COLOR LOVE BONUS LESSON #36 – “RECYCLE YOUR ART”
Hello and welcome to my lesson! I hope you’ll enjoy the tips and tricks I share here and find a way to maximize the use of all the practice pieces and bits of art and doodads you create but never quite know what to do with.
I have been using these tricks for about 15 years in my art so it’s very much second nature to me. Some of you will know me from Ebay and Etsy (JoannaBanana) where my original art in collage and mixed media has a focus on using recycled materials and keeping them out of our landfills. It’s very rewarding personally to be able to use something that was headed for the trash, no matter how small, and know that it has become a part of a piece of art that someone else will treasure.
With the huge strides technology has made in recent years, it only made sense to try to stretch the use of my art beyond the original piece. I scanned each and every one of my creations at high resolution before putting them up for sale. As the originating artist, I retain the copy rights even if the original is owned by someone else. I knew I could re-use those images in many ways and thus extend the life of my art into new original art. I also realized that practice pieces and those other bits that weren’t quite good enough to be considered finished art, were still very valuable to me.
I am blabbing on a bit about this because I want you to start looking at your art and practice pieces in a different light. There is so much potential in those little pieces, even the ones you don’t really like. At the risk of creating a whole whack of hoarders, I’ll say this: don’t throw anything out. Within reason, of course. There is so much you can do with those little bits and pieces and I know you’ll be pleased with the results.
Enough babbling. Let’s get started.
In this lesson I am showing you images from two different mini art journals I created recently, with this lesson in mind. I am not going to review the creation of the mini journal itself, since we all took that lesson with Joanne here in Color Love 101. The only thing different about these two mini journals from what we were taught by Joanne, is that I used some acrylic paints for the pages that became the journals and I did not use any gesso over the paint because I wanted a bolder look. Otherwise, the journals are just like the ones we have all created. And remember, you can use these techniques for any project on any surface.
Here are a couple of images of the two completed journals (both sides).
Now let’s take a look at some of the things I have recycled into these journals. Below are photos of an original zentangle mandala (zendala) that I cut in half and used in the background of one of the journals. There’s also an image of color copies from my original collage art from several years ago. These scans were scaled way down to become magnets (business card sized at 2 X 3.5 inches). They are the perfect size to become focal images on the mini journal pages. Also shown is an original zentangle on a chipboard flower shape. It was scanned, reduced in size, and printed on vibrant yellow and orange copy paper. I probably got twenty shapes per sheet of 8.5 X 11” paper and you will see those little yellow and orange zentangled flowers throughout both mini journals.
Here are some sample pages I created for Letter Love 101 and Color Love 101. Nothing too exciting on their own, right? However, if you tear them into strips or cut/punch them into interesting shapes, imagine how much they could add if used as borders or background images or even focal images for your journal pages. Embellish them further with paint, markers, stickers, etc., and they become brand new original art.
You’ll see in some of these sample shots that I have used art tags for the focal images on some journal pages. I must have created hundreds of altered art tags over the past dozen years or so. Not all of them were used in other art and I had quite a few just sitting around collecting dust. They are miniature pieces of art in their own right but how fun is it to incorporate them into pages in our mini journals? If this doesn’t take your art journal to another level, I don’t know what will! If you are like me, you have already invested hundreds of hours into creating little treasures like these art tags (or something similar) and it is SO very satisfying to finally find a home for them.
The next several images show journal pages that incorporate those scaled down scans of my original collage art I mentioned earlier. Although they were sized deliberately for me to make business card-sized magnets out of, they happen to work perfectly for mini journal pages. They are color laser printed on glossy cardstock but ordinary copy paper would work just as well for this application (just be sure not to use an inkjet printer for this kind of application – the images will smear). Again, think about how you could embellish these images further, creating brand new art. Would you cut them apart? Color or doodle on them to change the look? Add a border with some funky paper? Add glitter or other embellishments like rhinestones, stickers or washi tape?
