Collage Design

Design is one of the most important aspects of collage. Even though the work is an assemblage, it needs all the important aspects of a traditional painting. This includes values (a full range with a light light and a dark dark), color harmony, and design.

Poor mixed media and collage art is often due to poor design. Too many objects, no center of interest and similar flaws. One easy method to help your design is have the major element very large, say 20% to 40% of the total image. And supplement it with smaller elements.


One good design exercise is notan. Notan means light and dark and was taught by Arthur Wesley Dow in the early 1900's. I like the simplicity and pure design. Most are black and white, but occasionally I paint the paper black and dark blue for a subtle contrast. Where the paper is cut, it is folded out in a mirror reversal.

To try a notan, start with a square or rectangle of black paper. Use scissors or a kife to cut the paper. When a section is cut, it is folded out in a mirror image.

One of the unusual aspects of notan, is you don't know the finished size of the piece until you are done. I cut the paper, position them sections out, and when done measure the total image size. I cut a piece of rag mat board or 300 lb. watercolor paper eight inches larger to leave a four inch border on all four sides.

I can add a 3 hour notan exercise to any mixed media workshop we do. Contact joel for details.

Notan 071000

Dos Gatos

Notan 101200