Mixed Media Collage Techniques How To

Welcome to the How to Section. I will be constructing the piece I created for the Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine Calendar Challenge! For the "Life is like a box of.." I chose "music notes". 

Supplies: canvas, acrylic paints, acrylic gel medium (works like glue), paint brushes, water container, doilies, paint palette, scrap paper, colored inks (or watercolors), stamps, sheet music and jewelry beads.

First I bought a 12" x 12" professional grade canvas. I placed it on my work station and gathered a few pieces of paper, a doily (shaped like a heart) and a few other found objects. I placed them in various places arranging a composition in my head.

Then I choose which ones I liked best. I collect papers everywhere! It's easy. If you enjoy vintage things look in your attic for old newspapers, old books or at garage sales. You can find paper everywhere if you look, but arts and crafts stores carry many designs like the ones I use in this project. I find thin papers such as a fancy cocktail napkins work very well with the acrylic medium.

Once I am satisfied with the ideas I jump right in and start gluing paper to the canvas directly.

Here I am using "Liquitex gloss medium & varnish" and another antique colored "collage decoupage". I find that the Liquitex worked better.

I placed the papers on their back and covered the area evenly and placed onto the canvas. You have a very short time to lift and move around so act quickly. Sometimes I go over the whole thing and it binds it very well to the canvas - and leaves a shine on the paper if you do the top side.

Continue adding papers as you like. Cover the whole canvas, and layer the papers on top of each other. Don't worry to much about perfection, since you are about to cover the whole thing with paint!

In this panel I am demonstrating how I ripped the doily heart into two halves, and painted it separately with colored inks. Inks are lighter than paint and will soak into the paper like a sponge. Feel free to use watercolors as well as they will work fine. I was going for a vintage sepia toned broken heart. Set the heart aside to dry.

Note: I painted the heart right over the canvas and the ink made a pattern on the paper in the cut out bits within the doily. Doilies make great stencils with acrylic as well, and I've used acrylic paint to make a "reversed heart" onto a canvas as well using this technique.

You can also see I choose a piece of a map, and a stamp with French writing in this part of the project.

The next step is important. I mixed up an antique soft yellow with the acrylic paint and painted the entire background to unify it visually. I left out certain areas to leave contrast and interest.

You can see the "French writing" stamp I used in this photo above the canvas, and the poor broken heart drying off to the left.

"Within the painting lies symbols about life and love. The French stamp with beautiful writing on it - is like a love letter. There is a piece of map, symbolizing the travel we do for love and adventure. Mostly there are different pieces of sheet music - representing the love and beauty of music."

Since this painting is about music notes, let's add them! Here I gathered non copyrighted sheet music. I choose a piece out of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to depict the sounds of life - from quiet and low to high and loud, as this follows our path in the world perfectly. Life is like music in this simple way. We have sad times, and sad songs to comfort us with the knowledge we aren’t alone in our pain. We have celebratory songs filled with pride and honor, and of course... love songs. Falling in love with someone, sometimes even brings about the term ”Our Song”. How many times have you heard a song somewhere and remembered a special person?

Gather sheet music, ones you love, or something fun. Now rip them up! It's sometimes hard ripping a new music book apart, but once you start it gets much easier. I also purchased a roll of toilet paper with music notes on it, and it works beautifully as the tissue paper is transparent as you glue it to the canvas!

The next step is again use your soft antique yellow acrylic paint to cover the entire surface, creating a unified look and color scheme. Feel free to choose alternative color choices if your music brings you into a different mood. For example, Blues music with blue paint :)

I've covered the music with the paint - sometimes heavy, sometimes barely at all - to leave a bit of contrast.

In this photo you can see the transparent toilet paper wrinkle and move as it was so thin and pliable. I love it!

At this stage, you can see the piece is really coming together! I glued the doily into place and added just a little more paint to it as well. 

"This piece also has a very symbolic heart - a doily, which was torn in half at the beginning of this piece. I wanted to show how over the process of making this piece the fragility of the heart, how it breaks, and how it gets mended over time with the love that is brought back to life by listening and singing to music. I think the heart, after being torn, dyed and painted and glued back together was much more beautiful than whole right out of the package. I think there is beauty in the broken heart and in the healing process."

Here I have drizzled acrylic medium over the canvas in a music like wave. I then gathered pinches of gold, bronze, and brown jewelry beads and sprinkled them over the acrylic medium.

They will stick to the medium and when it dries, they stay attached forever! You can stick almost anything small to a canvas, so be inventive.

Here I added a few small flower craft cut outs, and metal pieces of jewelry that make the lines within sheet music. I am trying to make the beads look like notes. I am "healing" this heart, so it almost looks whole by adding items along the seam. Most people won't even notice it was once ripped up and torn in half...kind of like mine :)

There is never any right or wrong way to scatter collage materials like this, so have fun, but don't over do it!

I've incorporated some of Martha Stewart's scrap booking borders along the edge, as I love the use of borders. I've taken a fine art pen and drew a few individual notes by hand.

Well, I hope you enjoyed creating a similar piece. I loved making this one, and it hangs proudly over my kitchen sink. Someday I hope it finds a better location, like an art gallery!

Till then,

Make something beautiful -