In this instructable we will be sharing some collage* and painting techniques for up-cycling* an old painting back to life. This art work was made by my partner Renier who is (among other things) an art teacher, fine artist and graffiti writer. He loves comic books and has recently been practicing drawing comic books and creating this type of reclaimed, collage artworks. Renier was initially inspired by Banksy, a famous urban stencil artist who reclaimed paintings and later placed them in museums.
This particular piece is made using a comic book theme, but there is an infinite number of themes that can be used instead to suit your own style and decor. There are also plenty of unwanted framed art at thrift stores, just waiting for some creative spirit to spruce it up.
"The definition of collage, as found in the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an abstract form of art in which photographs, pieces of paper, newspaper cuttings, string, etc. are placed in juxtaposition and glued to the pictorial surface; such a work of art" . Although it is considered an "abstract form of art", the materials used are pictorial and textual representations of recognizable objects. When placed next to each other, however, these representations may lose their autonomous meaning by creating a new, collective .
Collage came into the focus of the art world in the 20th century, often employing the "object trouve", or the "found object", and fixing these objects on a two-dimensional surface. Art historians often attribute the conception of collage as a reflection of the disorientation that resulted from the pace of the modern world. The first use of collage in fine art came from Picasso in 1912, one example being "Still-Life with Chair-Caning", in which he used printed oil-cloth that looked like chair-caning, as well as a rope encircling the painting to form a frame." Source: http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/collage.htm
For this project we used:
> An old painting, already framed
> Expired comic book catalog
> Sharp scissors
> White glue (dries transparent)
> Brush for glue + water container
> Acrylic paints (optional)
To up-cycle is to take a material that has reached the end of its life (like an old painting or a comic book catalog) and give it a new purpose. When we creatively reuse materials to turn them into something useful again, we are diverting waste from landfills, helping to maintain a healthy environment and reducing our ecological footprint. Yay up-cycling!
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Step 1: Find an Old Painting
"I don't seek, I find" - Pablo Picasso
We pretty much walked into this old painting coming home one day, and Renier was immediately inspired. He could already imagine comic book cut-outs collaged onto the painting, blended to fit in with the image that is already there. We examined the frame which had pieces broken off here and there, and decided that those details added character to it and will be a testament of its up-cycled nature.
If you haven't accidentally stumbled upon one, as I mentioned before, there are usually lots of old paintings at thrift stores. The best part is that they're also usually already framed and of course very cheap comparing to a new art piece. The trick is to find one that speaks to you and lets your imagination run wild.
Renier imagined comic book characters for this project but there are
infinite possibilities. Without a base to work off of, the possibilities can be overwhelming. You could find and old painting and paint the whole thing white to just use the canvas, but why not work with what is already there?
To keep things simple, the tip we have to offer is to take advantage of the image that is already there for you. Renier used the landscape of the painting we found, collaged cut-out images on top, and added some paint effects to blend it all together. Can you use what is already there to tell a new story, create your own fairy tale or fantasy land? It is an old painting, but it is now yours to discover and to imagine what it can become.
Step 2: Finding Images
From flyers to magazines to books, and so on, we are surrounded by all sorts of printed images that can be used for creative projects.
We believe that the best place to find images are from sources that are bound to become garbage like expired catalogs, old magazines, calendars, newspapers, flyers, packaging, etc. Giving a new life to a material that has already served its initial purpose is pretty magical...
A good source for comic book or super hero images are expired catalogs that can most likely be found at any comic book shop for free.
Step 3: Cutting or Ripping Out Images
For some images, he used a sharp pair of scissors to cut out the exact part that he wanted, cutting right on the outline without leaving any boarder. This way, the image blends much better into whatever background it is placed on. We recommend this technique for cutting out characters, objects, etc.
For other images, he ripped around the piece he wanted. The effect of the ripping will make the edge less visible when it is glued to the painting. This technique is good to use for blending different patterns together. If you're going to use this one, I recommend ripping a scrap piece first before ripping an image you really want to include, just because it might take a few tries to get good control of the paper when ripping.
Step 4: Positioning Cut Out Images
The composition will of course depend on the theme that you're working with. In this example we're working with super heroes. Because we are working with a landscape painting which has the illusion of depth, we need to consider some important details about the placement of the characters so that they fit well into the scene.
