Collage Tutorial (Conclusion)

A few days ago, we created a collage background with magazine strips torn vertically. Today, we are going to cover them up. Why create a background at all? Because a collage depends on depth, layers hidden and revealed. The background ties it all together.

The next step is to soften the background so the important items will stand out. This collage will feature a powerful poem by Edith ONuallain, one of the writers in Lemuria. (The complete poem appears at the bottom of the page.)

All of my collages use words, but this one will be almost covered in them. I like the effect of words, images, textures, each strengthening the other.

collage 2First, I painted over the entire image with gel medium. It’s acrylic paint with no pigment. I added a few drops of brown acrylic to soften and darken the piece. Using gel medium gave more transparency to the color, so it doesn’t look like a painted background.

Tear our images that help create the mood of the writing. In this case, I tore out a map, dark blue horizons, a color-saturated dancing couple, (to emphasize the dream quality of happiness), an empty silhouette of a person. I tore out other images, but these were put down first, moved around, then glued into place. I overlapped them so they don’t drift visually. I added a page torn out of an old poetry book and painted over it, so it looked like a newspaper report, but blurred so no one would be tempted to read it through the paint.

The poem is about loss, so I wanted the piece to appear distraught, just as the writer feels torn and alone. Small words, “I woke this morning” over a shadowed heart, and “speak to us” convey the searching aspect, as does the word “lost” on the right side. I added a picture of a sailing ship and a fish. On the bottom are three words, “Eat, Pray, Love” a sort of summary of the poem.

I tore the poem into pieces that made sense emotionally and then distressed the paper with ink, which I smeared. It could have been tears or simply time that aged the page. I could have tea-stained it, but I chose the color to keep the focus on the words.

On the bottom left I added a lotus, a flower that thrives in dark, stagnant water, to give some hope to the life described in the poem. Watercolor scraps added to the top give it an unfinished look, life the life in the poem.collage3

Is it perfect? Of course not. I will leave it for a few days, then decide if it conveyed the poem’s power in a satisfying way. My concern is that it may lack unity, although the poem is most of the page. It doesn’t matter; I can start over, even paint over what I have. Collage is an exploration, not a destination. Honoring the words was my intent here.

Here is the original poem:

What was she thinking
as she peered at the
triangle of Brie cheese
turning it in her
arthritic hand?

Was it the price she needed
just to be sure
she could afford it?

Or did she have a yearning to taste something from long ago,
to bring back on her tongue
memories of shared meals and
dead acquaintances?

Perhaps a lover who always
insisted on just this cheese with a
brioche loaf and a bottle of beaujolais on a
summer’s afternoon near a lake, and a
boat that later went out and
never came back,
although they told her they had
searched for hours and
done all they could.
They were sorry.
What was she thinking
when she put the cheese back and
walked away, slowly?

–Edith O Nuallain © 2007. All rights reserved
–Quinn McDonald asked Edith ONuallain for permission before she used the poem. Please always honor copyright in your artwork. You can see more of Quinn’s work at (c) 2007 All rights reserved.