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Using Collage to Tell a Story

Diana Walter shared tips on how to create mixed media collages at the Anderson Artists Guild meeting on Feb. 11.

She starts with the story, which is usually triggered by a visual image such as a photo. One example she showed was a picture of her grandfather and great-grandfather all dressed up and posing with a fish.

Then she gathers related ephemera, such as a letter her grandfather wrote to his wife and a map of Maine, both connected to that family photo, which was taken in Maine. Among the “cool stuff” that she collects for possible use in collages are tea bag papers, Tyvek (a polyester that bubbles up when heated), parts of old books, hagstones, crinoid fossils, skeleton leaves, and rusty things.

Next is the layout of the basic design, for which she considers balance, contrast, and the focal point. She creates areas of rest within the piece so that it’s not too busy. The focal point is necessary for interest and purpose. A challenge, she said, is “telling a story as a work of art as opposed to scrapbooking.”

Then she edits, reorders, adds, and removes elements, being sure to snap a picture before adhering the elements and adding embellishments. She weighs down the attached items with bags of rice.

To test out marks, blobs, and spatters she might add to the design, she makes them on a sheet of Dura-Lar placed over the piece and takes a picture. If she likes them, she will mark the piece itself.

Finally, she sprays the piece with six coats of an archival varnish and writes a brief summary of the collage to attach to the back.

Her favorite supplies include Araldite adhesive, Elmer’s Glue, ExtravOrganza, Yes! Paste, Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid, Krylon Gallery Series UV Archival Varnish, Magic Eraser, and Dura-Lar. A good source for vintage newspapers is A source for decorator papers in She buys ExtravOrganza from and scouts Etsy for a variety of items.

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