Book Review: Realistic Collage: Step By Step

Realistic Collage: Step by step book cover

Realistic Collage: Step By Step by Michael David Brown and Phil Metzger. (1998). Cincinnati, Ohio: Northlight Books. ISBN 978-0-891-34819-1

Michael David Brown and Phil Metzger provider readers and collagists with a meticulous, illustrative, pragmatic and detailed approach to collage in their book Realistic Collage: Step by Step.

 Left: Land's End by Michael David Brown; Right: Table of Contents in Realistic Collage: Step by Step.

Left: Land's End by Michael David Brown; Right: Table of Contents in Realistic Collage: Step by Step.

The first chapter of this book is dedicated to the "whys and wherefores" of choosing the best supports (watercolor paper, mat board, foam board, wood and hardwood), papers, paints,, adhesives, and tools. There is even a page devoted to workspace and storage. Brown and Metzger want collagists to be fully equipped to make the most out of their collaging experiences. Though Brown himself uses a dry-mount technique, similar to a fusible web technique I learned in quilting, I particularly appreciated the chart on (wet) acrylic mediums and their uses. Each has its own qualities that can enhance or detract from a collage, depending on what outcome the collagist desires. Good, too, were the reminders about permanence, lightfastness and color fastness of materials (suports, papers, and paints).

 Right: Barn Siding by Michael David Brown; Left: Painting in a Collage lesson in Realistic Collage: Step By Step

Right: Barn Siding by Michael David Brown; Left: Painting in a Collage lesson in Realistic Collage: Step By Step

In chapter two, Brown and Metzger take readers through some collage techniques before introducing twelve demonstrations in chapter three intended to help collagists practice compositional techniques. The demonstrations touch on shading, perspective, reflections, and adding interesting (but not overwhelming) details to the artwork. Brown certainly makes it look easy to obtain realistic collage images, though his insights, I am sure, are won through lots of observation and experimentation. Metzger writes:

Brown's overall approach to drawing, painting and collaging obey the laws of technical correctnessjust enough to make the picture believable, but he refuses to be so fussy that the picture becomes anywhere near photographically correct. His style allows for lots of play and plenty of artistic license. "Hey!" he says as he glues down a piece of paper that slightly violates the law, "You gotta have fun at this, or why do it?" (p. 67)

 Left: Book Cover by Michael David Brown; Right: Start of Gallery I, a sampling of Brown's work in Realistic Collage: Step by Step

Left: Book Cover by Michael David Brown; Right: Start of Gallery I, a sampling of Brown's work in Realistic Collage: Step by Step

The final chapters of Realistic Collage: Step by Step are galleries. The first gallery (chapter four) samples Brown's work in two parts: Commercial Art Collage and More Ideas for Realistic Collage. The second gallery (chapter five) samples works from guest artists: Robert Kilvert, Peggy Brown, William and LaTrece Coombs, Phil Metzger, Shirley Porter, Virginia Lee Williams, and Nita Leland. All artists who bring their own style to collaging.

Realistic Collage: Step by Step is straightforward, matter-of-fact, and contains many pragmatic tips, some of which I have not seen in other books. The tips and techniques in this book will help collagists approach their subjects differently, see and think about their subjects differently, and, hopefully, find that balance between abiding by the "laws of technical correctness" and play.

Have you read this book? Please let me know what you think!

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Cheers!--Janyce