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Upcycle Your Magazines Into Fine Art

Updated on August 30, 2019
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.



Magazine Artwork

Don't throw away those old magazines when you can create artwork with them.

I have been a dabbler for a long time. There is something very appealing about turning trash into treasure. Although I have been an artist for a long time, I never really tried collage before a couple of years ago but now I'm hooked.

I look for magazines with the shiny, glossy surface so that my finished piece has a shine even without varnishing it. I save keywords that I think will add to the finished piece. These words will be the last to add to the picture so I set them to one side.

The photos and even text pages are torn or cut (or both) and laid out like a pallet. I like to layout my pallet like a rainbow. Starting with red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and last the earth colors of tan, brown and black. I usually use a reference photo, preferably one I have taken myself so there are no copyright issues. I draw the subject onto a large heavy piece of paper, 80-pound cover weight, or sometimes the back side of a watercolor I didn't especially like. Watercolor paper is usually very heavy weight, 140 pounds or better. The collage doesn't need to have a paper this heavy but it is nice.

You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.

— Tony Hawk

Paper Scraps Pallet

Photo of my table.
Photo of my table. | Source

Before a child talks they sing. Before they write they draw. As soon as they stand they dance. Art is fundamental to human expression.

— Phylicia Rashad

Fine Art Collage


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lay-in of background and facial tones.More details on face and hand.Dress details.Finished dress and butterfly.
Lay-in of background and facial tones.
Lay-in of background and facial tones. | Source
More details on face and hand.
More details on face and hand. | Source
Dress details.
Dress details. | Source
Finished dress and butterfly.
Finished dress and butterfly. | Source

Draw the Picture

Rubber cement is my glue of choice because it doesn't warp the pieces or change the color. Most rubber cement will yellow with age but if you want to spend a little more, they do make an archival quality rubber cement that will not yellow the paper. Of course, magazines are NOT printed on archival quality paper and these portraits will yellow with age. It does seem a lot of work for something that won't last the test of time. However, I have found that a lot of people don't care if a painting will last the next 100 years. They usually grow tired of a painting within 10 years and want to change up their décor anyway. Plus, in this digital age, the photo of the finished collage will probably stay nice long after the original has aged and yellowed. It is hard for die-hard artists to change their thinking on this point. We have been taught to honor quality and always work on paper and materials that will stand long after we are gone. These collages will not do that, unfortunately. That hasn't prevented me from getting awards for them and selling a few. I have enjoyed the process either way. And I find most average people don't care.

Just like my paintings in oil or watercolor, I like to start by filling in the background colors. Then I put in the shadows and build up to the highlights. The fun thing about collages is that people don't notice the little things if the color is right. That's how I manage to place peoples faces into the hair on my Carrie Collage, or the apple, red high heel shoe and orangutan in the Green Hat portrait. Those are fun and it's an "ah-ha" moment when people see them.

Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.

— Andy Warhol

Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse


The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

— Pablo Picasso

Cowboy Hat

My portrait of the Cowboy Hat Collage.
My portrait of the Cowboy Hat Collage. | Source

Have you ever tried a collage?

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Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Collage for a Children's Book

A Little Patience

It does take a little patience searching the magazines for just the right color to fit in a transition area, where you want the nose to have a smooth soft transition from light to dark or little jewels in the Cowboy hatband. Sometimes I will put a collage away because I can't find just the right color I want and later stumble on it in some circular ad that came in the mail. As you see in the photo of the little girl I am working on, the glaring white of her hands and arm show that I am not finished with this piece, and I'm still looking to find just the colors for the fingers.

I have actually won awards for these collages, entering them in art shows in San Francisco and some local ones here in Fresno, California. I have received a Portrait Award, People's Choice Award, 1st, and 2nd place ribbons and cash awards for several of the pictures shown below. That's a nice complement for recycled magazines, don't you think?

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

— St. Francis of Assisi

Just a Few of My Collages

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Portrait of my step-daughter, Kim Collage, won a first place ribbon.Home Grown Collage
Portrait of my step-daughter, Kim Collage, won a first place ribbon.
Portrait of my step-daughter, Kim Collage, won a first place ribbon. | Source
Home Grown Collage
Home Grown Collage | Source

Summer Collaging

During the summer I spent some time creating more collages. I started with the background and then added the facial tones. The dress and foreground fencepost was last. I designed this collage from a photo I took of my granddaughter at the zoo.

More Collages

Click thumbnail to view full-size

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