others even though we were physically apart, but it is wonderful to reconnect now in-person events are returning.
If you want to try collaging for yourself, here’s a very easy flower-themed project you can try at home with limited materials. You can use this process to make a standalone collage to add to a gallery wall or craft miniature versions to send as postcards to friends.
What you’ll need to make collages at home
- Magazine pages with interesting textures
- Brightly coloured paper
- Card to collage onto (A4 or A5)
How to collage step-by-step
1) Start by gathering magazines you’re happy to cut up. Tear out pages with fun textures and patterns. Look for interesting folds on clothing, close up textures found in nature photographs and shadows that form interesting shapes and tones to work with. You may want to pick a solid colour to contrast with the textured pages. I’ve used some pieces of neon orange painted paper from my studio.
2) Once you’ve got a range of fun pages to work with, flip them over and use a pencil to roughly draw out lots of lovely flower shapes. The pencil line will just be a guide to cut around, so there’s no need for it to be really neat. You can always cut back into the petals once you have the main shape cut out.
3) Cut lots of flowers out to work with but don’t throw away the leftovers – the scraps left behind are just as precious as the flowers themselves.
4) Now it’s time to construct your composition. Think of your collage elements as pieces of a puzzle you’re trying to make whole. Use both the flower shapes and offcuts to layer up your image.
The cutaways will leave interesting pockets of negative space you can put your flower shapes on top of.
Take time to find the right place for each piece. Move things around and don’t feel like you have to commit to glueing straightway.
Tips for creating professional collages at home
Sometimes less is more
It can be tempting to throw lots at a collage but sometimes a composition can benefit from fewer, more considered elements.
Take a look at your collage from a distance while you’re making it to make sure it feels balanced. You can also take photos on your phone. I find it helps show where something might be missing or an area is too busy.
Flatten your work
Use a big stack of heavy books or magazines to flatten your finished collages and remove any air bubbles.
Leave them overnight or as long as possible. You can also use a roller to flatten the work, which will make it look super slick.
Find more expert-led guides and tutorials on The Curiosity Academy’s Instagram page (@TheCuriosityAcademy).
Stephanie Hartman, founder and creator of Collage Club
After a lifetime of loving the art of collage, Stephanie created Collage Club in 2014, a workshop series celebrating the art of cutting and sticking.
The workshops use hands-on techniques for all levels of experiences and each session features a range of activities including speed-collaging and collaborative image-making.
Find out more and book tickets to attend the next workshop on 22 September 2021 on the Collage Club website.
Images: Stephanie Hartman