collage & assemblage tips & tricks

suggestions requested, sent long ago to a northern soul
recently re-sent to an other - 06.10.2005

art attacks

not sure what would help or be of interest so i'll just scattershot, tell you in random order different things i've done.

i like to tie the collage together into a unified whole, usually.  one way to do this with paper collages is to coat the finished piece with liquitex matte medium (it is an acrylic polymer and dries clear so you can see through it).  paint the dried acrylic surface with woodstain or paints or whatever, and then immediately wipe it off like you were antiquing ceramics.  this ages the piece immediately and ties it together.

you can also age pieces quickly by leaving them in a window for weeks in the sun or out in the elements for days/weeks/months/years.

divide the canvas in half diagonally from upper left to lower right. do the upper right half in rectangular cutouts, then rip a want ad page diagonally and glue it to the lower left part. the one piece torn sheet will tie all the upper rectangles together, so you now have a background and foreground portion to play with. on my website look at What You Pay to see what i am talking about.

almost the single best trick i have is dress patterns. when you get both sides of a dress pattern wet with matte acrylic, they dry transparent. when you only get one side wet, they dry semi-opaque. patterns are also great because you can turn them backwards and then the multi-language instructions become hieroglyphics or enigmatic runes and impart mystery. i use patterns to cover the frame. i use them crudely as texture and then paint over it so only the wrinkles remain. see Boys Town for an excellent use of dress patterns. i'll even take a blank background and cover it in dress patterns just to get a starting point.

another great feature of the dress patterns is they use a lot of arrows, and arrows are invaluable for paper collages.

i've gotten a piece wet and then stood 4 foot over it and lightly went poof poof with a can of spray paint - the cloud of paint drifts down and settles on the wetness and pools oddly in the depressions.

this also works with my white painted pieces - on a few after i painted it white and it was still wet i stood on a ladder about 4 foot over the piece and squirted two puffs of aluminum spray paint and let it settle on the piece and then fairly thickly spray painted it black. all three paints dry at different speeds so you get swirls, currents, settlings of paints in depressions.

this also works well for frames. spray the frame high gloss flat black then while wet immediately spray with dull flat black. they dry at such different speeds that they crack and separate and you've got twinkly magic sparkly china cracks. can do the same thing with a high gloss red enamel and flat black, etc.

or wet the entire piece and spray liberally with spray paint and then immediately with a strong nozzle spray wash as much off as you can. sort of a deconstruction effect.

i also rip parts out of old collages that don't work and then spread a silvery fluorescent water wash over it all and it pools and dries in the depressions of the missing portions.

i'll buy a framed print from a church sale, turn it face down to the floor and pour various mixtures of paints in the back, let them soak down to the front of the print and stain it.
see Lost Love.

here's a 3-way idea: collect a batch of found objects you want to use. then get both color and black & white xeroxes of them (perhaps in varying sizes) and then do a collage utilizing all 3.

or color xerox the same 17 items for the entire class and see what they each come up with when they're all using the same material. great tool is to color xerox onto transfer paper, then heat transfer to cloth, cut up the cloth and use in collage.

or make a collage using only red and blue items, or only female, email, or male items.

i like to do shape assemblages too. i'll use all manner of wood, plastic, cheap, expensive disparate materials, assemble them into a whole and then paint the entire sculpture with flat white latex housepaint.

since i use a lot of metals, etc, i frequently put my pieces up on the roof to age and weather. it's amazing what unlikely materials the sun, wind and water can meld together.

using old and new together like an old vacuum tube from a radio along side a computer chip, or an old foto collaged with 3-ds and holograms.

i use a lot of broken mirror fragments and 3-ds and diffraction grating and polarized paper because it reflects light as the viewer crosses the room and winks at the viewer, makes it interactive.

i'll use scotch tape to pick up an image from a newspaper or magazine and use it in a piece. rauschenberg did the same thing using lighter fluid, but i don't know how.

you can take all the clip art that's available and do comic strips or stories.

i use a lot of dead insects, mice, birds, bones. got a bag of chicken feet from the food market and coated them with matte medium. the acrylic slows the decay process down so they dehydrate rather than rot and i have mummified chicken feet in some collages.

coat a carrot in matte medium and put it next to an uncoated one. the one will shrivel to almost nothing, the coated one lose maybe 20% of it's size.

spiders, moths, feathers, teeth. rhinestones too. i thought of that because the first spider i used i did not coat it with medium, and the abdomen shrunk to nothing. so i replaced the abdomen with a rhinestone and it was magic.

i keep a box by my chair so whenever i come across a decent headline phrase or particularly bright lie in some advertisement, i rip it out right then and toss it in my box. have 4-5 years worth of stuff in there now.

like to use mixed methods in mixed media... for example (again) What You Pay. it has carefully cut out paper graphics in it as well as crudely cut graphics as well as torn/ripped graphics. it has barbed wire, crayfish claws, glasses lens, coffee stains (that is another great trick - spill coffee on the piece or keep setting the dirty cup down to make 1 or 3 or 5 or 7 coffee rings). i have burned stuff in it, a handful of tiny tiny mirror shards, fotos of myself at 6 months, 17 yrs and 33, plus i took black acrylic paint and painted thickly over the bird.

make a wash out of 97% water and 3% fluorescent silver or white and slop it on and drain it. the silvery highlights will linger in the cracks and crevices.

add half teaspoon of copper powder to a quart of matte medium and a pinch of salt and a splash of water and immediately it will start turning blue with copper corrosion. most the varying blues you see in my stuff is this.

i also make an aluminum/medium mixture and sometimes pour that into the wet copper corrosion and it swirls like cosmic galaxies.

instead of powder you can add anything to matte medium - sand, glass, a politician's morals.

i pour pools of this liquid copper corrosion into a frame, then toss in some rusted shards and bits of glass and plastic, plants, splash a circle of enamel paint into the corrosion, then some fingernail polish (a great tool), sprinkle salt on some but not all of it, maybe a spritz of high gloss spray for sparkle, toss in an old metal windup toy of a policeman on a motorcycle just slightly offcenter and let it dry.

chance favors the insanely well prepared.

frequently use manipulated polaroids in my pieces. thay can be toasted briefly while they're developing, or microwaved even more briefly (you have to watch for sparks from the metal within), or a pack of film can be frozen before use which sometimes gives great effects and sometimes you just lose all your film.

just thot of this, never tried it. on a piece of cardboard, paint a dollar sign using salty salty water. let it dry. spray the whole thing with glossy black enamel. bet the salty dollar sign would look like an unclean defect against the glossy black background.

or paint a dollar sign using rust particles. paint the whole thing white and the rust symbol will eat thru and stain the white in 6 months or so. once on an angels eyes i painted a fine rust, then white. it took a year but the rust ate thru and the angel's eyes watched one, followed one about the room.

a great source of collage material are art magazines. making art with art is fun. i like to use my old collages that don't work as starts or parts for new collages. even use some of my artist friends' work. or xerox my old ones and redo them anew.

fire, water, salt, sun, weather, time, rust, corrosion, paper, aging - these are my tools.

i'm fried. thinking too fast, too shallowly. untouched the surface be.

if i missed your point entirely, or if you need something else, let me know. i'd still love to have student work on agent of chaos, but i've thought of a potential problem. i've a checkered past some might hold against you. and most of it is on my site.

ritual sacrifice, from hell to heaven - a fable in 42 fotos

dark passage - a fable in 37 fotos

countdown - a fable in 25 fotos


shots of studio loft

fotos of smith 1946-2004

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