One of the first types of art we learn as children, if not the very first, is torn paper collage. This art form is a compilation of different images, shapes, and forms made out of paper scraps at its most basic.
Yes, it starts as a simple kids’ craft. But as the artist learns more, it becomes specialized to their talents.
The term ‘collage’ is from the French word for glue, coller, with the art of collage becoming popular in the early 20th century. Both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are the famous painters who brought collage-work into the spotlight and set the tone for modern art as we know it today.
Paper collage on an expert level includes mixed media and sophisticated color and balance techniques. The more detailed and creative you want to grow as an artist, the more you should check out other artists who are known for their paper collage art.
Some, like Picasso and Braque, are collage artists in the traditional sense. We'll also discuss other artists who have made a name for themselves with a more distinct style.
As you'll see, studying their artwork and form can be a great scaffold to learn from that elevates your collage masterpieces!
Easily one of the most notorious names in modern art, Pablo Picasso was born October 25, 1881, in Spain.
During his life, he was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, and a stage designer. But his most famous works of art marked him as the co-creator of Cubism.
Picasso and Cubist Collages
Cubism is a style of visual arts that began with Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris. It took off between 1909 and 1919 and was known for its emphasis on going against all traditional perspectives.
As a Cubist artist, one was able to create their own reality. For paper collage artists, this was radically exciting.
Picasso took his new ideas into the third dimension by using all sorts of materials to make his mixed-media collages. From newspapers to musical instruments, nothing was safe.
Over his paper collage art years, he created famous works such as:
- Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass
- Violin Hanging on a Wall
- Head of a Man With a Hat
- Fruit Vase and Bunch of Grapes
By 1919, he was ready to move on to different art forms, taking us into his later periods of mastery. But the art world would never be the same after his foray into new art projects and techniques.
Living in the same period and location as Picasso, Georges Braque influenced the shape of Cubism via paper collages. Born in 1882, Braque had a philosophy on life and politics that carried into his artwork.
In 1912, he met Picasso, and together, in France, they began to experiment with papier collé. While Picasso’s works were more to the surface, Braque created his collages to make the viewer think.
His complex designs were not accepted as readily at first as Picasso’s more simple ones. But through his artwork, including his collages, he spoke about freedom and introspective ideas that were appreciated years later.
In fact, his most famous work of art, Fruit Dish and Glass Sorgues, created in 1912, is a permanent resident at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Made of cut-out fake wood grain wallpaper, it’s thought to be Braque’s first attempt at a Cubist paper collage.
Kurt Schwitters lived in Germany during the same period as Picasso and Braque. His work included dadaism, constructivism, painting, sculpture, typography, poetry, and much more.
Yet Schwitters was eventually most known for his collages, although they took a different path than the Cubist versions. He was an early participant in Dada, the post-war art movement. Works in this style satirized the horrors of the First World War.
Schwitters salvaged scrap papers to create the small collages he named Merz. His Merz Pictures displayed this distinct collage art style, making him a famous artist with a signature technique upon its release.
Born on December 31, 1869, Henri Matisse would ultimately become one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
For sixty years, Matisse worked in almost every art medium possible. But he became best-known for his revolutionary ideas on color and his Fauvist works at a time when Impressionism was still king.
This switch into brilliant colors and focal points made Matisse stand out from the crowd of other artists of the time. He continued to use traditional subjects, such as landscapes with a figure in them, portraits, and nudes. By using exaggeration and bold colors, he made his mark unique.
During his last ten years of life, Matisse moved into paper collages. Most of his work used white paper and gouache turned into bright, abstract designs, plants, animals, and shapes. These are known as his “Cut-Out Period” and are on display at MoMA.
If you’re looking for a more contemporary artist’s use of collages, look no further than Eric Carle. He’s a children’s book writer who defines his work by using tissue paper collages to create his signature illustrations.
Carle was born in 1929 and passed away in May of 2021. During his nine-decade life, he wrote and illustrated over 70 children’s books. His most popular book was the world-famous “Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The book sold over 50 million copies and was translated into 69 languages.
Carle illustrated all of his books with his signature painted paper collage techniques. The art method quickly became his trademark. In fact, many parents and children recognize his works because of the illustrations, not his name.
