Self-Guided Lecture

Guidelines To Wet-Mounting Display Projects
Collage Mural Displays
You Can Do!

Part 3 — Collage Mural Display Creation

Introduction: Funk and Wagnalls New Practical Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary defines the word collage as “literally, pasting; a picture or other art composition produced by combining pieces of newspaper or various odds and ends.” Related to this is the word montage, defined as “A picture made by superimposing several different pictures so as to blend into one another, or so as to show figures upon a desired background; a composite picture.” For our purposes, we will use the term collage in fulfillment of both of these definitions.

As author of this set of guidelines for wet-mounting photos and prints, I can say that in our work with graphic images, displays for the home, and exhibits designed to educate and entertain the general public, collage work has been one of our most unique, enjoyable and satisfying experiences. We have created collages for wedding anniversaries, family histories, hero history, collections of animated human faces, demonstrations of an organization’s mission, and some just for fun. We have found creating them to be a joy, a simpler process than one might think, and a useful and meaningful method of communication. A collage presentation is not a direct teaching tool, but it does work wonders to arouse curiosity and entertain visitors and passersby. It stimulates interest, calling one back and encouraging one to look and to think.

It is our purpose here to encourage you to consider the application of collage displays in your own work or recreational activity. The wet-mounting techniques described previously in Parts 1 and 2 all apply here, with just a few additional considerations. It is something YOU can do, gaining a further sense of accomplishment in the process.

You may recall that in Parts 1 and 2 we have we have stressed the value of use of fiber, water-permeable, photo printing papers. We realize that is an idealized situation where you have access to copy camera and photo lab equipment, permitting you to custom size your photos, using paper materials of your own choice without breaking the bank. We have suggested that you not mix B&W photos with color photos. If you could copy your color photos and print them in B&W, you would be more assured of compatability and lessening the potential for fading colors, over time. BUT, people do have boxes and boxes of color prints and if you have the urge to make a color collage, we encourage you to do so. The RC paper will be a bit more challenging, but you can deal with that and be assured of a good result. We still suggest you do not mix in B&W prints, but save them for a separate project.

Getting Down to Work: Here are some progressive steps to follow in the process of creating a collage: Let us begin by reviewing some isssues as to size. The determination of the size of your collage involves a number of considerations, including:

  • How large a display space is available or desired?
  • How many images, photos or prints do you wish to display?
  • How many square inches of surface do you need to cover?
  • If making a collage of printed posters, consider the overlap and cutouts. You may need twice as much in square inches of poster material as you have in square inches of surface on your mounting board. A goodly portion of your material may end up on the cutting floor.
  • When using camera-copied photos, plan on needing two-and-one-half to four times as many square inches of collage materials as you have in square inches of surface on your mounting board.

With panel size determined:

l. Use 1/4-inch, tempered or untempered, masonite for the mount board. Your supplier will cut it to the size you want to use if you do not have resources to do it yourself.

2. Prime the board with two coats of latex or acrylic white paint on both the front and back sides. Alternate the applications, i.e., one coat to the front side, then one coat to the back side. Then, apply a second coat to the front, and a second coat to the back. This procedure will reduce the tendency of the panel to warp. The second coats should be applied with the brush strokes at a 90-degree angle to achieve a linen-finish effect. If there are any lumps, sand lightly when dry. Clean up the sanding dust thoroughly. The application of a coat of Artist's Gesso to the working side will further assure a permanent bond of your photos to the mounting board. Let dry.

3. Do all of your print (photo or other) trimming while the print is dry. Do not trim a picture until you have decided where it will fit and then trim accordingly. Trim the OUTSIDE EDGES of edge and corner pictures straight and square. Prints used in the body of the picture should be trimmed with undulating curves to prevent straight lines from appearing under the surface. The first layer of pictures you put down should be trimmed just enough so that the edges and corners have graceful, undulating lines. In the early stages, trim off only what you must to provide maximum surface coverage. In later stages, as the base surface becomes covered, trim as much as needed to achieve the visual result desired. Another reminder: Never pre-trim your pictures. Custom-trim as you go, so you can make maximum use of each picture's esthetic potential.

5. After you have trimmed each picture in preparation for mounting on your board, you must soak it in water for at least one minute. Sponge excess water off each picture before applying the acrylic adhesive. If you are using RC photos, you may eliminate this step. Be sure the photos are squeaky clean before applying the adhesive.

6. Lay out some of your base pictures so they may be located in key positions. Plan the location of each picture so that any feeling of motion or direction remains within the total picture. The placement of each picture should keep or lead the viewer's eye into the picture, not to the edges and out of the picture.

7. Place pictures for special emphasis in position first. Next, work your way around the edges. As you proceed on and fill in the rest of the spaces, you will have to begin cutting out more and more parts of photos to make them fit. In this process you have a good opportunity to use your imagination. Keep cutting, fitting and laying down your photos until you get the feeling that there is just no more room, or that one more picture would be one too many. Make sure photo paper covers all of the board's surface. Overlap the pictures to your heart’s content. Working in and out of the wet, half-wet, and dry parts of the composition does not seem to cause any problems. Lay the project aside, and work at it whenever you have time.

8. When you have all of the white space covered, it does not mean that you are finished with the composition. Sort through the remaining pictures. Select pictures you can carefully trim and locate in spaces where they will complement the composition, adding to its sense of design, interest, and complexity. Take advantage of subject and form relationships to add to the final effect.

9. Notes on Technique:

  • With a good brush, paint acrylic medium onto the board where you plan to lay your picture. Do not worry about spreading the medium out too far.
  • Paint acrylic medium on the back side of the trimmed and soaked picture you plan to mount on that spot. Place the picture on the board.
  • Take the brayer (roller) and gently roll from the center
    of the picture out to the edges. Mop up extra gel with brush.
  • Then paint matte medium over the picture you have just mounted. This top coat of medium will help prevent any curling of the fresh mount from the board.

10. Good working tips include:

  • Keep your roller in a pan of water so it will not get dry and sticky, damaging your work.
  • Wash out the brushes in sudsy water every 30-to-45 minutes to prevent acrylic buildup.
  • Use plastic containers to hold your working brush or brushes. Place a piece of wet, crumpled, paper towel in the bottom of the container. When you are not using a brush, stand it in the container to keep it moist and ready for further service.

If you use these little tips, you will do better work, will enjoy using the tools more, and will extend the useful life of your brushes.

11. When the composition is finished and has dried overnight, paint on two thin protective coats of matte varnish. Consider using the linen finish previously described.

12. Keep in mind that it takes a number of days for the acrylic finish to cure and harden, in spite of the fact that it is dry to the touch in a few hours. Do not lay things on your collage. Don’t lean the face of your work against anything without putting a layer of wax paper in between.

When fully cured, your collage may be framed and hung as would any other decorative object of equivalent size and weight.

We hope you have enjoyed and benefited from this presentation. We wish you continuing success as you pursue your interests in artistic endeavors.

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