The Making of our Paper Collages

our collages contain thousands of pieces of cut paper

Untold hours are spent gathering old papers for our original paper collages, some of these dating as far as the late 1800s. But where does the creation process first begin?

Step 1 - Create the underlayer

All collages are created on wood panels. The first step in the process is creating an underlayer of papers. This base layer, adhered to the wood panel, often includes pages from old songbooks, hymnals, or heavily typographic material.

Step 2 - Whitewash the background

The background is then whitewashed with acrylic paint while allowing details of the collage underlayer to peek through the painted surface. Here you can see musical notes from the songbook pages subtly visible in the background:
Our collage backgrounds often include pages from old songbooks, hymnals and are whitewashed.

The white backgrounds vary as far as the amount of collage detail allowed to show through, sometimes less...

The whitewashing creates a varied background, allowing text to show through.

And sometimes more (seen below, a detail of the Father Nature paper collage). Customers are welcome to express their input for the amount of detail showing through in the background when commissioning a collage.

Our customers are welcome to request how much of the background show through in the collage.

We're also exploring alternatives to the stark white background, like creamy linen washes, light blues (as with the Red-tailed Hawk collage below), and even a black background with bright, neon paper colors.

Our red tailed hawk collage has a light blue background.

The background is the only part of the finished collage that is painted.

Step 3 - Sketches

After the background is finished, preparatory sketches are prepared and, sometimes for commissions, watercolor mock-ups painted:

Preparatory sketches and water color are used
paper collage sketch of black bear


Step 4 - Cut lots of vintage paper.

All the other colors in the composition are the actual colors of the vintage papers. This search, selection, and sorting of papers by color is another time-intensive part of the collage making process:

The color in our paper collages are the actual colors from the vintage paper chosen

Each and every piece of paper is cut by hand with a regular ol' pair of scissors, even the reflection of light in a figure's eye or smallest beaded detail of his clothing:

Each detail in our collages come from vintage papers cut with a regular pair of scissors.
Once completed, our collages are coated with an archival matte finish

Step 5 - Archival Matte Finish

Once the collage has been completed, the piece is coated with a subtle, archival matte finish produced by a company that specializes in products for collage artists and then finished with a frame hand-built from reclaimed wood or salvaged metal. Many of the frames include decorative accents which are constructed, you guessed it, by hand-cutting metal. The frames also include the addition of anti-reflective, UV acrylic.

Our collage frames are decorated with cut metal
Finished paper collage with a frame decorated with cut-metal flower petals

Then off to our next art fair the collage goes:


Here are a few additional FAQs about our paper collages:

Are the collages produced in a specific edition?

We do not set a specific quantity or edition size for each of the collages. Each collage is part of a limited series and each produced with a unique set of papers and materials with inherent variation from collage to collage.This process is fairly organic whereby Dolan moves on to other themes and compositions with time and after he feels he has fully explored the image. This may also include different sizes of the image, such as the large Señorita (Purple) and small Señorita (Paprika). On occasion, Dolan does make collages that are 1 of 1, and these are priced accordingly: see available One-of-a-Kind originals.

Do you sell the originals used for prints?

When we make a print from an original, it is usually made from the very first collage in the edition. Once we have scanned, reviewed, and color-proofed the file to be used for the print, we release the original collage for purchase. So, yes, we do sell the originals used for prints.

Under the artwork details, many of the collages cite inclusion of "Museum Plexi". What is this?

The Museum Plexi is essentially a top-of-the-line acrylic glazing that offers UV-protection without reflection or glare. Framers will use either a Plexiglass-type product or glass. We use an acrylic product due to the fact that glass is much heavier and more fragile for shipping, as well as its UV-filtering protection. We use Optium Museum Acrylic by Tru Vue (details) due to its super crystal clear neutrality when viewing, as well as its UV-filtering, abrasion resistant, and anti-static properties.

Is the piece hangable?

Yes, all collages arrive ready-to-hang with hardware on the back. Smaller collages include both strap hangers (see photo) and wire. Larger, heavier works will just have strap hangers on the back. If hanging in drywall, we recommend use of two wall hangers like these.