Collage: A Valid Art Medium

“Rejection” by girlplague, paper collage, 2017

My name is girlplague and I’ve been doing collage professionally for almost a decade. I graduated a 3 year graphic design and art fundamentals program in 2011 where I was given the opportunity to not only learn graphic design and illustration in depth, but also explore many other types of art forms. I found out what I did and didn’t like, what I was good at and what I wasn’t.

I had a strong interest in collage from the beginning. It came naturally to me and the more I learned about design, the more I incorporated collage into other ways of creative expression. Rules of composition, balance, colour theory, psychology in marketing and advertising, gestalt theory, etc. became a main part of my creative process.

Collage is a very accessible medium, as in the supplies (such as scissors, glue, old magazines, etc.) can be easily obtained and are fairly affordable. People also respond well to the format psychologically — cutting up images and sticking them together is something most children do in early childhood at least once, in class at school, or maybe an activity at a birthday party.

This establishes a sort of human connection that’s automatically appealing to most viewers, even if they don’t understand why. However, there are many artists and art lovers who often don’t “get it” and devalue collage as a real art form. They see someone taking images that are not their own, and sticking them together as they did as children. “Anyone can do that!”

This year, I met someone going to Concordia for art history. We were talking about the pricing of collages vs. say, a painting.

“It’s not the same as doing a painting, though. Making a painting takes a lot of talent, a lot of time. More goes into it. So it’s understandable how people don’t want to pay a lot of money for a collage.”

Talent and time does not necessarily make a great piece of art. Skill, knowledge, and training are easily brushed over when deciding whether an artist is “good enough”, or if a finished piece is valid. Talent is something you’re born with, skill is something you build over time. The years of going to school, learning, practicing and honing a craft is completely overlooked by the majority of non-artists (and even fellow artists alike). Because of these skills I’ve built in the last ten years, I may come up with a popular collage in 20 minutes or less. That does not devalue the art, especially when you have a really strong concept, which in all art forms can make or break a piece.

Is It Summer? by girlplague, found photo collage, 2017

Art in general is about expression and applied knowledge. A lot of my collage work has to do with struggling with mental illness. My process includes knowledge about colour theory, texture, principles of design, using found imagery in a way that best conveys the struggles I am trying to materialize. It’s also a task and a half to acquire collage materials. Most of us spend time and money trying to track down rare, antique, or vintage materials for our pieces and have homes and studios littered with boxes of these things. Preparation to collage is a whole different world entirely. I can remember finding two huge stacks of old VICE magazines on the curb, carrying them down the street while they cut into my arms and drew blood.

There are many types of art and many ways to express yourself. I don’t believe in any art being invalid because of a) b) or c). Finding a way to express yourself that you like is a beautiful thing and everyone should feel free to create whatever they want, however they want without a fear of it being devalued. Whether it’s collage or something else, keep creating! And let the magic happen.