“Scrappy Love” is a song by Tricky from his “Juxtapose” album. Over a jittery beat and a simple ascending piano line, Tricky speak-raps a collection of fairly pat phrases that add up to something more meaningful than the sum of the parts by the end of the track.
That’s kind of what collaging can be like. You collect a bunch of scraps and put them together in a novel arrangement which adds up to a unified, finished piece.
However, collage differs from your typical song in a few ways:
1) In most songs, the music and lyrics are both created to work in unison; to support a single theme. In collage, the theme of the completed work can be completely different from the themes of the source materials.
2) Songs are generally written, not completely comprised of ‘found’ material. (Not always true, obviously. I’m looking at you, Girl Talk.)
3) A collage is not music.
This last point is important to remember. It can be very frustrating to sit down to collage, only to discover that you can’t cut paper with a guitar, and sound tends to rip when you try to glue it.
I have a particular method of working on collages. I don’t recommend it to others. If you want a great tutorial on collaging, please visit the blog, Whuffling. Click around. There, you’ll also see some sublime examples of the genre.
My style of collaging is a bit more… well, ‘scrappy’. Here’s what I do:
Step 1: Get completely fed up with drawing or painting. This is terrific motivation to turn to collage. To heal the bruised ego. The medium is actually a lot like an adhesive band-aid when you think about it. Think about it.
Step 2: Run around the house and collect all the magazines, comics and assorted pieces of mail that I am willing to sacrifice. I also gather up folders full of scraps from the last session. It also doesn’t hurt to grab the glue, the scissors, and the exacto-knife – unless I grab the sharp end. Then it hurts a lot.
Step 3: Completely take over a room, rendering it useless for any other activity for the duration of the art project. Here, you can see how I boldly commandeered the entire common area of the studio:
Step 4: Apologize to my studio-mates and explain that I’ll be done really soon.
Step 5: Tell my conscience to shut up. Lying about being “done really soon” is perfecctly fine as long as no-one gets hurt. And by hurt, I mean there has to be visible bruising.
Step 6: Start thinking about themes and browse through the material for words and images with potential. Sometimes, I set out with a theme in mind. Other times, the ideas emerge from the images themselves as I begin to collect them.
Step 7: Spend an hour reading a thoroughly outdated article in one of the magazines. It’s best when these articles are about once-current trends that have since proven short-lived.
Step 8: Suddenly remember the project I started and realize that time is running out.
Step 9: Quickly whip together some stuff and start thinking of some artsy-sounding justifications for the slap-dash nature of the work.
Step 9 (for real): This is actually the point when I start playing with the images; cutting them down and seeing what works well together. I apply my “Rules” to guide the pieces toward a satisfactory finished state. More about the rules will be covered in a future post.
Step 10: Glue things down. Be sure the arrangement is just right before adhering. There are no do-overs once the glue is dry.
Step 11: Admire the work. It is good practice to reward yourself with a congratulatory cup of coffee and something sweet at this time.
So that’s basically my process. Here is a simple piece that it yielded, from the Sketchbook Project (click for a reminder about that).