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Sunday, August 10, 2014

My 2-cents About Collage

I see collage materials everywhere. And, I mean everywhere! It seems I am always collecting paper ephemera and trash and flyers and menus...and well, you get the idea.
And I've got to do something with all the stuff I come home every day.
Tearing and pasting is so relaxing and fun for me.
I try to make a collage or two everyday. And when I travel I really get excited about making them.
This is on a walk right near my house....

How could I resist tearing off a few of the flyers that are taped up all over?
I couldn't!

Collage materials
I always prefer to use original ephemera to work with. I especially like aged-paper but any interesting paper will do.
Some folks like to work with a photo-copy and hold on to the original. No rules.
I like gritty and.....

pretty is OK too.....
I will collage with just about any paper I get my hands on.

You can use cardboard, mat board, cut up cereal boxes as a base. Use matte medium or a glue stick to glue. You can tear or cut with a scissors. Pick up stuff off the street, use tourist brochures, transit tickets, old photos and letters, stamps, food wrappers......any paper will do...all you need is glue and a base...
Just do it.

Here's one (about 5x7) made from stuff I tore off a pole.

Three collages received from mail art pals -- eye candy and inspiration. Thanks to Adrienne, Carol and Cleo.

Recommended Books

The Collage Workbook by Randel Plowman is probably my favorite. I recommend it.
Check it out of the library and see what you think.

Also highly recommended --
Collage Journeys - A Practical Guide to Creating Personal Artwork by Jane Davies
(Jane also has a great collage blog and offers online classes)
Collage Techniques - A Guide for Artists and Illustrators by Gerald Brommer
Masters: Collage - Major Works by Leading Artists 

Plowman has some really good suggestions to get you started -- like this one. He also offers
online classes.

Kurt Schwitters

Just about my favorite collage artist, Schwitters is an inspiration. If you ever get a chance to see his work in person, don't miss it. I saw a show at the Berkeley Art Museum a while back and seeing his work in person is so much better than seeing it on the page.
But check out the book too!

Kolji magazine

A magazine (from Canada) about collage. You can subscribe. Or ask your library to get it.

My Various Collage Projects

I carry a little notebook around with me and I like to make little random collages with things sitting around on my work table or found in the streets. With the notebook and a glue stick I am always ready to whip out a small collage -- something fun to do when I stop in at a cafe for a cappuccino.

Daily collages

I also like to make a daily collage using things from the day -- these are from a walk I took on the   4th of July, using things from the day (bus transfer) and things fund on the street (fire cracker wrappers).

A recent series of collages I made using vintage French postcards and old family photographs.

I got an idea of sending on my long-gone relatives on a trip to France! I think they would enjoy it, don't you?

Contemporary Collage Artists -- work I

Allan Bealy -- his book Mud Bath is published by Black Scat press
Michael Cutlip -
Niko Courtelis - Philatelic Atrocities published by Kat Ran Press
Ivan Chermayeff - Why Stamps? book by Kat Ran Press

You should be able to find all these artists by Googling them.

Another favorite and a mail art pal of mine is Planet Susannia in Germany.
I am so lucky to have a collection of her incredible one-of-a-kind collage books.
You can Google her to find her IUOMA page and her blog....

Allan Bealy/Pamela Gerard collages

Travel table Top
- - just back from an overnight and of course I packed a little travel kit to make mail art and collages.
Travel is so inspiring for collages. every big trip I take I make collages every night and they are are a
terrific souvenir of the trip.


1. Feast Your Eyes -- look as as much art as you possibly can. Go to every collage art show you can. Look at all the books you can find. You will eventually train your eye.

2. Practice Makes Perfect -- make a collage or two or 10 every day. You get better by doing it. That's why students keep a drawing sketchbook and budding photographers are supposed to shoot every day.
There is no doubt that if you want to get good at something, you have to put in the time.

3. Know the Rules before you break them -- take a class. Preferably a real class in a studio but if that isn't possible, take an online class. There is a lot to learn about composition, color, glue etc and a good instructor can get you going.

So, there you go, my 2-cents!
Now go forth and tear and paste and have fun!

Anybody know about any other fabulous collage artist? Any great books? Any classes you recommend? Please let us all know in the comments.
Because I'm still learning too.....

I hope you all enjoyed this post (and thank you to Rachel for asking me to do a collage post). Blogger was driving me crazy and I lost half of what I had written but I stuck it let me know if it was worth all the frustration trying to get this one done...


  1. Thanks for the great references in this post! I love your collages from found stuff!!

  2. peeking into your artist world!

  3. Nothing goes to waste in your world and i LIKE it. Great stuff. I did get a couple of copies of Kolaj mag but found it a bit sexist for my taste. Those are some pretty fantastic flyers you came away with. xox

    1. Corrine--you're right--I use everything! I love to re-purpose. I'm wondering what did you find sexist about Kolaj? Thanks for saying hello. xoxo

  4. Great post. Papers and scissors make me swoon!

    You are quite the magpie! And you crack me up--I like your relatives' "trip to France."

    Thanks for the references. I especially didn't know about the Chermayeff book, which sounds very interesting, nor had I seen that particular book about Schwitters. I'm definitely going to check them out.

    Your art school rules are so spot-on. I used to get email inquiries fairly frequently from students who wanted me to tell them how to make collages in the style I did. I used to tell them much the same thing. They never liked my advice. They thought somehow there was some secret formula to suddenly making great work quickly. Being told to study a lot (both self-directed and otherwise) and to practice as much as possible wasn't what they wanted to hear. Collage is so often portrayed as easy--the art form that anyone can do from kindergarten on up! Requires no skill! When the reality, as you know, is that it takes time, a lot of practice and a good understanding of design, color and composition to do it well. I'm not saying that I don't think anyone who wants to have some fun shouldn't do it--I think everyone should loosen up and play with scissors! But there is far more to it than just haphazardly dumping things together... even if haphazardly dumping things together can indeed occasionally yield exciting results.

