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Storytelling In Magazine Collage and Mixed Media Art

Today I want to talk about how I bring a piece of art together for one of my collages or mixed media pieces using the power of telling a story!

Storytelling In Magazine Collage and Mixed Media Art

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What Is Magazine Collage?

I do A LOT of magazine collage artwork for my Artsy Fartsy YouTube Channel! Functionally, magazine collage is cutting out images from magazines and then placing them in a unique way on paper, wood or any other art material.

Here are some of my magazine collages that I have been working on lately…

Magazine Collage Artwork By Tara Jacobsen

While everyone gets to pick their own definitions of what magazine collage is… I feel like these three are a step up from just a glue book where you put images with no rhyme or reason and not as fancy as mixed media art where you use a variety of different art supplies and mediums.

These three were all made with just magazine images, glue and black sharpie marker or posca pens.

The thing about each one of these is that I had a story in my head when I made each of these with an idea in my head about the story behind the image!

What Is Storytelling?

Sometimes, when you talk to “authors” or “writers” they will tell you the “rules” of storytelling. And that is fine for them!

For me, storytelling is having an idea of what is going on in the art piece and describing visually so other people can “see” it too!

For example, when I made the Black Panther piece I was doing a bunch of different things…

  • Using a stunning magazine image I found
  • Thinking about Chadwick Boseman who was the Black Panther in the films and who died way too young
  • Adding a “face” design to my Faces journal
  • Practicing making realistic eyelashes

I don't need someone to formally tell me what I can and cannot do in my artwork, I get to choose that myself!

Walkthrough Video of How To Use Storytelling In Art

What Types of Stories Can You Tell?

Supposedly there are only 7 storylines ever told…

  • Overcoming the monster – this is a very aggressive story with lots of fighting (Star Wars, Interview With The Vampire)
  • Rags to riches – this is a fun one where someone with few resources becomes powerful (Cinderella, Trading Places)
  • Quest – this is a straight out quest to find something (Lord of the Rings, Pitch Perfect 3)
  • Voyage and return (The hero's journey) – The hero goes to strange land and learns something, then comes back changed (Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth)
  • Comedy – a funny, light hearted situation (Bad Moms, When Harry Met Sally)
  • Tragedy – the main character has a flaw that leads to their certain doom (Wolf of Wall Street, Gone Girl)
  • Rebirth – the bad guy becomes a good guy at the end (Annie, Malificent)

I tend to tell comedies in my art or maybe the hero's journey. Very few of my pieces are aggressive enough to be overcoming the monster!

You can pick a storytelling style that matches your artwork and follow along with the “plot” as you make your make your piece!

Why Do I Think Telling A Story Matters?

So, I am just doing a fun little collage to amuse myself, why do I care that it tells a story?

Well, I am a super practical gal and I like to know why (can you imagine 3 year old me? why? why? why?) If someone has a tiger's head and is wearing fancy clothing, I like to know that she is a CEO who just got off the plane.

Or if I am making a mixed media design where I combine vintage people with magazine images, I like knowing that it story about my childhood growing up near farms.

Farm People Magazine Collage By Tara Jacobsen

The Best Storyteller EVER – Ira Glass

Ira Glass, who makes the This American Life radio show and podcast talks a lot about storytelling and I find him fascinating on so many levels.

First off, is his talking about taste and art, which makes me feel better when I think all my stuff is crap!…

But his biggest contribution to my wellbeing is to talk about storytelling. Now, he is a making an hour long podcast every week with several distinct stories, but just the way he talks about being passionate about the story you are trying to tell and doing great work makes me want to be a better artist!

“It's hard to make something that's interesting. It's really, really hard. It's like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that's written or anything that's created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity… So what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such an act of will…”

Ira Glass

Storytelling and Magazine Collage FAQs

I get some of the same questions over and over again, so here are some of the things that I think about when making my artwork!

Do You HAVE To Have A Story?

Nope! I took a magazine collage class from Dyan Reaveley and she specifically doesn't have a story to her artwork, hers is just funny to her without a deeper meaning.

I just enjoy my artwork more when I have a plan and a way to make it make sense for me!

Can You Sell Magazine Collages?

I know for sure I won't be selling my magazine collages because I don't hold the copyright to the images I am using. I simply make them for fun and to show other people how to make collages.

How Do I Pick Magazine Images To Use?

Sometimes I find something that I think will be good in a piece and then use that in a specific way, but most times I find flipping through magazines until I find something that “speaks” to me works better for my art.

Others like to make large collections of already cut out images that they can use to merge pieces together. I have some of those that I keep in an DISC Bound Ephemera Folder, but my main way is flip, flip, flip!

Does Every Magazine Collage Have To Have A Person or A Face?

There are many collage artists who never have people or faces in their work! I tend to have more faces than not, that is just what I like doing.

There is a famous collage artist Teesha Moore who rarely used faces. Here is a video about how I choose faces for my magazine collage!