Using Acrylics in Collage
Rhéni Tauchid is a writer, painter, and educator. In her professional life, Tauchid is the materials consultant for the Canadian acrylic paint manufacturer Tri-Art Mfg., Inc., a member of the company’s product development team, and the founder of the Tri-Art Acrylic Education Program and the Art Noise studio program. She teaches painting workshops and lectures in Canada and abroad. She is based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Tauchid is the author of The New Acrylics and its sequel, New Acrylics Essential Sourcebook. The following excerpt is from her third book, Acrylic Painting Mediums & Methods, which explores the intricacies and possibilities of acrylic mediums.
Acrylics are essentially glue. It is their adhesive quality that binds the pigment to the support. Although we don’t ordinarily think of paint as glue, all paints are. We identify paints by their binders—acrylic, oil, wax, gum arabic, egg yolk—and each of these binding agents acts as an adhesive. But of this whole group, the acrylic polymer emulsion binder is the most transparent and the best adhesive, making it ideal for collage, decoupage, mixed media, or any other type of gluing application.
If you want to place objects on your acrylic surface, there are details you need to consider. Beautiful papers, printed images, and photographs are natural partners to acrylic collage. Because of their adhesive quality and the clarity of their film when dry, clear mediums are most effective at laminating paper and fabric into acrylic compositions.
Nick Bantock, Pharos Gate, 2015, collage on artboard, 9 x 7 inches (23 x 18 cm). Collection of the artist.
Created for Bantock’s book Pharos Gate (the fourth volume of his Griffin & Sabine series), this work contains approximately sixty collage fragments attached with matte medium, together with acrylics (impasto and glaze) and chalk pastels bound with matte gel and finished with a 50/50 mix of matte and gloss acrylic varnish.
About his experience with acrylics, Nick Bantock says,
I’ve been using acrylics since they first appeared in the ’60s. In fact, the paintings I fought with when I first arrived at art college employed powder paint mixed into a foul-smelling acrylic medium. The mix was grainy and clumsy and had lousy covering power, but unlike oil paint it didn’t take forever to dry.
Nearly fifty years on, acrylics are so much more sophisticated. However, I still try to play, experiment, and take risks with the materials as I did back then. To my mind, the great gift of plastic paints and mediums is their potential to go as far as we push them.
When creating a collage using acrylic medium as glue, take the following into consideration:
• Weight. The heavier and more substantial the material you are gluing onto your composition, the heavier the medium needed to hold it.
• Shape of object. If the collaged object is irregular in shape and does not contact the surface evenly, use a thicker medium to hold it in place.
• Porosity. Acrylics absorb into porous objects and supports. If both the object and surface are porous, the bond will be stronger than if one or the other (or both) are not, and thus a thinner medium should be sufficient. Where both object and surface are not porous, a thicker medium will ne needed to create an enveloping seal.
• Water fastness. Is the object you are gluing susceptible to water damage? If you are not sure, test a small area of the object to see if it changes when water is applied.
• Colorfastness. Although acrylic resin offers a small amount of UV protection, you should be wary of incorporating objects that can fade with light exposure. Things like flower petals and naturally dyed yarns, for example, should be treated with a layer of UV-stabilizing medium prior to gluing.
• Clarity and luster of paint film. When gluing collage material or covering it completely, be aware of how the surface luster of the medium you’re using will affect the appearance of the collaged material and the surrounding area. For example, if you use a glossy medium to glue an object onto a matte surface, chances are that some of the gloss will show. Remember, too, that matte medium will make a surface look flat and lusterless.
• Adverse effects. Materials that react poorly in acrylic collage include those that contain or are coated with oil or wax. Some inks repel acrylic, causing it to crawl on the surface.
Connie Morris, 3 Sticks with 3 Rings, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 30 x 48 inches (76 x 123 cm).
Collection of the artist.
Artist Connie Morris describes the concept and process of 3 Sticks with 3 Rings:
This piece was part of a series that explored the nostalgia of place, time, and memory and the duality of what was—or was perceived to be—perfect and timeless. It stylistically uses dualities in objects, materials, and process in an effort to try to capture a sense of visual memory. I started by applying modeling paste with a large palette knife to the surface in order to both seal the wood and create a textured ground. Thin layers of liquid colors mixed with gloss polymer were then applied. The result was an open landscape of subtly glazed areas of color with bordered landscape vignette. Gel medium was used to create a border for the vignette and to adhere the metal rings. I lived with this version for a while but struggled with the tightness that resulted from the same surface and the predictable and safe arrangement of elements. I later revisited it by painting over and obscuring areas with gesso and protecting passages that I wanted to still be revealed with gloss polymer. More texture was created with gel, then partially covered with color. I then used semigloss polymer to create a toothy ground in order to draw onto the surface with charcoal. The surface now has dual finished sheens, textured and smooth areas, thick and thin applications of color, and drawn, painted, and adhered objects. The result is a more evolved piece that far better expresses my creative and aesthetic objectives due to its spontaneous and reactive use of materials and mediums.
Acrylics have always been my primary medium for creative expression. It wasn’t until I began to work for an art materials manufacturer and was exposed to the vast array of acrylic mediums available that I integrated them into my creative process. I have been able to learn the technical aspects as well as the many possibilities for creative expression, inspiration, and artistic control they can provide. Now, acrylic mediums are an integral part of my work. I feel I have only scratched the surface in my applications and will continue to be awed and surprised by what is possible.
Acrylic Painting Mediums and Methods: A Contemporary Guide to Materials, Techniques, and Applications is a sophisticated, comprehensive reference book will inspire and instruct painters on how to handle today’s acrylics in innovative and individualistic ways. It’s on sale everywhere books are sold.