The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
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151 of 159 people found the following review helpful
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
This book got such great reviews, I couldn't wait to recieve it. My enthusiasm only lasted through the first few pages; Randall Plowman provides a stellar overview of collage tools and materials. After that the book begins to go downhill. He gives a decent but cursory review of design principles. I would have liked to have more depth and a greater number of examples. Then he reviews only two specific techniques; printing on tracer paper and laser transfers. After that he jumps directly to matting your work. So after teasing the reader with an amazing array of tools, he doesn't really teach the reader how to use them. He spends the rest of the book (approximatley 80 expensive, color pages) giving very simplistic creativity prompts, like try tissue paper or try cardboard. These prompts are fun but could be layed out in ten pages or less. This book has a great beginning, an interesting array of creativity prompts and almost no how-to. It's a beautiful looking book but if you want to learn techniques, skip it and buy something more helpful. I will as soon as I figure out which book that might be.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Collage is definitely not my strong suit - generally I struggle with it and use it sparingly in my work. That being said, with my keen interest in all things transparent, I have found a renewed interest in collage and this book arrived at the right time! The book is beautifully written and, most important, the instructions are clearly written and illustrated.

The book covers the basics, of course: supports, adhesives, cutting tools, paints, how and where to gather images, on-line resources, storage and organization (did I use that word really?!). Next up are some basics about designs and composition and a chapter called "Layering 101" which is excellent! The next section, which I love is called "50 Creative Exercises" and these exercises are are on using certain elements in your collage - like whites, typography, image pairings, dreams - you get the idea. These exercises are not specifically instructional, although each presents a paragraph to get your thought train moving, but rather the idea is illustrated with examples. Trust me - the images are worth more than more words would be in the context of the exercises!

An image library is provided to get your creative juices flowing and a succinct Resource Guide is included for products, paints, glues, software, imagery and books. Well thought out. This one is a keeper for certain - and I actually think I will find renewed interest in using more collage in my mixed media work because of it !
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
I received my book in the mail just a few days ago and I am totally delighted to have a book like this. Right off the bat, Randel shares with us his experience with a final assignment for a class at the university, which was to make a collage using the elements of design. That was music to my ears. As an instructor of collage myself it's hard to teach this all in a limited segment of time to your students. It really takes practice and dedication to master it, which Randel has shown us here. Love the simplicity of his instruction and over all flow of whole book. "It's a must have for all collage artist."

Laura Lein-Svencner
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I appreciated how The Collage Workbook offers the opportunity to get into the mind of Randel Plowman, founder of the "A Collage A Day" blog, and learn more specifically about his techniques. On his blog, he creates a unique collage each day and posts it for the world to see and enjoy. I think that collage is such an interesting art form, with its layers of meaning and symbolism and the author seems to see possibility in just about every type of element and has a wonderful way of piecing it all together to form a cohesive whole.

Mr. Plowman breaks down this complex looking medium and explains clearly how to assemble collages for maximum effect. The themes that can be used are endless and he shares examples of collages based on flora, birds, hands, home, typography, old books and many more. The Collage Workbook includes over 150 copyright free images to use, in addition to explanations of the tools, techniques and materials used to make collages. As the author says, "Grab your scraps, glue, scissors and jump right in!"
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
This was a good solid book and there was a lot to like about it. I preface the review with the fact that I am a painter more than a collager so that is my bias.

There is excellent design and composition information at the front end of the book which is a really useful reference. I found it really interesting and it was very clearly written and illustrated.

There were 50 prompts to explore as well, and he provides examples of where he went with the prompt. Many of the prompts I thought were really good and prompts that would be easily translatable to an art journal or an art piece and there were quite a few that I want to explore further.

He also provides some images at the back you can scan and use if you wish, and digital downloads of the images are available at a website he provides.

I think the book is really good in terms of the prompts provided, and would be a good book for many mediums.

The book did not really explore any new techniques or push the idea of collage to new levels, which may be understandable when all the work featured was his own so would be of the same general style. It did feel very suited to beginners to collage rather than those wanting to take collage to new level or explore new avenues.

