THINGS TO MAKE AND DO!!!!!
Let's all make a collage the FirstNations way! Not the regular normal way, because that way is all assy. This way rules and is studly, because it is durable and because I made it up and tested it and it just rules, ok?
Here's what you'll need:
No seriously. If you're like me and you love old paper ephemera, you have boxes of the shit just waiting to be made into something. To begin, then, get out all your boxes and sort through your papers (which will be a fun afternoon in itself!) with an idea in your head. The key here is GO IN WITH AN IDEA IN YOUR HEAD.
Ask yourself: "Self? What do you feel like you want to do a picture about?"
Now sometimes you'll have an answer ready: "I want to do a picture about the color blue" or "I want to do a picture about things that are jungly and warm".
Now, with this idea uppermost in your mind, go through your papers one by one and think "Does this match my idea?" and if it doesn't, put it to one side. If it does, save it out.
Then go back through the save pile again, with the idea in mind, and cull and adjust. By this time all the papers you have looked at will have begun to suggest a final appearance to you. This is so fun that you might spend days just dinking around going through all your cool papers. Well, if you're me.
Now: Decide if you still like the idea. Sometimes you won't.
Don't do it.
If you do still like it, now think: Do I want to do this suggested appearance?" Sometimes you don't.
Don't do it.
Both these things happen. Go with it. Do not force it. Otherwise you won't like what you did, and it will bother you. If you go ahead and make the collage you'll just put it away because it bothers you, and then some random person will come along and say they like it and THAT will annoy you and you'll give it to them just to get it out of the house and they'll hang it up and every time you go over you'll have to see it and that will annoy, bother and irritate you.
Now sometimes you just want to do a picture about something but you don't know what. This is when you get some of the best results, weirdly enough!
Go through all your papers and save out the ones that just appeal to you for some reason. Then arrange them on a big table (out of the draft!!!) and let them lay there while you glance at them as you walk by. Rearrange them if the spirit moves you.
Suddenly an idea will suggest itself.
Sometimes it will just get bothersome, and you'll put it all away again.
Sometimes, you just find that you really like the arrangement for some reason, and you do it, and then months later the underlying idea will suddenly come to you when you look at it, and you'll go "Huh!"
Here is how to assemble it so that it lasts for one million years (dog years)
For the ground-
1 sheet of luan panelling, flat, no pattern*. You can cut this stuff to size by scoring it with a stanley knife or even an exacto and then crack it off around a doorway or over the edge of a table.
1 bucket of premixed sheetrock mud or joint compound, untinted (you can tint it yourself with water based tempera if you like.)
1 large bottle of Elmers CARPENTERS glue-not the white school stuff. The white school stuff is disgusting and rubbery while the yellowish Carpenters stuff dries really rigid and sands easily.
A flat throwaway house painting brush-a small one, like for indoor walls. Not a huge one.
Medium grit sandpaper
CLOTH rags-NOT paper towelling.
Method for preparing your ground:
Cut the luan to size, sand the edges and clean the surface. Make sure it is completely dry. Now, look at it and judge the natural bow. The side that bellies up toward you will be your work side.
Mix up 1 cup of the joint compound with 1/4 cup of Elmers Carpenter glue and some water until smooth. You want it to be exactly as goopy as condensed cream of chicken soup is right out of the can, or like standard latex housepaint.
**Glop up a brushload of the mixed compound and begin painting it on the luan (remember, belly side up.) Cover the whole surface uniformly. Be fairly generous; cover the entire sheet to a uniform depth. Neatness does not count here; coverage does. Err on the side of too much.
Dry in front of a fan overnight-first the front, then the uncoated back. Set it up off the ground on some books so the air can flow around it.
Sand the dry surface to a uniform smoothness, first top to bottom, then side to side. Dust off the crumbs and then go over it again lightly with a damp rag to pick up everything. This is the point where I usually stop, because this gives you a nice 'toothed' surface that your papers will adhere to very well.
You can always add a dab more wet compound to fill if you need to; just let it dry for an hour before you try and work it.
Sometimes you might want to use a very flat surface (say, you're using stains or something.) To achieve this, wet a rag or sponge until its not dripping but still pretty wet, and then burnish it over the surface in circles lightly. Keep checking it in an angle of light that skips off the surface and will reveal any remaining flaws. It will still be porous when it dries, but it won't have a visible 'grain'.
The luan should have dried more or less flat now with the coating on it. If it still bellies out toward you a bit, so much the better! The papers you apply will draw a bit as they dry and pull it flatter.
