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Painting Over Collaged Elements

Updated on June 23, 2014

A Tutorial In Painting Over Collaged Elements

I recently came across a technique which, as an artist, has really grabbed me. I want to share this with you and at the same time show you how I used this technique to create a painting. Painting over a collaged beginning provides texture, contrasts and colour.

It is very simple and straight-forward, but the combination of processes seems to offer ways for an artist to loosen up and create a style for themselves. The whole thing is also great for experimentation, why not give it a try?


This is a magazine photograph from article that I used as a reference image for the painting. I do paint photographs but don't copy them. You can see how much of the original is retained in my painting - not very much! It is worth saying that I have visited Stonehenge several times, and sketched the stones au naturelle. The stones that is not me. I have also produced one or two paintings from those sketches.

Just thought that I would give the mag and the writer of the article a quick mention. They will probably never do the same for me but I'm an easy going sort of guy.

The magazine was the Leisure Painter, actually the March 2009 issue. The article was by artist Lynda White, and was titled, "Location,inspiration, exploration".

The Main Collage Elements - Step One

OK let's get started!

The first thing I did was to cut out a number of roughly shaped rectangles, about the size of the largest of the stones in the reference image after allowing for the fact that my canvas was larger than the image. I did not count the stones in the reference image, or bother to much about accuracy because my painting was based on and not a copy of the reference. I lay them out very roughly to assess where I was going.

Oh yes, the stone shapes were cut from black card.

Clarifying The Main Image - Arranging The Stones

This was my first arrangement, trying to get a little bit of perspective into the arrangement. But as you will see later, I opted for simplicity. Although I did set some of the stones in the final arrangement to show some depth in the scene.

The Final Arrangement - Here Are The Collage Elements glued In Place

The adhesive has not yet dried, so that you can see the torn, and somewhat crumpled tissue paper clearly in this photo. The moon has also appeared here, with whisps of tissue across its face.

Don't Be Gentle - Use The Tissue, To Add Texture

Roll it, crumple it, rip it and in fact do whatever turns you on. Just get some texture into those areas where you think you will need it. In this painting, the foreground will only be painted very simply, so I arranged for lots of creases and textured lumps and bumps. This photo shows a detail from this area.

Now The Painting Part

OK so we have done the collage and now to start adding colour

Now The Painting Starts - I Hate White Canvas - So My First Job Is To Cover It All

I used a very large brush and fairly dilute colours to make broad horizontal bands across the canvas, changing the colour as I descended from a blue to mauve, a little more blue, yellow, green and burnt umber.

Simply make great swathes of colour, and do not bother at this stage about the collage elements, just get rid of the white.........

Add A Little Detail - Bring The Image To Life

The moon:- I used a white base mixed with all three primaries to get a yellowy moon with an off-white shadow areas. Those so-called seas we can see in the full moon.

The stones:- I mixed a black and hookers green (just a tad) to paint the stones. The front row with a deliciously thick paste which was watered down (literally) for the back row. I then mixed a grey for touches of moonlight reflecting from the edges and nooks and crannies of the stones. You can get too involved in this step, so be very careful. Stay loose!

The clouds:- rather than colouring in the tissue paper clouds, I simply used the brush to pull paint across the sky to give whispy cloud forms right across the sky and across the moon. Colours? whatever takes your fancy, but keep it high key for this area. Slightly darker across the face of the moon, if you must.

I added shadows at the bases of the stones to "join" them up and prevent them appearing isolated.

I also painted the corners at the bottom using a somewhat heavy green to add a little detail to the foreground.

The Completed Painting - The final Step - Assess Wether You Need Any More Detail

Just leave the painting for a little while and come back to it with a fresh eye. I added a little more cloud, sharpened up the stone highlights, added a darker line of green behind the stones and fiddled with the lower corners - the foreground to you. But felt quite happy with the whole and decided enough was enough.

Here is the final image in full.

Feel That Texture - Detail Showing Foreground Texture Courtesy Of The Tissue Paper

It is possible to add more, but better to learn a lesson for next next time.

Experiments In Acrylics And Collage

A book which describes several techniques for using acrylics in novel ways. Whilst not specifically covering the use of collage as described in this page, it does cover painting over wrinkled rice paper.

Acrylic Fusion: Experimenting with Alternative Methods for Painting, Collage, and Mixed Media
Acrylic Fusion: Experimenting with Alternative Methods for Painting, Collage, and Mixed Media

If you feel like your painting is getting into a rut this could be just the thing for bringing a little creativity. Based mainly on abstract painting but it does offer insights into how to make use of new approaches.


Here's Another

This is probably the first acrylic over collage, that I did. It didn't seem to come out the way I intended but I like it anyway.

And Here's Another Canvas, An Acrylic Painting Over A Collaged Beginning

One I Did Earlier

I did this as a bit of an experiment when I saw this technique described in a magazine article. As I was getting into collage in a big way it seemed to be something I should try.

At first I was a little cautious and it did not seem to be coming out the way I wanted but like most of my art it seemed to grow with a will of its own. I look at it now and think, " that should have been over there" adn, " that isn't right at all". However, I actually like the piece and it gave me the inspiration for a number of other works including the painting of Stonehenge in this tutorial.

The collaged elements were the buildings ( simple rectangles built up to give a shape) and various textured shapes using tissue both in the sky ( clouds?) and in the foreground.

You can read a little more about both paintings in my blog post, Acrylic Painting Over A Collaged Start.

I would love to hear of any experiences you have had with this technique, or of any thoughts you may have about this lens.

Reader Feedback

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    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 4 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I love the finished work and found it very interesting to read how you achieved it.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Very interesting technique. Adds more dimension and texture to the painting.

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

      @marsha32: Hear hear!

    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      a cool technique!

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 5 years ago from CNY

      I've sometimes used failed pieces to semi paint over...

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @JanieceTobey: I am so glad that you feel it is worth trying. I know I had fun with the technique. Outlining the main picture elements first really helps to give you confidence with the colouring.

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 5 years ago

      Oh, I love this!! I homeschool my son and will have to give this a try for an art lesson sometime soon! Thanks for sharing this art technique with us! Blessed.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Wow I would never have thought of combining collage with painting. Shows how artistic I am huh? Beautiful work.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      absoloutely beautiful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      A brilliant idea for a lens. I love this kind of art.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      I love the texture and depth you can achieve with collage. Another great lens. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @John Dyhouse: John, I didn't know that's how you did the Stonehenge. I even like the first phase with just the paper in place!

      Of course, the one with the buildings is one of my all-time favorites! Thanks for the wonderful description of your process.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

      I like the look, and it sounds like an interesting and fun technique. Thanks for adding this to my Art Instruction lens.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      This is a stunning piece of work. I will be trying that technique.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      @junecampbell: THanks for that, appreciated

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 7 years ago from UK

      @fotolady49 lm: thank you, your comment is appreciated

    • fotolady49 lm profile image

      fotolady49 lm 7 years ago

      I've never done this technique before and can't wait to try it....great lens! Your Stonehenge Painting is beautiful!