I found it a really good introduction book for beginners to collage, and it was not intimidating at all. He gives a good overview on the materials you require and getting started. I am glad it was the first one I read, and I recommend it for the prompts if you are a prompty person and there were quite a few new prompts that I hadn't seen before and you could taken them in all sorts of directions to inspire your work.

At the end of the day, the by-line of the book is how to get started and stay inspired and I think the book achieves both those objectives. :)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
As a proud owner of four pieces of Randel's art, I was thrilled to see this book published. After saying "how did he do that" so many times, now I have a thorough, well-written guide to help me create art. Randel gives you no-nonsense directions to get your tools and materials in order, and then 50 prompts that make you want to get started right away. The prompts are practical. They will appeal to the novice and the experienced artist. Collage is a very personal expression of self, and these pages will lead you to use your creativity to make something awesome (in as little as 30 minutes, if you want). You will NOT be disappointed in this purchase, and you will want to grab glue, paper, and images and get started immediately.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2013
It's nice to have a book on making JUST COLLAGE. It respects the medium and doesn't get all 'crafty' with projects that require a lot of paint or stenciling or finding stuff around the house like paper clips or buttons like other collage books. And it gives you a more than helpful list of supplies to get you started. I wish I had this book years ago.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I was very excited to get this book on collage by Randel Plowman! I've been following his work for years now. This book has supplies needed, techniques, and photo images to use. There are many step by step instructions to make wonderful collages. This is a must for artists looking to tackle collage! The images are great!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2013
The only type of collage artist I think would NOT benefit from this book is one of whom all three of the following are true: 1) Already technically competent; 2) Has an established style which remains entirely satisfying; 3) Never runs out of ideas or motivation. For everyone else interested in collage, I cannot imagine how this book would fail you.

The key words in understanding the purpose of this book and its intended audience are in the subtitle: "Get Started" and "Stay Inspired." Everything about this book is exceptionally well-tuned to accomplish these ends. (Unfortunately, the "Look Inside" feature doesn't adequately reflect this, due to the usual mistake of omitting ALL of the main substance of the largest section of the book and including only a few of the very first pages and the last few. How many lists of supplies and materials do we need to preview? For a flip-through view of some of the other pages, see BeachBrights's video, after you get an idea of what I mean, here.)

The "Get Started" component of the book can be interpreted in several ways, and The Collage Workbook admirably addresses each.

"Get Started" can imply:

* Instruction for the complete beginner.

* Prompts for getting ideas flowing.

* Motivation to begin working.

* Initial materials with which to work.

As with every section of this book, the introductory sections on supplies, techniques, design considerations, and sources of imagery are pithier than those in most other references. They are also at least equally useful, as most, and may be more so. These sections also provide value to those artists growing jaded by long familiarity with habitual materials, supplies, and techniques, or whose imagery libraries could use sprucing up. Although, one criticism: In the "Finding Imagery Online" section, most of the Web links to clip art (also linked directly from the author's site) are to imagery suitable only for screen-resolution collages; only a few bear printing out, especially if you prefer to work in a large scale. Even so, the introductory sections proved valuable to me: Despite several years of reading on mixed-media topics, I found it refreshing to discover a method of image transfer I haven't encountered before.

Additionally, the author includes a nice selection of clip art in the back of the book, also available from his Web site. Since these are already at print resolution, you may get slightly better results at larger scale; however, do realize that (like most published imagery, these days) even these examples originated as digital scans; rectilinear pixels will appear, if you enlarge too much.

(For another interesting selection of incidental clip art, albeit of an entirely different style of content, see The Art of Vintage Journaling and Collage: Techniques and Inspiration for Working with Antique Ephemera, a bargain, single-volume reprint of Vintage Collage Journals: Journaling with Antique Ephemera and Vintage Collage-Works: Artful Ideas with Antique Ephemera.)

