The Sunday Collage Maker

It’s been a while since I made some collages, so I thought it would be nice to warm up my cutting muscles, show you a little behind the scenes and talk you through my process. I started making collages when I was really young. I can’t remember exactly when (I have terrible memory), but I was in elementary school and I usually used my collages to cover my text books. I would spend all summer cutting up National Geographic magazines and building alternate realities. Then, flash forward to grad school. I joined an illustration course and decided to make collage my technique of choice. That’s when it really took off. Since then, my collages have gone through several phases. The first was surrealist and I played with scale a lot, then I went into a little bit of abstraction and experimented with scanning techniques. And now, it seems I am in full abstraction mode. So how do I do it? Well, I love to mix old and new. Vintage Life and NatGeo are great for weird imagery—gotta love those 1950s ads. Newer fashion publications are perfect for texture and color. When you find something interesting, the trick is to cut it following some of its natural edges but also mix in your own shapes. That way, you take it out of context and it becomes its own thing, ready to be pasted with other shapes and take on new meaning.

Maristella in her living room searching for collage material in vintage Life magazines
Maristella cuts up a vintage pasta ad in a Life Magazine for one of her collages

I found this incredible red sauce texture in an old Life Magazine. Once I cut it out, it looked like a very weird blob, or like something phallic. Crazy right?

Maristella sits in her living room floor looking through magazines for her collages
Abstract organic shapes collage by Maristella Gonzalez
Minimalist abstract collage by Maristella Gonzalez

You can see the red sauce blob from Life Magazine on the bottom right of the left collage. Puffy sleeves and voluminous clothing in general also make for great raw material.

Chanel Boyfriend Tweed watch

When I was cutting up magazines for this post, I realized I’ve had these scissors with me since college. Isn’t that crazy? Lot’s of history there. And I just love the new Chanel Boyfriend watch in this metallic “tweed” finish.

Maristella wears boyfriend jeans and a white button down shirt while cutting up magazines for her collages
Maristella in a casual denim and white button down shirt outfit in her home while making collages
Maristella sources vintage Life Magazines for collages while wearing a white button down long sleeve shirt from H&M and Chanel Boyfriend Tweed Watch

I get my old magazines from eBay and ship them to Panama. When I was in grad school in New York, I could go shopping for them around the East Village and in some flea markets, so it had yet another physical component; the hunt for the perfect magazines.

Abstract magazine collage
Abstract pink and emerald green collage with organic shapes

I usually scan my elements and put them together in Photoshop so I can play with scale. But for this exercise, I pasted everything on watercolor paper. It’s also more exciting this way because once I paste something, I can’t go back. The planning process becomes more extreme.

Maristella cuts up vintage magazines while wearing Chanel's Tweed Boyfriend watch
Colorful collage on a white background by Maristella Gonzalez

Color played a big part in these little experiments, more so than in any of my older collages. I think it’s because my older work was more figurative and told another story. These pieces are more about the relationship between form, texture, color and composition. If you’d like to see some of my previous work, visit my portfolio website.

Maristella looks through vintage Life Magazines and fashion magazines for her collages