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Collage- A Short History & How I Use It

Have you tried collage? It's a technique I use from time to time in my work and I wanted to share with you a little about the history of this exciting art technique.


The word 'collage' actually comes from the French work, 'a coller', which means 'to glue'. Collage can include newspaper clippings, text, ribbon, materials, papers, canvas pieces, wood, torn up sections of paintings, in fact just about anything!

The technique first appeared with the invention of paper in China around about 200BC but it it wasn't until after the 10th century that it became more widely used to apply gold leaf and gemstones to religious works of art. This was an early form of collage.

It perhaps became more recognisable after 1900 when it made a huge impact to the early Modern Art movement. Names such as Picasso and Braques come to mind as they were two of the first artists to experiment with collage; Picasso first used it in oil paintings and Braques preferred to incorporate it with his charcoal drawings. It is said that Matisse turned to collage when his eye sight began to fail in the 1940's. The problems with his eye sight made it difficult for him to paint so his assistants cut out large collage pieces at his direction. Pop Art in the 1960's also saw further experimentation with the concept of collage as many of the artists from that movement took it up.

Over the years the art of Collage has branched out . Wood collage and Decollage being two other forms. Decollage means 'to cut out'. Multiple copies of the same image can be cut out and layered to give depth to the picture. One famous decollage is Matisse's 'Blue Nude II', created in 1952 (below).

Matisse began to use cut outs and collage in his later years as his eyes began to fail.


When I create a collage painting I first spend quite a few days creating the papers and pieces that will go into the collage. Using archival, artist's quality tissue paper as a base, I apply strong pigment paints and inks to these papers using a roller or a brush. Later these stained papers can be stamped with shop bought or hand made stamp pads. I prefer to make my own stamp as I can then add my very own personal touch.

These papers can then be torn, cut and glued into the collage. I would rather use my own papers than those created by someone else.

I also use some of my specialized mixed media techniques to create texture pieces that can be added to the collage painting.

COMPOSITION AND COLOUR I find collage a great way to work out compositions and design ideas. I often have a composition in mind when I start but find that then I can progress to a more intuative way of working. I have several visual diaries. I even have one next to my bed! I often get ideas for designs and compositions when I am trying to go to sleep at night so I have learnt to draw in the dark and will quickly sketch it into my diary.

My diaries are full of design ideas. They seem to come in groups so I just draw them in my diary and refer to them at a later date that way I never run out of ideas!

Most times I start with a colour family ie, say purples, lilacs, dark plums then perhaps progressing along the colour wheel by adding pinks and blues. Complementaries are another favourite of mine as you will notice in a lot of my works.

If you would like more information about Collage check out; Wikipedia for a more comprehensive history as well as a list of collage artists.

'Japanese Garden', 76x76cm Mixed media collage on canvas.


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