Thursday, March 6, 2008

Collage Pet Peeves

Probably because I’m working on a batch of ATCs for a swap on Saturday…and doing a lot of finicky cutting, I'm tuning in to collage everywhere! I’m noticing irritating things from people actually selling their collages and whatnot. And I’d like to put this into some kind of “best practices” framework, so we can call this a civilized rant?

First of all – will you please cut carefully? If your Madonna or kitty or butterfly is supposed to be floating on top of another layer, cut all the background away. Don’t accidentally leave a bright white sliver that distracts from the composition. Pay attention to lines and edges. Make your curves curvy, not jaggedy, and round the corners that should be rounded. Slow down if you have to. Use a tiny pair of scissors. Unconscious cutting makes it look like you were in a hurry, or too lazy to care.

If you’re cutting from a magazine, or cutting an image out of a cluster of other things, and, say, the feathers on top of the exotic dancer’s head are cropped off at the top of an old postcard – make it work! Please? Arrange things in a way that make it look like you did it, on purpose. I saw a collage today where the figure’s foot was cut off at the ankle, undoubtedly ‘cause that’s where the magazine page ended, and it was just left like that, in the middle of the page. Meanwhile, 1/8” away was an element that could have been scooted over just a bit to cover the foot, and it would have been a much more professional looking job. When you do it just right – nobody will notice, usually. But when you leave these things unattended, they stand out like sore thumbs.

And don’t lay things at an angle just because you want to be fancy or adventurous. Try making things perfectly straight instead. Ha, that’s more difficult, isn’t it? Straight things aren’t necessarily boring – they’re "just so." They look more official. More true. More…purposeful. Or, if you’re going to use angles, try making them mean something. Make them consistent or make them interact with other things on the page/collage/card/whatever it is you’re making.

Which brings me to the last thing. Composition. IMNSHO, things should interact. There is a tendency – and I don’t know why I’m surprised that people who sell their collage work do this, but they do – for everything to have its own space, and to fill up their space without really having a reason to be there. I really enjoy seeing elements intrude upon each other, gang together, infringe on each other’s boundaries, overlap in thoughtful ways, play with each other’s energy fields, say hello and give hugs. You don’t have to put something in every single quadrant, just to fill up space. Did God fill up every little place in the universe? No, of course not. God left resting places. Yeah, like air. Oceans. Deserts, and whatever outer space is called. We should too.

There, I managed to mention exotic dancers and God all in the same post! And I didn’t even get to glue ripples! (Cause when it comes to glue ripples I have no room to talk…)


  1. Feel better? LOL.

    I am pretty new to collage and find something wrong with every piece that I figure I learn from for next time. I love and hate YES glue. It helps with the wrinkle problem and the straightening a slanted piece problem but it doesn't always hold as well. Since I tend to get things on skewed I keep using it so I can slide or tilt my newest addition.

    You gave me food for thought as I work on future pieces. I am not a great scissor handler but I'll try to eliminate that white spot from now on.

  2. Hey freebird -- thanks for the tip on the Yes glue, and also about learning as you go -- how true.

    In the decoupage how-to books they always seem to use little manicure scissors...I use surgical scissors my nurse friend gave me.


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