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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Tabletop Collage!

This collage – or series of small collages – isn’t for displaying on tabletop easels. It actually is a table top! And to be more accurate about the medium, it’s mixed media, including collage. Many of the elements are actually painted. But here’s its story.

We’ve all heard of working in a series, and the thought of a sparrow series inspired me. I decided on four small pieces, each 8” x 8”. I worked on hardboard which I bought at Home Depot in a 2’ x 4’ sheet and then cut to size. By the way, the store will cut it for you for a slight charge.

But what would a series mean? I suppose the term could be interpreted in more than one way: the same subject in different media; variations on the subject such as birds, but each one a different kind; the subject at different seasons of the year, and so on.

I decided on a common subject – sparrows – but in different poses. I would paint the sparrows. Other elements would include collage (working with parts from the same papers on each piece), text, painted feathers, and painted and collaged foliage. By using these common elements but placing them differently, I should achieve a combination of similarity and difference among the four pieces.

To begin, I drew the four sparrows, sizing them to clearly be the stars of the shows without shutting everything else out. I traced each on a small piece of tracing paper and determined where each one should sit in its piece. They’re basically in the centers of their squares, but not quite.

I primed my four wood pieces with spray primer from Home Depot then transferred the outlines of the sparrows so I could keep track of where they’d be as I worked the backgrounds.

The backgrounds began with a layer of colored collage bits that set the color scheme, which is green, red (in the form of small pinkish spots), and neutrals.

Then I started on the foliage. Some is painted, and some leaves and branches are cut from magazine pages then glued on. Here and there, I used Posca paint pens to add details to the leaves or the make marks in the backgrounds. It was just a process of playing around and having fun.

When I was mostly finished with the background, I based the shapes of the birds with gesso, then worked them with acrylic.

After that came the final details – splashes of alcohol ink, text, and more marks.

But now, what to do with them? I could hang them on the wall in a grouping, but I didn’t have that much wall space left!

I could display them on small easels on a shelf, maybe just one or two at a time, swapping them out over time.

Then inspiration struck! Why not treat them like tiles and make a “tiled” tabletop? If I’d had that intention originally, I’d have done things differently. But as it turned out, I was able to find a small unfinished wood table on Etsy. All I needed to do was add a wooden rim around the edge of the top and then I could glue the collages in and add caulking between them. Of course I had to seal the collages really well. And then I painted over the caulk with a color that I liked.

By the way, I decided to position the four pieces so that no matter what side one looked at the table from, one of the sparrow would be right side up.

Finally, I painted the whole table. Oh, no, that wasn’t the final step. The absolute final step was to get a piece of glass to cover the whole top and protect it.

I really like this little table, and as I write about it I want to make more! (That always happens!)

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Oct 06, 2023

I love this idea so much. And all of you animal paintings too. These sparrows are so pretty and you captured their quick flitting movements in all your paintings. I found you on Willowing and so glad I did.

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