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Artist Tip: Multi-Media Collage Adhesives

August 11, 2011

Tea by Shellie Lewis, Collage, acrylics and oils on canvas, 16” x 20”

I had previously made a collage on paper titled Cougars are Dangerous and had a lot of trouble with gluing the paper parts of the collage.  I had a strong idea of how I wanted the piece to turn out, but I ran into technical difficulties with the materials.  I had used gesso with layers of paint and drawing over the paper pieces.  This wound up being a problem for a few reasons.  I used 150 LB water color paper instead of a heavier 300 LB paper; and I used Modge Podge brand decoupage glue to paste down the paper pieces of the collage.  The thin paper cockled and bent a lot.  This was aided by the Modge Podge which goes soft if it gets wet again.  Modge Podge paste is good for a lot of things, but it is not good to paint or gesso over the top of.  At least, it would need to be sealed in some way to keep paint or other wet media from re-hydrating the glue, making it bubble or fail to stick.

There is a great substitute for glues or pastes in collage: acrylic gel medium.  I learned this from my friend Pam Batista who is super-specialized in physical, multi-media collage art.  She prefers matte acrylic gel medium.  I tried a jar of gel medium, and I used it as a paste, brushing it onto my paper pieces right from the jar.  I brushed the underside of the collage pieces, then the top.  I wanted a layer of brush strokes and to seal the paper pieces down in order to paint over them.  Pam usually just brushes the underside of her papers.  There were some minor bubbles but the acrylic medium shrank a little when it dried.  Ultimately, the paper collage pieces dried flat.  The glued papers stayed in place without bubbling or shifting as I painted over the top of the collage with colored acrylics to my heart’s content.  If there is a lot of moisture, air pockets or other variables, there can be bubbles that disappear when the paper dries and flattens out.  It is easier to get experience in using the right amount and smoothing paper flat with your fingers, getting it right the first time.  If the work seems warped or bubbled, I use wax paper and books or slabs of polished granite to press the art flat and let it dry overnight.

If you want to just work with paper and dry media collage, I recommend YES! Paste Stickflat Glue.  YES! is great for collage, paper crafts and bookbinding; but this paste can come loose or the paper can bubble if the paste gets wet, even if it is has been dry for a long time.  I also press anything pasted with YES! with wax paper and a lot of weight to make it bond as flat and smooth as possible.  A jar of this stuff lasts practically forever and the paste can be thinned with water for the consistency you need.

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