>>> Some of the superheroes in this painting can fly, some of them cannot. Iron man is placed up in the air, higher from the level of the other characters which aren't flying. It wouldn't make sense to stick the Iron Man image on top of one of the rocks because then we wouldn't be able to communicate to the viewer that he can fly.
>>> The bigger an object is, the closer it will look. The smaller and blurrier it is, the farther away it will look like it is.
"In art, especially painting, aerial perspective refers to the
technique of creating an illusion of depth by depicting distant objects as paler, less detailed, and usually bluer than near objects." Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_perspective
Just below iron man on our canvas, we positioned a group of small characters (The Ultimates) but their size makes them look like they are way in the background. Not only the size, but also that their feet are touching the "ground". Depending on where a character stands, he may look smaller or bigger. To test that, you can take the image and place it on a rock in the front and then move it to the trees way in the background.
If you want to look into more information about how to make a good composition, research "fundamentals of composition in art." This goes into detail about line, shape, form, texture, space, color, value.
"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands." - Michaelangelo
Renier had a lot of fun playing with the placement of all the characters, he even had a variety of images of each character so he could find the best match for the final look he wanted to achieve.
Can you spot the difference between the two pictures we added here? The first image has a character (Vision) peeking from the top left corner and a space craft close to it. Flipping back and forth between the two images, we can see just how much those details can add to the composition.
Tip: You can use some light masking tape to tape the images to the painting and take a few steps back to see how the whole piece looks before deciding on their placement.
Step 5: Gluing Images
One of my professors in university always stressed that white glue was the best and most permanent glue for anything like paper and cardboard. Usually white glue dries transparent, but just in case, if you want to work on a project like this you should make sure that it says so on the container before buying.
There are 2 ways to glue images. Only applying glue to the back, leaving the image in the front untouched OR using the glue on both sides, to seal the surface as well - this will give the image a protective coat. Sealing the surface will also help all the images look more blended since they will have the same finish.
My professor also stressed to always only use a little bit of glue, just what is needed. We find that it's very important to brush on the glue for applying an even and thin layer of glue. Applying too much glue can soak into the paper and warp the image or just rip it altogether.
The third picture I added here is of a sequence from a different art Renier did gluing together different comic book images. It shows the steps from finding the right spot, applying the glue to the back, and smoothing it onto the art with the same brush and glue. It might be a bit nerve racking to apply the glue on top because it is white, but you just have to have faith that it will dry transparent :)
Step 6: Fundamentals of Comic Book Drawing
Since this project has a comic book theme, Renier wanted to add some of the fundamental characteristics of comic books like:
Motion Lines - are usually drawn around objects or characters that are representative of movement.
Onomatopoeia - is a word that represents a sound. Examples of this in this particular artwork are:
"BLAH" says Falcon
"WHOOSH" sound made by the movement of the aircraft
"WHAAM!" sound made by the thunder, which can also be seen as a sound made by Iron Man's flight
"WHAAM" and "WHOOSH" are inspired by a famous painting by Roy Lichtenstein in 1963 called "WHAAM"
Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whaam!
These elements also help blend the images into the painting.
Step 7: Adding Paint Effects
This step is optional, but we recommend to use whatever painting skills you have to try to blend the image as much as you can to the painting. If you don't have too much experience, there are lots of tutorials online for very simple painting techniques. From my experience, it's always good to try something new a few times on a scrap piece to get a better hang of it.
Renier used acrylic paint to paint over the characters to give the whole art a consistent painted look. He applied the same, or a similar color of acrylic paint onto the images he glued on, just following the patterns, textures or color that the reclaimed image already has.
>This is the way to blend everything together even more. Giving everything a bit of paint effects will really unify everything.
> This is perfect for taking away any colors you might not want in your final piece and it means that you don't have to be as picky about the images you select since you can paint over whatever you don't like.
> It is also good for making the finish of the reclaimed image more sharp.
Using white acrylic paint, he added some snow to the summer scene which totally freshened up its look.
We hope you enjoyed and learned something from our tutorial!
Remember, life is what you make of it.
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