Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Images and collage elements

Now that I've been doing a bit of collage every morning for the past few  months I have been getting some questions about where I get my images and compliments on them too (thank you). Some have said they find it hard to find material for collage, which is completely baffling to me,  so I thought I would do a post on collage imagery and where to get it. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

I keep small imagery and die cuts in this small folder.

Now before I go on let me just say that my collages are for me mostly and just to share freely on the web for viewing enjoyment and inspiration. I do not sell them, nor do I get any other profit from them and I don't have to worry about stuff like copyright or anything like that. Even though collage is in itself of course a derivative work of all sorts of existing elements combined, I think it can sometimes be a slippery slope as to what you could and could not do commercially and I am not knowledgeable enough to give any advice on that. For me the world of imagery is an enormous buffet where I just pick and choose whatever I want. So let that be a bit of a caveat for this post.

Another small folder is used for found words.

Now I have talked a little on this blog about my process when doing collage, which is basically just one step at a time and seeing what happens. I just mix and match and see what I like. I think this is one of the basics for my own way of working: I do not go searching high and low for imagery while I'm doing the collage, I have a whole assortment of imagery at hand already. By that I mean that collecting imagery is done completely seperate from using that imagery.

In this plastic box I keep cut out stamped images. The paper is either scrapbook paper or self painted paper.

I know there are people out there who sort their images and papers by colour, or theme or subject or whatever, but I am not one of those. The only thing I sort of look at is image size. From time to time I will have a session of collecting or making what I call 'collage elements'. I will sit down with some magazines and cut out all the images and words that speak to me. Or I will gather my stamps and stamp them several times on decorative paper or painted paper and then cut them out. I will also collect images I like from the internet and print them out from time to time and print out a lot of my own photographs too.

A lot of collage goodies I get from generous blog readers. It's amazing what you people send me.

I have several folders and boxes for different types of materials and I try to keep them stuffed with possibilities. Then when I sit down to collage I can just start somewhere and rummage through my stash to find something to my liking for that particular collage. I do my selecting mostly by size and colour, but also just because something 'feels right'. When you have a whole stash to choose from that is a luxury you have. You are not limited by possibilities, anything goes. That's how I prefer to work.

I have a box with note cards, cut up scrapbook paper, tags and journaling cards.

Here's (a nowhere near complete) list of materials that I have used for imagery in collage
  • Magazine images. That's probably the most obvious one. My favorite magazines are Flow Magazine and Happinez. They both have international editions now, so that's good. But I also like home decorating magazines and things like National Geographic. Sometimes in second hand bookstores they will sell old National Geographics for next to nothing. 
  • My own photographs and drawings. It's no secret I take a lot of pictures, so why not use them in my collages as well? I don't often use my own drawings as collage fodder right now, but it's definitely something I've done in the past and will do again.
  • Postcards. You can use them as is, or cut them up.
  • Ready made die cuts. I get them at discounts stores for instance or at craft fairs. They are ready for use right away and I just mix them with the other images. I don't want something to  look too perfectly scrapbooky.
Project Life gave us a whole new resource of pretty cards. Below some labels from Ikea.

  • Scrapbookpaper. I have no qualms about using anything commercially made out there. There's paper that has borders, notecards, images to cut out or just pretty patterns you can take pieces out of like flowers and such. I will even buy kits if I like the colours and imagery and completely take it apart and use all the elements for different purposes.
  • Collage sheets. I have made my own (drawing them) and I buy them ready made, often at craft fairs. 
  • Packaging. Sometimes the most everyday items can have truly beautiful imagery on them. Teabags for instance, or chocolate boxes, or those fancy coffees, or just about anything. 
  • Journaling cards / Project Life cards. I have to say that I don't do the project life thing, but I love all the stuff that is made for it and the cards are just stunning. So if you've got some money to spare you might look into them.
  • Wrapping paper. Whether it's from a gift you get or from paper you have at home to wrap gifts for others, it will often have very beautiful imagery on it you can use for collage. Also when you buy something in a store and they give you a pretty paper bag there can be imagery on there or lettering you could use.
  • Stamps (the snail mail kind). You can use old used ones, make faux stamps, make copies of a sheet of stamps. I have also used free stamp catalogues for stamp auctions and just cut out the images there. You can also buy cheap non valuable stamps from specialty stores or collectors fairs. 
  • Stamps (the inky kind). You can use your stamps directly on the collage, but I prefer to get some self painted papers and just stamp different imagery on there and cut it out and then apply it to the collage. Just like I have sessions of cutting out images, I have sessions of making stamp images so I have some to choose from when I'm actually making a collage.
Old calendars are just perfect collage fodder.