The design basics, while necessary for books targeting complete novices, are largely a rehash of many of the same principles stated for the same purposes in other books. The presentation is relatively complete and unusually practical, clear, and concise, though not new to anyone who has researched similar topics. However, the visual examples included--all of it the author's work--can yield rewards to any who already know or have just learned the material, and who study the examples closely.

With the aforementioned basics tidily covered, the author amply fulfills the second promise of the subtitle, "Stay Inspired." The subsequent 50 Creative Exercises compose the bulk of the book and contribute its principal value--especially for the experienced artist, who will likely gloss over the earlier sections. Each exercise includes from one to seven example collages responding to the idea of that exercise. Again, all are executed by the author. Again, with critical scrutiny, the images themselves yield insights. But the exercises are the things that make the book worth keeping close by, and for years.

Examples of the 50 Creativity Exercises include:

* White Out: Use shades of white as the dominant element in your collage.

(This is actually a variation of, but usefully distinct from, another of the exercises....)

* Color Plunge: Create a monochromatic collage in a color of your choice

* Typography: Use typographic elements as graphic components, independent of their linguistic meanings.

* Seeing Double: Repeat the same element in a single collage.

While these examples may seem simplistic, out of context, their very simplicity functions both to keep the exercises motivating as starting-points and to keep them sufficiently adaptable, to the individual artist and surrounding working context, that they can remain fresh, even if repeated over a period of weeks, months, or years.

I think that one very good way to use this book--either while first learning to work in collage, or when facing artist's block, later on--is to randomly select one technique, one design element, and one compositional strategy to employ (from the first section of the book), along with one of the 50 Creative Exercises. Then, create a collage within those constraints.

If you still feel stuck about where to begin, randomly select one background element from your stash or the clip art at the back of the book, and one image to incorporate, in either a focal or supporting role. From the base of those decisions, apply the workflow principles in the "Layering 101" section of the book. The number of inspiring and motivating permutations this method would generate (especially as you add favored components to your stashes of imagery, skills, and materials) would probably outlast the physical life of this book.

Further, The Collage Workbook exemplifies two benefits of presenting a range of works by a single artist--particularly when varied groups of those works proceed from the same well-defined beginnings. First, I always find it useful to be able to compare more than one application of the same design principle or fabrication technique, by the same artist. Doing so permits the studied element of the work to emerge more clearly, since the stylistic and visual vocabularies tend to be held more nearly constant. Even for new collage artists, the technical education at the beginning of the book is sufficient to permit extracting this additional layer of information from the examples of the author's work, taken as a whole.

Second (and again viewed as a body of work by a single artist), an equivalent benefit derives from considering the artist's use of similar thematic content. For the astute viewer, this permits a kind of self-education on the subject of developing variations on a theme. Scanning the entire book with either this, or the immediately-preceding, consideration in mind rewards the exploration.

The previous two items are useful to hold in mind when reading any book on an artistic subject. However, they are particularly useful when applied to such a large and varied--yet, stylistically-related--body of work as that presented in this compact, useful, and accessible volume.

I have been researching and collecting books in the fields of mixed media, hybrid analog/digital art, and printmaking for a number of years. I have bought so many books that I've repeatedly strained my budget and have begun borrowing the available titles from the library. This book is one I renewed so many times, that I'd already decided to buy it; but when the price fell to the ridiculously low $8.97 (as of this writing), I could no longer justify delaying my purchase. I expect The Collage Workbook to hold my interest, keep me busy, and become a frequent and treasured reference, over the next several years, at least.

Those who appreciate the approach of The Collage Workbook might also benefit from a couple of my other favorite references: Collage Lab: Experiments, Investigations, and Exploratory Projects (Lab Series) and Print & Stamp Lab: 52 Ideas for Handmade, Upcycled Print Tools (Lab Series). The approach of both books is in some ways similar to that in The Collage Workbook--concise instructions, a broad range of fundamental techniques--but adds suggested variations and explorations for transforming the results into something uniquely your own. The 52 exercises in each are neatly selected to cover a year's worth of weekly projects. Highly recommended as inspirational means of breaking through artistic paralysis.
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