Getting Started with Collage

Happy Summer everyone(!!!) and thank you for subscribing to my studio blog. It has been a while in the making, but hopefully we are ready to get rolling here.

Today I am thinking back to how I got started doing collage. It was 2010 and I was very keen to do Abstract Art, but I could not find any real instruction for this. Finally, one day, serendipity intervened. I was in the gift shop at SFMOMA and I ran across the work of Rex Ray, a graphic designer in San Francisco. Not only was there a bunch of his work there, but a book, which I immediately purchased. Here is what he had to say about his process:

“While I enjoyed the success of my graphic design business… I became frustrated by the commercial constraints, and wanted to return to the simple primal joy of the creative process. In an almost unconscious act of rebellion against graphic design and digital technology, I began cutting up magazines… and arranged them into positive, intuitive forms and compositions.”

-Rex Ray (1956-2015) 

I could certainly relate to that. I had been a digital artist for many years and was eager to do my own work. But how to get started? Well, he had carved out a way that I could understand, so I followed him. Armed with just magazines, scissors and a glue stick, I began to create abstract compositions in a journal. Now, I knew nothing about composition or color or any of that. I just picked images I liked, and used some of his oval shapes (which I also liked), and got moving.

Melinda Tidwell early work with magazines

Here are some selects from my journals. I have hundreds of these and some real lemons among them so I am only gonna show you the ones I like!

I worked from simpler and more sparse to denser and more complex. I am struck, now, by the rich color to be had in magazines! Wow. And the subtle variations in color to be found in color photography in general. I use mostly painted papers now so all this ready made color is kind of dazzling to me. And right at your fingertips!

These pieces were done in a Canson XL Mixed Media 7×10″ sketchbook. I used your basic Elmers glue stick but I have found that it does not stick THAT WELL. I recommend the Uhu gluestick (via Yum City residents). These pieces are in such good shape these 11 years later because they never see the sun, tucked away as they are in sketchbooks. How they would do as framed work under UV glazing I do not know.

Does this interest you? Give it a try! And share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

See you next week

11 thoughts on “Getting Started with Collage

  1. You have inspired me to buy a 5×7 journal and begin doing serious collage studies using exercises in
    Bev Speight book, “Project: Collage” she is a British artist. Great book, ISBN 978-1-78157-577-2


  2. I am always inspired by your imagery Melinda. I loved learning how you got started as well. AND what i find most engaging is your gracious outstretched hand to other collage artists, or artists in general, about your process and what emerges from it. I love learning from you. Over and over😌


  3. Love, love, love Rex Ray! One of my art heroes. Thanks for sharing. I would love to use more rich colors in my collages, but it always seems that my intuitive pieces avoid this. I tend to use old Life magazines, books, and wallpaper in my pieces, so this contributes to this. I am looking forward to seeing more of your work!


  4. As an ex commercial art director, I was attracted to the graphic quality of Rex’s work. I have the same book as well, I like many of your journal pieces. I don’t use magazines though. Copyright issues relating to reproductions for sale of my work and/or gallery sales. I use my own photos and found paper. Good luck with your journey!


  5. I also have beginning collage exercises made from magazine pages. After reading your blog, think I will revisit/refresh, varnish, then frame a few. And maybe even starting a new journal and using up some of my magazine hoard. Thanks for the inspiration.


  6. Thanks for writing this, Melinda. That work of yours in notebooks is really beautiful. I enjoy looking at the shapes and color combinations you have chosen. They are just as fascinating to study as figurative. Your book about Rex Ray is now a bit of a collector’s item, listed on Amazon for $300. I bought the edition with commentary by Rebecca Solnit for about $28. My collages are figurative and symbolic but I also have used magazine images and so far they have held up to moderate light and are framed under plexiglass.


  7. So happy you landed in my in box. I had forgotten seeing your work a while back.
    Earlier today I pulled a few of my old collages out to kick start and inspire be back to the studio.
    Your blog arrived and I feel a kindred spirit! Keep coming!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s