    Off the top of my head, one old book I liked, and still occasionally pull off the shelf, is The Collage Handbook by John and Joan Digby. It's long out of print, but I think used copies of it are around. It's mostly little 1-page profiles of collage artists (circa 1985), with a technical how-to section on the author's own technique. It's just one of those things that appealed to me, possibly because at the time I got it, there weren't that many things around in print that seriously covered collage. I'll ponder what other resources I can think of.

    At any rate, thanks for the fun post. Makes me want to grab the scissors...!

    1. Ellen -- oh--thank you for the interesting comments. And I had to go look up magpie! I guess I am....I happen to have a copy of the Collage handbook too.
      The Schwitters book is wonderful. I don't find very many books of his work around so I was happy to get hat one. If the post inspired you to cut and paste then it was worth all the work in writing it (with Blogger losing half my post, etc). thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  5. Always enjoy your posts and am feeling so relieved to know that it is perfectly acceptable to have boxes (and boxes) of collage fodder. And to be more excited about the junk mail as opposed to the "other".

    1. Oh yes -- junk mail -- another favorite -- and security envelopes! And I am pretty sure all collage artists have boxes of fodder so don't worry about it. Thanks for your comment -- I'm so glad you enjoy the posts.

  6. You never cease to amaze me, girl! And you finished it after the crash? I would have stomped my feet, had a cry and given up!! (Yes, it was one of those weeks!) It was definitely worth finishing the blog for us, thank you!! I'm going to take (rip!!) a page out of your book and make collages while in Japan!! And I think I'll start a mail art travel kit from scratch when I get there...oooh, stationery shopping!!

    1. vizma -- oh yes -- you must make collages while you are in Japan (and send one to me). And Jaan should be heaven for making a travel kit. Be sure to go to a One Yen shop to stock up. I did almost give up with the post -- big chunks of it kept disappearing and it wouldn't save......bad words were said. Maybe I should join you in Japan?

    2. Any room for one more??? I can be packed in minutes!

  7. I added the Collage workbook to my wishlist. It looks really interesting and I'll keep your adivise in mind, draw and collage every day.

    1. TomoyoHime--the book is a good one -- I think you will enjoy it.

  8. Thanks for the introduction to Schwitters - and you already named my fave collage books....I frequently refer back to the Plowman book when I need a jolt or technique reminder....and Jane's is just magical - full of inspiration. As are you! Thanks for the kickstart. I did 365 collages this year and definitely fell off this year but have been noticing the pull to get back to it. Here I go!

    1. Terrie--I think you will love Schwitters work. And thank you for the nice comment -- much appreciated! 365 collages? That is pretty wonderful.

  9. Thanks for hanging in there and posting. I just put The Collage Workbook on hold at my library. I really like the idea of a collage journal and the travel collages.

    1. Thanks, cjsrq -- I think you will enjoy the collage book and I'm glad you liked my ideas too. I especially love making collages when i travel and they are wonderful souvenirs.

  10. thank you so much for this post! It has given me the inspiration I needed to bounce back after a very grey day.

    1. I'm very glad, Anu! Hope the tearing and pasting cheers up your day.

  11. Thanks Pamela, this is really a wonderful post...and inspiring! Back to the studio!


    1. Allan, thanks for stopping by! I can't imagine you would need much inspiration since your collages are so amazing

  12. Hello Ms Pamela -- Once again, such great photos! I love your process & you are so generous to share with us how you work. xo --SW

    1. And you SW are another of my favorite collage artists! Thanks for stopping by.....

  13. Thanks for another good post! I am still in the practicing mode of learning about collages. You mentioned once before in this post about Plowman's book and at that time I did purchase a copy of The Collage Workbook. I really like it and it has been fun to do his suggested exercises. I'm also a fan of Nick Bantock's "curious collages" and his book, Urgent 2nd Class, is excellent. Thanks again for all your efforts to make this a fun and inspirational blog. ~~Linda

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda -- of yes, Bantock has some wonderful books and collages. Thanks for mentioning that. And I appreciate your nice comment about the blog.

  14. I've seen a few of Kurt Schwitters' collages "in the flesh" and they are unbelievably mesmerising. He's got the X-factor IMHO.

    1. Marie W -- I agree! Schwitters is amazing. And I hear YOU are having a guest for two weeks -- want another?

  15. Pamela -- that was much more than 2-cents worth to a collage-newbie like me! Thanks for posting all that -- inspiring.

    1. Thanks so much, Rosemary -- appreciate your comment. And I am still learning a lot myself...

  16. Great post as always, Pamela! I am off on holidays soon, so will be collaging away as we travel. Another book to add to the list is Bantock's The Trickster's Hat. Quirky and fun, just how I like it!

    1. Adrienne -- oh yes -- The Trickster's Hat -- delightful. Thanks for mentioning that one. And travel collages-- the best! Have fun collaging and on your trip.

  17. Hear! Hear! Keep Calm and Carry on the Collage Blogs!
    Yea for this one!
    I'd love to ask you a question...

  18. A great post, Pamela...collage is my first and enduring love! Great sources, advice, and eye candy. Your blog is always a treat!

    1. Andria--thanks so much -- I love collage too. I am very happy you liked the post.

  19. catching up on your fantastic blog - cheers from pasadena



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