GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Collage isn't just for kids. It's for fine artists, designers, teachers and bookmakers. It incorporates movement, form, shape, color, texture, plus lots of procedural experimentation. And while it's fun for all skill levels, mixed-media art done well takes time, dedication and a keen eye for detail. It's no wonder the art form once scoffed at by traditionalists is growing in both popularity and quality."Mixed media is such a liberating phrase," Gayle Gerson, a local artist and teacher, said. "You can use anything" to make a piece of art.Magazine clippings, photography, paintings, newspaper and tissue paper are a few materials used by Gerson, who's been teaching adult mixed-media classes at The Art Center for almost a decade. She said she first began dabbling in collage during the late 1990s."I started taking watercolor classes," Gerson said, " and watercolor is difficult to do well. I had lots of failed paintings, but parts of them were good. So, I took the good parts and put it together, framed it and someone bought it off my mantle piece. I thought 'Hmmmm, I'm on to something,' and started experimenting."Gerson, who approaches collage as a process, likes to teach her students about journaling, drawing, composition, value, color, shape, texture, as well as subject matter. Her classes at The Art Center generally run six to eight weeks, and during that time she encourages lots of practice, research and exploration. "My class often feels like kindergarten," Gerson added, laughing a little. "I purposely do it that way. (Pablo) Picasso said 'every child is an artist.'"So, it's Gerson's hope for her students to recapture their inner child while exploring mixed-media art and their own creativity. It was Picasso who invented the fine art of collage 100 years ago, Gerson said, along with George Braques. So, he must have been on to something.
Gerson isn't the only artist in love with the process of creating mixed-media compositions in the Grand Valley.Based in Grand Junction, the Rocky Mountain Collage Society boasts of 35 regular members who meet often to discuss all aspect of the art form. And they often meet to make art together.Tom Calenberg, a fine artist who's lived in Grand Junction since 2009, said he was delighted to find and join an active collage society locally."It's unusual that there's that many people interested in collage," he said. "(The group is) a fun mix of experienced artist and people who just like to play with materials."As a professional painter with teaching experience, Calenberg said he loves to use the collage technique while creating compositions. He also said he enjoys using metals, aluminum, steel and copper sheeting. "I always have a strong painting element," he said. "My work is much more 'assemblage.' Instead of taking things out of pop culture, I'm concentrating on creating my own surfaces," including lots of different layerings of pigments on metal.One fun tip: Instead of cutting images from magazines, Calenberg suggests taking photos and using one's own imagery when creating a collage. Gerson also likes doing this type of work. She said she often uses Photoshop to manipulate her own photography before cutting them apart to use in an art piece.Maxine Buchholtz - a Grand Junction resident, bookmaker and active society member - said she absolutely loves to use collage as part of her unique, creative outlet."I like the methodical steps of making books," Buchholtz said. "I also like the creative part of it, when I design a cover or end papers for books."Using both the practical and creative sides of her brain is integral to her collage process, she said. And though she once made simpler books for everyday use, she's now more interested in making books as art pieces. Her handmade books are empty, she added, and she often gifts them as journals for friends and family."I'm not good at drawing or painting, but collage is a perfect medium for me," Buchholtz noted. "It works with my brain very beautifully."Gerson, Calenberg and Buchholtz all said in some fashion that exploration, curiosity and a desire to learn are important aspects of creating mixed-media art. "Artists are in love with the process," Calenberg said.To save time, Gerson said she's always collecting materials and filing them away in her art studio to use for future projects."(Projects) always start as a mess," she said, "and you have to accept and live with it for a while."And she suggests fearless creativity when beginning a mixed-media project."Don't be afraid," Gerson said. "What do you have to lose?"For more information about Gerson's upcoming mixed-media class at The Art Center, visit www.gjartcenter.org. To learn about the Rocky Mountain Collage Society, visit the Rocky Mountain Collage Society