Water based clear polycrylic finish, eggshell (or whatever lustre you like)
Elmers Carpenters glue, mixed 1:4 with water (this can vary; that's just ballpark)
Premixed tempera paint, water based (you can use this to tint the adhesive, the finish, the papers or the ground. I also use instant coffee granules. Seriously. You get a perfect 'aged' look with it.)
Fine grit sandpaper, for breaking up finishes and creating effects
Throwaway brushes (NOT foam; it crumbles)in varying sizes-flat and artists tips-for applying adhesives, finishes and manipulating wet papers
Clean, non-linty rags for dabbing up excess finish and adhesive, also spills-you'll have 'em.
An absorbent dropcloth (I use an old flannel sheet doubled over)
A large box fan with adjustable speeds
A standard blowdryer
optional: chopstick, palette knife, old butter knife or popsicle stick, exacto knife-for moving and manipulating papers and creating effects.
This is up to you. To begin with, try and use papers that are made of the same material and that have the same thickness because thats just easier to deal with. Start with old newspapers to get a feel for the medium. You lose nothing and it turns out cool!
Magazine pages have a coating on them that needs to be sanded lightly on the glue side to help them stick better.
Some papers are not colorfast; the inks will bleed. Sometimes this is a cool effect. Sometimes it will ruin everything. Tear off a tiny corner and get it wet to see if the color runs before you get it all wet.
Once the papers are perfectly dried, you can sand over them to get various effects, like to feather out an edge or fade an image, or reveal a layer beneath, or make it take up tint heavily. It's fun and it makes a huge mess!
Note: all papers will stretch out when they get wet. When you glue them down, burnish out the wrinkles and air bubbles with a wet artists brush, working from the center out in all directions, also pressing out excess glue. This is a very light operation; don't reef down hard on it. It's wet paper and it will fall apart, you know! Dab up the excess glue with a dry rag.
The cool thing is, though, that once they're stretched out and glued down, they stay that size even if you get them wet again. You can glue layers, letting things dry in between times, and it won't ruin it!
Coat the entire surface of the prepared board with the Elmers glue mixture. I work north-south first, then let that dry and go over it again east-west, and let it dry overnight.
That is called 'sizing' the surface. What that accomplishes is to give you a surface that will dry at the same rate of speed and draw as what you apply to it. It is also easily repairable... if you stick something on that you don't like you can just lay a wet rag on the mistake until the glue gets wet again, then peel the mistake up. Let the area dry again by hitting the place with the blowdryer.
Exactly the same as papier mache (to a point.)
Run the papers through the glue solution, let them drip off for a second, then apply them to the surface. Brush out the air bubbles (use a damp brush and work from the center) and dab off the excess solution with a rag. Stop every now and then and let things dry a little in front of the box fan.
Here is where it differs from papier mache, though: Do NOT let all your papers lay in a bowl of adhesive solution and soak! This can make some papers dissolve, plus you can get a nasty surprise if one of them has a water-soluble ink and it runs and tints the rest.
One at a time, run each paper through the bath by itself, let it drip then stick it on- you can repair it quickly while its still wet by just wiping it off with a dry rag.
The actual assembly can take a few days. Luckily, this is the really fun part.
Let each layer dry overnight before starting the next one, or else you can get an effect where suddenly huge slabs of the work lift off the surface.
Once you are finished, coat the perfectly dry piece with the water-based polycrylic clear. This stuff is safe, but it reeks bad, so have a fan going and be prepared to open a window.
Let it cure for one week. Then take and seal the back of the board with the polycrylic.
And you're done! Now you have a lovely decoration.
*I've worked with heavy card backing, but this usually ends up lumpy and if I wanted 1st grader art on my walls I'd mug a 1st grader for some. To get it to lay flat you have to cure it under a weight for a week at a time between layers and thats just annoying....then the first time you boil water or it rains it will get lumpy again anyway. So, yeah.
**Why, Nations, why? Why do I gotta do this crap? Why can't I just stick the papers right on the wood? Why?
If you have a very damp day followed by a very dry, hot and windy day, the surface collage (now one continuous plane that draws in multiple directions) can actually draw up and pull itself off the luan (wood is made of long lignin fibers that only draw along the length of the grain.) I've had it happen.
By coating the board with the compound and glue mixture, what you're creating on a microscopic, oversimplified level is kind of a shock absorber. The addition of carpenters glue to the joint compound sticks the compound firmly into the luan AND prevents the compound from crumbling! THIS IS SCIENCE! ISN'T THAT COOL? YES IT IS.