The Healing Power of Collage

May 14 is World Collage Day. 

Let’s celebrate together by exploring the healing power of collage. 

When you think of collage, you probably think of pictures that have been cut out, repositioned, and glued together to make a new complete picture.  Some such collages are somewhat surreal or unexpected and others even create some sort of socio-political commentary based on how things are put together.  Certainly, this is one way to approach collage.  But there are a lot of different ways you can work with cut paper to engage in actions that are personally meaningful and transformative.

Vision Board

You can collage images of things that you want to foster to create a vision board.  The idea behind a vision board is to gather ideas of what you desire in and from your life.  What do you want for the future to hold?  These images may represent:

  • your hopes & dreams 
  • health & wellness
  • loved ones, friends, family, pets
  • home (not just where you live but the feeling of being home)
  • travel (maybe places you would like to visit or mind’s journeys)
  • time to work on your art, meditate, relax…

Meditation Focus

You can also use collage to create a focus for meditation by collecting images that bring you peace or suggest a more spiritual journey.  Some examples might include:

  • positive affirmations
  • nature, plants, and animals
  • art, colors, and patterns that you find harmonious
  • quotes and words that help guide you

“Collage is like hall of mirrors. Every direction you look, you see something different and visually stimulating.” – Nita Leland

Gratitude Journal

You can create a gratitude journal in collage that reminds yourself of things that you are thankful for or that bring you joy so that you can revisit them when life is difficult or seems dark and despairing. 

What can you celebrate that is positive? 

Even if you cannot find pictorial representations, you can cut out or hand write words that have meaning.  Many of these images and themes may overlap with the vision board or meditative focus.

Make It Anything

Remember – it’s your collage and you can make it anything you need for it to be.  You can cut out whatever you want no matter how weird or silly you think it may seem to anyone else.  It’s your collage, not theirs. 

If you want to make an entire piece using just pictures of people’s hands or of different colors of ice cream or even of people’s hands holding different colored melty ice cream that is totally your prerogative.  Use whatever brings you to where you want to be in your mind’s eye.

  • You can collage your images to fill the space in whatever way you like. 
  • You can take a more traditional approach and reposition your cutouts to create surreal fantastical landscapes and scenes. 
  • Or you can just glue things down wherever there is a free space to fill the picture plane.
  • Or you can drop pieces randomly and glue them wherever they happened to land by chance, although this may cause you to cover some of your images so you can’t see them as well.  I have created many collages in these manners.

You can also think more about the composition.

But sometimes it is nice to think about arranging your cutouts in ways that you find aesthetically pleasing or that give them greater meaning so that you can craft an even more intentional meditative experience. 

For these collages, I cut out a number of images in the exact same shape so I could arrange them around a central focus. 

I have also created some pictures of flowers using leaf shaped collage pieces and glow-in-the-dark puffy paint, shown in light and dark so you get the effect both ways.  You can arrange your images to shape words or pictures or even symbols like a yin and yang or a peace sign.

Some tips and pointers:

  • Your library probably has magazines you can buy cheap to cut up, otherwise check your local thrift and used bookstores.  Ask your local office waiting rooms if you can have their magazines when they are done with them.
  • Start with good backing board so it doesn’t warp.  I used mat board that my local frame shop was giving away.  Check with your local frame shop to see if they do this – you can get really nice backing board this way.
  • If you want your collage to last, use good archival glue.  Glue stick will not hold over time.  Some glues will wrinkle your paper or turn yellow.  You may want to varnish or resin your finished collage to protect it; the art supply store has a lot of good media for this that can be found near the painting supplies or with the decoupage materials.

If you enjoyed this blog, feel free to leave a comment below as well as share an image of your own collage project in the Create For Healing Facebook Group

Jennifer Weigel

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist.  Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. Much of her work touches on themes of beauty, identity (especially gender identity), memory & forgetting, and institutional critique. Weigel’s art has been exhibited internationally as well as nationally in all 50 states of the United States of America, and has won numerous awards. Check out more of her art on her website here.

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