Monday, October 16, 2017

ink over collage: all the steps

last week when i posted an ink-over-collage mandala for mandala monday, a few people (ok, technically just barb and dawn mercedes) asked if i had any plans to make a video of the process. which is a very sweet and flattering question. but no. at least for now, the closest i'm going to get is remembering to photo all the steps of a project, then making them into a flipagram or a photo tutorial with captions. for this mandala, you can find the former on my facebook and instagram accounts, and the latter right here:

miscellaneous vintage papers
a good gluestick (i like scotch brand)
a substrate on which to build (mine is 5x5" chipboard)
plain white modelling paste and a few stencils
various colorful dye-based ink pads 
fingertip applicators for the inks (yes you do actually need them)
a compass, cup, or roll of tape for making a perfect circle
various pens for outlining (i like faber-castell's pitt artist pens)

(if you decide you'd actually like to try this method, scroll down to the bottom of the post and read the footnotes, 
especially the part about gluestick because it's fairly vital!)

start with your base and a selection of papers that have been trimmed --or torn-- to size. it's a good idea chop off big blank borders and margins. i like to mix text papers with a variety of languages and fonts, some charts, some sheet music, etc.

add the papers one by one, adhering them with a really thorough coat of good quality gluestick, applied edge to edge. i like all of my text to be right side up, and fairly straight, but i don't agonize.

entirely optional texture layer:
when the based is completely covered, choose one or two fairly low-key stencils, and apply them almost randomly. this is a good way to cover any too-dark text, or seams you don't like the look of, or any other "mistakes" you notice after you've covered the base.
(i love the look of the extra texture this gives, but it does make applying color and outlining a little harder, so you might like to skip this step your first time out!)

after the modelling paste is completely dry, sketch out your mandala design with a soft, erasable pencil. (to make the outlines visible for the photos, i've drawn them much too dark.) i nearly always start my mandalas with a perfect circle --or a portion thereof-- using a compass or a roll of tape. i don't mind how messy they get later, but i love that the center is precise.

now comes the fun part: adding color! 
i use the little fingertip applicators you see in the photos, because they are big enough to spread the ink quickly, but small enough for all but the most detailed sections. you'll notice that the various papers take the ink quite differently, so there are lighter and darker patches. if this is going to bother you, stop reading right now, lol! because i haven't found a way to do it better, so i've tried to make it part of the design. the nice thing is, that once you go "a bit grungy" it takes the pressure off having to do anything perfectly neatly! ♥

i always work from the center out. and i like to put colors that play well together next to each other because it's impossible to apply them perfectly, so the edges will tend to blur and blend. which again... once you embrace the imperfections of this method, makes for more interesting looks!

as i'm working, i will occasionally decide i don't like the first choice of a color. in which case i'll correct it by choosing something darker. this time i applied cobalt blue over ultramarine to get a stronger contrast. 

i try not to make collage mandalas too detailed because it's difficult to apply color in tiny sections. i have some sponge applicators for detail work, that i found in the pastel section at blick. (you can use makeup ones, but they tend to be flimsier and they shred pretty quickly.)

when the entire mandala is filled in and you're happy with all your color choices, go back and erase as much of the pencil line as possible. be sure to TEST your own particular eraser on your own particular ink, because sometimes smearing will occur. if you're erasing around modelling paste, you will need a stiff brush to get rid of the eraser crumbs. (if you've used really light pencil lines you can probably skip this step and just ink over them.)

now it's time to add your inked lines!
if you're wondering why i don't do this first, it's because the ink and the sponges can sometimes blur the lines, and i like them to be really crisp and bright. faber-castell's pitt artist pens are my favorites, and i always have 1.5, S and XS sized ones on hand. most of the dark outlines here are the 1.5 which is arguably a bit too much on a small scale, but the bullet tip flows so much better than a metal nib over collage. 

at the very very end i sometimes like to add lines or dots in other colors. i like posca's paint pens for this, but i use them absolutely last and i try to be very careful, because they are much more likely to smear than the permanent ink pitt pens.

et voila!
that is the entire process from start to finish.
if you're still awake, i thank you very much for coming along 
and wish you the happiest monday of the whole entire week, darlings!

footnotes about the supplies that you only need to read if you really want to TRY THIS, or alternately, if you have seriously bad insomnia:

papers: mine are mostly vintage and mostly white or off white; i don't like too much color variation for this, because it gets distracting. i tend to keep the illustrations to a minimum for the same reason. and i try to choose papers whose ink won't get too smeary, though there's always one that surprises me, lol, so i don't get too bogged down choosing.

gluestick: do you really need one? YES. i know, i know, a lot of them are really crummy and don't actually work. at this point, the only mass market brand i'm willing to recommend are the scotch brand (regular or craft) which you can sometimes find at a big box store, but may have to purchase online from staples, or if you're really lucky and have a great lss like paper anthology, the owner may start to carry them just for you! :) you will also need an old magazine or quite a bit of scrap paper because you need to apply the gluestick evenly all over each piece of paper, and take care to coat the edges really well. for which you need to be able to apply the stick out OVER the edges... or i guarantee they will not stick. i save old catalogs and mags to use especially for this purpose, since they let me have a new clean page for each item, thus making it much less likely i will drag the next collage piece through the old glue. (at this point any serious collage artist is horrified that i have not mentioned gel medium, which is what "real artists" use for collage. i actually find it too wet, and thus nearly always use gluestick, especially for this particular method. if you really want three (additional!) paragraphs as to why, send me an email, lol!)

substrate: this collage was built on medium-thick chipboard, but canvas works well, or foam core, or a cereal box, or even just good sturdy cardstock. (it really depends on what you want to do with the collage in the end.)

inks and applicators: i mostly use ranger archival or distress inks because they have the most variety and can be found everywhere, including paper anthology where i teach. but use whatever fairly fast-drying dye ink pads you like best. the non-negotiable part of this --for me-- are the little round fingertip applicators with rounded edges, which i like much better than any other type, especially the inexpensive ranger sponge applicator refills which are admittedly much cheaper and easier to find. (i buy the fingertip ones in bulk and i go through TONS of them because using them over modelling paste shreds the spongey part.)


  1. Lauren, I love your work!
    Hugs, Nora.

  2. Ok, it was so much fun to get inside your collage brain! (Is that weird?) I now have a clue as to how you make these incredible collage mandalas! Oh, and the part where you've used modeling paste and are adding the inks and make note of the varied intensities of color? Before adding the color and after the modelling paste dries, maybe (for your readers) try a coating of CLEAR GESSO over it? Then when dry, the added colors would be more uniform. This is just a theory. I don't actually HAVE clear gesso (yet) so I don't know if this would do the trick or not. I may need to get some and experiment. You know, for posterity's sake. ;)

  3. Thanks for the picture tutorial, it's very easy to follow and looks like fun. I love the way you used the music paper in the center of the mandala. and balanced with the ledger paper in the opposite corner. Actually it's just down right awesome.

  4. I don't think those lines are too thick...I love the clean contrast between the lines and the color. Fantastic.


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