Studio Diary: Collage Class & Book Ends

JRS Books for Collage

Collage is one of my favourite mediums and I love expanding the way that I think about it, exploring new techniques and approaches.  That’s why I signed up for The Collage Techniques of Anne Marie Grgich from Carla Sonheim Presents. (Oh, you know how I love Carla!)

Over the past week I have had a fabulous time engaging in this class. It even inspired a creative outing with my sisters.

The class suggests books as collage materials and so we took an outing to Book Ends, the Toronto Public Library’s used book store at the Reference Library. (There is another location in North York.) I have so many fond memories of this library! When I was in high school, I would sometimes (often) skip a day in favour of working on assignments here. I would pick a spot and set up shop, taking my boots off and surrounding myself with books. I would occasionally slip out for a coffee but I was soon back and working.

Book Ends with Shannon and Suzie

Shannon, Suzie and I had a wonderful time going through the books. Not surprisingly, Suzie came home with a few food books and Shannon spent precisely her budget on quite a range of choices! I found some beautiful books in the art, travel and garden sections. (Again, no surprise, lol. We are who we are!)Gather Collage Images

After acquiring the books, it was time to harvest images.  I know, we book lovers find it hard for to cut, tear, break apart a book. It just feels wrong somehow! Over the years I have become more comfortable with it, especially when using secondhand materials. It sometimes feels like giving work a new life and I feel such love for each of the pieces I use and gratitude towards the book itself.  I have made peace with it.

Next it was time to start putting a layer of collage on our canvas. I chose to work with a wood support because I find it so much easier for applying some pressure to smooth out the images. I use a linen cloth to do that, rubbing it down in the hopes of avoiding air bubbles. I’m only ever partially successful. I think every collage artist works to find the secret of smooth, well-adhered images.

Some lessons I’ve learned:

  • Be liberal with glue stick. If pockets form, it’s almost certainly because you missed a spot.
  • Consider using glue stick on the back of the piece and also on the support.
  • Whether you’re using glue stick or gel medium, smooth down each piece as you go. Use a bone folder, a credit card, a cloth or your fingers. (Only use the cloth with drier adhesive)
  • I’m experimenting with Yes paste. I didn’t enjoy the process as much with the Yes paste but I definitely feel my images lay flatter.
  • Let your glue dry overnight before using gel medium overtop.
  • Gel medium will impact the look of your work so stay unattached or don’t use it.

Red Collage

Usually with a piece this big I work at the kitchen table but I really wanted to be in my studio space. I did move downstairs for applying gel medium overtop.

It wasn’t tremendously successful. One strategy for removing bubbles is to use an Xacto knife to cut them open and then get some medium underneath and smooth it down. Our process uses such thick medium, that I didn’t find it successful. I did feel motivated to keep working on getting things smoother so I did a second collage using Yes paste as the adhesive. It was a bit more successful and now I have two collage pieces to work with for class.