  • Calendars. I use my own old ones and have the good fortune of having a cousin who gets old Lang calendars from a nearby store and shares her goodies with me. Full pages can also be used to make envelopes out of for snail mail. 
  • Flyers, advertisements, catalogues. You know, all that stuff that comes through your mailbox or is handed out to you. Some can be quite beautiful and they are cheap enough to have no problems about cutting them up. 
  • Colouring books. Some have beautiful or funny imagery and you could even colour them in before you use them.
  • Stickers. The easiest collage item out there without a doubt. You can buy them, have promotional ones, scrapbook stores are full of them, toystores carry them for children (hey we're all still children on the inside, right), and all you have to do is take them off their sheet an paste them down. No glue needed.
  • Washi tape. I have a serious addiction when it comes to pretty tape and I have tons of it. It's not really imagery in itself, but it does add to a collage. There's other nice tapes out there, like paper tape or plastic tape. If you don't have tape you could consider cutting strips of pretty paper and using them as such with a bit of glue.
  • Old letters or journal pages, or copies of them. I guess it depends on whether you are brave enough to cut up original items, but you can always make copies and use those instead. There is a quality to the original though that is hard to beat. 
  • Old books and photographs. Here goes the same as above. How valuable is the original to you? Copies are always an option. Or how about atlases and maps?
  • Fabrics. Yes, fabrics. Some have lovely imagery on it and you can cut them out and use them. The easiest way to do this is with double sided sticky back plastic. Also consider things like ribbon and buttons and such.
Some of my favorite magazines.

  • Found words. When I cut up all the above I always collect words too. My collages don't feel complete without words and letters in them. So when I find words or sentences that speak to me, they get cut out too and saved in a special folder with just words in it.  
  • The internet. There's tons of sites and sources for free to use collage materials (try creative commons on flickr for instance). There are lots of people on Etsy who sell collage sheets. There are libraries and archives and museums that share there images for free. I hardly ever use these things, but it's good to know they are out there. Also I do collect images of artists and photographers that I admire. This is where the copyright thing gets really tricky I think, so I would never use images like that for anything promotional or commercial. 
Little pieces of fabric with cute imagery on them.

I think I could go on forever, but I think you get the point. Collage materials are basically everywhere. If you can cut it out and stick it down (or just stick it down), it's fair game. That whole play of mixing and matching and arranging of all sorts of elements is exactly what makes collage so much fun.

Commercial collage sheets. I often get them at craft fairs.

In this post you find some photographs from my own personal stash. I want to add a bit of caution with that. I have a lot of stuff. I mean: A Lot. This did not happen overnight, so I'm not trying to suggest you need all that. That would be crazy. I have been collecting and arranging (hoarding?) for decades. I use a lot and then add to my stash again, but a lot can get saved for years until that certain piece comes along that needs it. This is how I work, I need those options, but a small stash will do just fine. I've done collages with just one magazine or a travel flyer I got on vacation.

I keep bigger imagery in these A4 sized plastic folders.

I think the most important part is to look for imagery you really like and that is practical. By that I mean, don't go saving a bunch of huge images if all you make are small collages. And if you do want to sell commercially look into copyright carefully and don't use work you have no rights to. You could get in serious trouble. 

Stickers. The easiest collage elements of them all.

I hope this post gave you some ideas as to where to find imagery. I think if I were to give you the short answer to the question 'Where do you get your imagery?' it would be 'Everywhere!'.  And that's basically my advice to you: just look everywhere.

Wishing you all a wonderful and artsy day!