Saturday, September 6, 2008

collage fodder: what i save, and how i save it

you can blame miss stephanie for this! but ya know, it is not easy to think up something to write about every single day, and recently she asked me how i go about choosing what images i save for cards and art journaling, which magazines i like best for this, and what i do with said pics until they get used. as i started considering HOW i would answer her...or even if i *could* occurred to me that i would need some images to illustrate my point...and as far as i'm concerned when one has generated a bunch of text, and then chosen photos to go with it: by golly, that's a BLOG POST! :)

ok so, what do i save? this is totally subjective and varies from day to day, but i would say it all pretty much comes down to two categories: that which i absolutely LOVE...or...that for which i can immediately see a use.

all of the pics above just happened to be in my stash when i wanted to make a color-spectrum page for paper adventure. now saving the statue of liberty makes perfect sense, and the seahorses are very graphic and appealing, but *WHY* did i save a gigantic picture of corn-on-the-cob?? i have no idea. apparently, on that day, i thought it was cool. (or i was hungry!) on the other hand, IT GOT USED!

oscar mietelski and the cogs-n-gears (which, oddly enough, were from a skin-care ad!) were "impulse saves" from two different times that eventually wound up being used together; the cupcakes and the babies were things i knew instinctively would be good in a birthday context.

basically anything that makes me stop and say, "WOW!" i at least consider tearing it out. it's like buying supplies: every once in a while you see a product that seems utterly impractical, but you just fall under its spell. think about it--the times you've given in to that temptation, you've generally found a way to use the item, right? same thing here: if you love it, you'll either work it in somehow, or be inspired by the colors or pattern or...something...

for the card above and the one below, i came up with the plan for the card when i saw the illustration, and saved them on purpose; i stuck a postie note with the concept and a little sketch right on the page, so that i would remember my brilliant idea! (clippings that already have an idea attached go at the very front of my file, since they tend to be quicker cards to make.) the clownfish were from national geographic; the brain was on the cover of time magazine.

things i tend to "look out for" include: cakes, kids in party hats (for birthday cards); beautiful floral images (for all-occasion cards); bollywood or parisian or new york related stuff (for the place-themed collages i love to make). your list will be different, obviously. if you have a dad who is nuts about golf, or a mom who loves penguins, you might like to save a few golfers and flightless waterfowl, and see if you can think of ways to use them!

what magazines are good for this? potentially *ALL* of 'em !!! ok, that's not very helpful is it? lemme essplain: it's kind of a process i've developed over time. i never go buy magazines to cut up. however, i refuse to save & store the ones to which we subscribe. (the exception being my craft ones & jeff's cooking ones; if we'll use them again, they get to stay.) the rest, after we've read & enjoyed them, get thrown away. ...but... before i toss out 100 pages of glossy illustrated goodness, i have a little flick through, and anything that catches my eye i rip out. the rest gets tossed. (this is a great "dead-time" job--i'll often grab a couple on the way out of the house when jeff is driving.) national geographic has AMAZING photography & is printed on really nice thick paper...the AAA freebie we get every month often has great travel-based or car mags pay art directors a fortune to generate arresting images...the companies that sell plants and seeds produce catalogs that contain nothing but page after page of glorious flower close-ups...and this lovely lady was on the cover of a fancy clothing catalog:

once you start looking, i think you'll see that there is good stuff all around, and lots of it is free for the taking! my mom almost always has a pile she's throwing away; garage sales are FULL of 50-cents-a-stack periodicals; the local library has a "free" area to swap paperbacks and donate magazines; our chiropractor is innundated on a monthly basis with AT LEAST 2 dozen titles and is usually quite pleased when i offer to take one off his hands!

how do you organize what you've clipped? i use 2-pocket school-style folders, divided into general categories from which i tend to save: travel, flowers, animals, food, and a one called "miscellaneous" that's bigger than all the rest (cause that's the kinda gal i am) !!! there's no need to get fancy, but as with most organizing, i suggest sorting "like with like" in a general way that makes sense to you, so that you can find something specific without having to sort through your entire collection!

i hardly ever cut things to size when i save them, i just roughly trim about an inch around the bits i want. (for one thing, the edges can tend to get a bit wrinkly from handling; for another i don't know if i'll want to trim it exactly, or leave an outline, or mount it first on sturdier paper so it can be "popped up" on foam tape!) another thing to consider when choosing what--and how much--to save, is: generally speaking, what do you intend to make with your goodies? because if you're planning to do inchies, it's not much use cutting out loads of giant two-page landscapes! on the other hand, an 8 by 10 framed collage is going to need at least one decent-sized focal point image. for cards, you have leeway, but if you always make A-2's you'll want to bear in mind how much you can actually fit in that space! (the mortice masks shown above are *ideal* for when you are planning to work at a specific size; you can immediately see how much of your image is going to fit!)
to give you an idea of scale, below is a 12 x 12" collage, with no background. there are 15 different images cut from various sources including (off the top of my head): jewelry and home decor catalogs, a cooking magazine, the metropolitan museum's quarterly bulletin, a couple of old calendars and national geographic!

every so often, i grab a folder that's getting a bit thick and weed stuff out; again i am using my two original (very loose) standards, which i've only just realized are a paraphrase of william morris' famous dictum: "keep nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" apply that to your stash, too, and i don't think you can go very far wrong!

if anyone has a tip to share on this subject, or questions about anything i haven't covered, please feel free to leave them in the comments; if you've made something great using stuff cut from magazines, be sure to drop a link so we can come and admire it!


  1. Thank you Thank you Thank you ... I'm sure many other will appreciate seeing your take on saving everyday art ... I know I do. Thanks so much for the inspiration to find art all around us. I particularly love the final collage ... amazing.

  2. You clever chicken you. Am impressed by your method and madness ;-)

  3. Thank you so much - your article and illustrations provided enough inspiration to start my files. You are amazing!

  4. I'm completely mesmerised by that last collage....a butterfly, a buddha, zeus, a seashell and CAKE! What's not to love? But I do have a question...what is the medallion thingy in between zues and buddha? I feel like I should recognise those images, but my poor little brain won't you know what they are or is it just random?

  5. Once upon a time in a land far far away there was a girl named Heather who like you was extrememly organised and did the same thing for the front of her school books... I too was organised and I have a strange feeling I may have collaged my organisation into a cover.

    I lost it years ago!!

    Thanks for a wonderful read and the inspiration - and my fave one out of the spectrum pictures - was the corn cob (the yellow grabbed me!)

    Have a great day!!

  6. You are SOO AWESOMELY talented woman!

  7. wonderful post Lauren...very inspirational too as i am SO bad about saving images that make me go wow!!! part of this is d/t my lack of storage space...but if i am is mostly about my inherent laziness...i vow to do better from now on...i will try to get my Lauren on and save the wonderful images that i see...i LOVES the last collage, it is very striking!!!

  8. Holy crow!! This post was fantastic and FULL of information. Thanks so much for all the tips!

  9. ROFL. I love the "Nemo" card. Every clown fish we ever see is Nemo - the dangers of having a four year old!



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