I made about a bazillion little pieces when I was practicing my lettering for Letter Love 101. The following scans show how I have used a few of them as accent pieces in the mini journals. Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time out. You can get quick, highly satisfying results in your art by using things you’ve already made or have on hand. For me, as a person with very limited time to dedicate to my art, being able to produce a finished piece in a short period of time is a must (and so satisfying). Re-using things I’ve already made that don’t quite stand on their own as art, but that make great backgrounds or accents, makes sense.
Below are the pages from the art journal where I cut apart an original zendala I made a couple of years ago. I made sure to scan it at high resolution before I cut it apart. That way I can always print it again, in any size, and reuse the image in other ways in the future. Doesn’t it add a lot to the background of the pages? There’s no denying that using these techniques truly creates one-of-a-kind pieces.
OTHER COLLAGE/MIXED MEDIA TECHNIQUES
Before I finish up this very long-winded lesson, I wanted to share some additional techniques that you may find useful, particularly if you haven’t done much art like this before.
- If you take a look at the background of the mini art journals, you’ll see that one half of the pages are quite different from the other. This was a deliberate choice I made when I first painted both sides of the bristol paper that would be cut, accordion folded and glued together to become the journals. I deliberately flipped the two long pieces of bristol so that one half of one side would be in the green/yellow/brown tones and the other in the hot pink/orange/black tones. This is a bit jarring to the eye (especially if you can imagine how it looked without all the embellishments on top of it and without gesso to tone it down). I wanted it to be different, to have energy, and to jar the eye somewhat when you first looked at it. However, in recognizing that that could be a bit much and appear somewhat discordant to the eye, I also made the deliberate decision to ensure that the components I used travelled across the full length of the journal when spread wide open. Take a look at the images with this in mind. You’ll see that the orange and yellow zentangle flowers are deliberately used across the whole journal. You’ll also note that where there was a strong black presence in a number of the pages on the right hand half of the journal, I’ve added black accents on the left hand pages, drawing this strong color across to the middle. This harmonizes the piece overall and diminishes a bit of the discordance. The paper flowers are used across all pages too, to unify the journal as a whole, as are some of the recycled stickers and doodads I used.
- A trick for successful collage art is to make sure you place some of your elements so they fall off the page or overlap the next page. This means you’ll have to trim the excess that overhangs the edge of the page sometimes, but it gives your work a more natural look.
- Be bold when you choose elements for your pages. Deliberately put together things that you think wouldn’t go well with one another. You’ll be surprised how much interest this technique adds to your art.
- Play around with placement of your elements on your page before you glue them down, until you get an arrangement that is pleasing to the eye. But don’t overthink it. Trust in your own judgement. Personally, I rarely plan my art. I prefer to just let things happen as they may and I trust that I will just “know” when a piece is done.
- Think in terms of odd numbers when adding multiples of the same image or component to your page (3, 5, 7 etc.).
- Unless you are deliberately going for a minimalist look in your work, more is better, so don’t skimp on the elements or components you use. Aim for a “full” page. If you take a look at the large art journal page samples I have here on my blog (just scroll down right after the posting about the art swap), you’ll see what I mean by having “full” pages. A full page invites the observer to come and stay awhile and discover new things in every area of the page. (And just a side note about these large journal pages, they, too, use the techniques I’ve discussed here about re-using little bits and pieces you have already created).
- We have a saying in my household, “If it’s relatively flat and not nailed down, it will end up in Joanna’s art.” Funny, but true. Look around at what will make interesting elements in your art. Puzzle pieces. Fibers and fabric scraps. Vintage images. Sheet music. Dictionary pages. Broken jewelry bits and findings. Office supplies. Postage stamps. The list is absolutely endless!
I hope this lesson has piqued your curiosity and fired up your imagination. If you need more inspiration, here are a few links to some of my work (current and past).
And if you want a bit more information about collage art and the how-to’s of it, here is a link to an online lesson I hosted many years ago on the EBSQ online art site:
And if you want even MORE inspiration and would like to know about fellow collage/mixed media artists I know throughout our online community, I invite you to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or message me through FaceBook. I'd be happy to share links to my favorites.
I encourage you to push the boundaries of your comfort zone with your art and to look around at what you can incorporate into your work. You will not be disappointed.
Your Color Lovin’ Pal,