How Tos for the Collage Artist

Happy New Year to Everyone! It’s time to make resolutions. 2 more days.

This post is about New Years’ resolutions and setting goals. It’s also about creativity and the way we understand how we think outside the box.

The image at left is my collage on a card, titled “Racing Stripes 2: coMb.”

The card is colorful, graphic, layered, and all about repurposing one work into something new. I had printed cards from an original collage image titled “Racing Stripes 2.” I use the card as a substrate and turned it into an original collage with 9 new pieces.

This week’s emails were about the New Year, setting goals for 2011, and evaluating accomplishments from 2010. It made me think about old goals, new goals and repurposing goals.

I’m a studio artist. My business goals for 2011 are: find new and better venues for showing and selling my art, develop new collage classes, get better at marketing and blogging about art, and write and publish a book on collage.

Pablo Picasso said: “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

I am always ready to learn something new. Are you ready to learn something new?

Enter the word “creativity” at Google and you’ll be surprised to see hundreds of links on how to be creative in business (not art).

Everyone wants to be creative.

Very quickly, I found a website called, led by Robert Alan Black, PhD. He says his business helps companies and executives develop skills in creative thinking, leadership and communication. He wrote a book titled Broken Crayons: Spreading Creative Thinking Throughout Your Entire Organization.

Black suggests people broaden their interests and explore many areas to understand something new and think outside the box.

He says choose to be creative and do things creatively.

He says; “Kick back and let your imagination float or run around. Adapt or alter existing ideas to produce new ones.”

“Re-look at the box you think you are in…to solutions you have never considered or can reconsider from the  past.

Work within the box.

Visit other boxes, inside or outside your organization. Much can be learned and shared.

Experiment at least part of the time with having no boxes…Remember our boxes are in our minds most of the time.” (©1990 Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.)

The image above is my collage on the card, titled “Racing Stripes 2: Rune Ruin.” I use another printed card as a substrate and added 8 new pieces.


I think what Black suggests is his book Broken Crayons is very similar to the way artists approach their work. I think his suggestions are appropriate for working artists as well as business executives and professionals in every field. We are all exploring new ways to think outside the box. Making art is another way to explore and communicate ideas. Making collage is very user-friendly.


Most people who make collage work abstract and explore color, line, surface texture, pattern and form.

The image at left is my collage on a card, titled “Racing Stripes 2: Dot ToO.” I added  7 new pieces to my printed card.

I would love to have businesspeople take my collage classes and see how the experience enhances their creativity. Many professionals (and retired buesinesspeople) say they were budding artists as a child but didn’t pursue an art career (or were steered away from becoming an artist).

Are you recently retired? Do you want to see how creative you really are?

Do you have a collection of old photos or paper souvenirs that are waiting to become a family heirloom? Make it collage.

Do you want to take your ideas and interpret them in collage? Wouldn’t it be fun to create a business plan as a collage?


Here are some tips for how to organize collage media:

Sort media by color, pattern, texture, weight and surface (shiny, matte, photo, copy)

Store media in a clean, dry space

Organize papers in plastic sheet protectors in a 3 ring binder, or in flat boxes or file drawers

Her are some tips on how to collect collage media:

Save cards, letters, envelopes and catalogs

Collect postcards from art galleries and museums shows

Keep tickets and receipts, maps, photos, ephemera and souvenirs

Collect art magazines, old books and interesting periodicals

Browse hardware stores, Dollar stores, tag sales, and flea markets

Check closets, dresser and desk drawers before you throw anything out

Start a collage group and swap with other artists

The image at left is my collage on a card titled “Racing Stripes 2: HoT lipS.” I took a printed card with my image and turned it into an original collage with 5 new pieces-2 magazine cut-outs and 3 pieces from an old red monoprint.

Here are tips on how to locate materials for a new collage:

Browse your collage inventory. Looking may inspire a new work

Review a favorite periodical for image and text ideas. Make copies.

Recycle and repurpose an old print, drawing or painting

Paint papers and make drawings, write letters and use them for collage

Disassemble something old and combine elements to make something new

Here are tips on how to evaluation a work in progress:

Ask what color and texture is dominant (or weak)

Ask where should a color or paper be repeated, strengthened, expanded

Ask where should an element be eliminated or reduced (or covered)

Ask does your image (design) work or not? Why not?

Ask is there a central focus or is it weak?

Ask where does your eye travel? Or rest?

Do not keep reworking your art to solve problems.

Make 5-10 color duplicates of the original and explore variations in them.

You will have new work (all theme and variation), and will see possible solutions to resolve problems in the original work.

Collage is about getting things to stick, but solving problems is about getting things unstuck. In collage we say: Move it. Remove it. If necessary, cover it. Turn it around. Turn it over. Be open to happy surprises and  “serendipity.”

Artists: How do you resolve problems when you’re stuck? Creative business people: How do you resolve problems when you’re stuck? Thanks for your comments.


4 thoughts on “How Tos for the Collage Artist

  1. I love this Pablo Picasso quote – thanks! I think perhaps it has always been my motto “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Thanks for the post! Fran

    1. Hi Fran,
      Thanks for your comment. Artists are all about learning something new.

      Some people have a problem with Picasso, but I think he was pretty amazing and a good role model – someone who was always in creative mode. I looked up the word “protean” and think it fits Picasso because he was always trying something new, and typically did it really well!

  2. I love the idea of business plan as a collage!

    When I am stuck I often switch gears, work on something totally different or simply look at in a mirror so I can see it in reverse.

    Happy New Year Nancy!

    1. Hi Nanci,
      It would be fun to do a business plan as a collage. I haven’t done it yet, but think I will. It’s a new kind of narrative collage form – but with a purpose.

      Your comment to look at a work in a mirror to see if it works as a reverse image is a good idea. I have to try that also. I usually only turn the image around, quarter turns and add collage elements where needed.

      Thanks for your comments and Happy New Year too!

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