Some of his other bestsellers include:
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
- Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth
- The Grouchy Ladybug
- Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?
His books are all illustrated using painted paper torn into scraps and formed into pictures. This tutorial that Carle himself designed walks you through his process for an easy DIY start.
Choose whatever media you’re going to be painting, from scrapbooking pieces of paper to a printable template. Then follow his simple steps to create a tissue paper collage a la Eric Carle!
You may think that by this era, paper collage had reached every new stratosphere it possibly could. But if you believe that, you haven’t seen the works of Annegret Soltau.
Soltau was born in Germany in 1946 and continues to impact the art world. As a visual artist, she is most known for her collage works from the 1970s and 1980s.
She developed a method of using photomontages of herself. These were trademarked with black thread to sew the pictures together in a collage style.
But since her interests were in medicine, Soltau also brought her knowledge of that industry into her art.
Making Her Mark in the Art World
Art aficionados divide Soltau’s artwork timeline into periods that encompass the primary thoughts behind her art of the time. Some were things that most everyone would understand, such as Portraits, Self, and Pregnant.
Others, though, were more sensitive and controversial. Her periods of Going Against, Personal Identity, Father Search, Transgenerative, and Body Openings brought her personal life into the art headlines.
One thing all of her pieces have in common, though, is her self-proclaimed mission: the almost tangible integration of body and spirit. Every image evokes in the viewer a raw feeling of some kind.
Followers of Soltau’s work now have taken her ideas and moved them into computer graphics. She did her most famous artwork during her “Pregnant” period from 1977 – 1982. However, she continues to work today with an entire “Covid-19” line.
How to Get Started Making Paper Collage
Did any of these artists resonate with your creative bone? If so, you’re probably ready to create your own glorious paper collage artwork.
You can use paper collages to decoupage your furniture or order little finishing touches, such as stencils, stickers, and glass beads.
Note: If you use these accessories in your collages, you’ll need a specific glass bead gel to make it adhere permanently.
Writing and photos aren’t the only ways to hold onto a crucial moment forever. Create your journaling memories through original visual collages, or come up with something completely unique.
Card making with watercolor paints and paper collages is an excellent DIY starting point. But whatever you choose to work on, you need to get everything you need in order.
Preparing Your Paper Collage Supplies
Before you jump straight into creating an original collage, use these tips to get your supplies and work area ready.
You don’t have to use store-bought papers to get started. Scrapbook paper, journal pages, greeting cards, and vintage paper are excellent beginner supplies. Anything with texture or handmade gives you a more original artwork.
If you’re aiming for an antique look, try gold leaf antiquing kits. Art stores like Rileystreet offer these kits that include everything you need, from paper to gold leaf.
Giclee print collages are becoming more popular. These are collages made from pictures created with pigment-based inks instead of dye-based inks.
Use this style to create limited edition collage prints that are anything but kids crafts.
With the right paint, paper, and accessories, you can create a stunning mixed media painting.
And if you’re trying to create a fine art paper collage, you should opt for higher-end paint supplies. This way, you know they will last longer than casual ephemera. Gloss medium and gel medium acrylic paints are some of the most popular.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Collect all your art materials on your work table where they’re visible. Paper collaging is similar to scrapbooking. You never know what you’ll want to use until you’ve gotten to that point.
Ultimately, the artist’s imagination is the only limit on the paper collage art they create. As you get familiar with the craft, your style will grow and change. As long as you’re happy with the finished product, it’s perfect.
Paper collages might start as kids’ paper crafts in any artist’s life. But as you can see with the famous artists we mention here; it can become much more than that. Paper collage has the ability to be fine art, social commentary, and a political message.
All you need are some clippings and basic art supplies, and you can turn them into unique art prints.
If you want to make wall art, original decor, or a political statement, a paper collage is a beautiful medium to do it. It lets you incorporate your favorite styles, media, and personal touches, in ways that resonate with your audience.
Without the original dabbling of Picasso and Braque, after all, we wouldn’t have today’s modern art. Maybe you’re on the verge of creating the next collage era!
As you continue your journey, be sure to visit Rileystreet shop to pick up all the best and innovative art supplies.