Art Saves: Creating an Affirmation Collage

In this excerpt from Art Saves, author Jenny Doh introduces us to artist, author, possibilitarian and all around lover of life, Kelly Rae Roberts. Kelly Rae believes that inside each person’s heart there exists a collection of affirmations- small whispers nudging them to dream bigger, take risks and trust their creative spirit. Kelly Rae also believes that developing a list of personal affirmations to use in artwork not only allows the artist to identify what they want more of in their life, but also to make deeply meaningful art that reminds them to be their truest self. In this tutorial, Kelly Rae will take you step-by-step through a collage project that teaches you how to incorporate layers of paper and paints, along with a bit of charcoal pencil work, with affirming messages of hope.

(This tutorial was previously published in the book Art Saves by Jenny Doh, copyright 2011; republished here courtesy of


  • base surface, such as a canvas, matboard, heavy watercolor paper, or wood panel, 8″x10″ (20cm x 25cm)
  • collage papers (and assorted embellishments)
  • regular gel medium in gloss (Golden)
  • charcoal pencil
  • paper towels
  • sharp kraft knife
  • cotton swabs
  • paintbrushes
  • fluid acrylic paint (Golden)
  • computer generated affirmations
  • white gesso
  • archival varnish spray in gloss (Golden)

Figure 1

Cut assorted collage papers into rectangular shapes of various sizes. Randomly affix them onto the base surface using gel medium, covering the entire area.



After collaging the surface, paint a coat of gel medium over the entire collage. This will help seal the papers and allow for rubbing excess paint off in later steps. Allow to dry.



Figure 2

Using a charcoal pencil, sketch the outline of a figure onto the collaged surface. Those who are uncomfortable with drawing a figure or face may want to try drawing other shapes like hearts, flowers or birds. Don’t draw the details yet, as they will come in a later step.

Randomly add paint to the collaged background, leaving the inside of the outlined figure bare. While the paint is still wet, use a dampened paper towel to wipe away portions of the paint to expose the collage papers underneath. Repeat this process until the desired effect is achieved.

Type out a list of personal affirmations in a word processing program, selecting different font faces and sizes for each statement.


Figure 3

Print out the affirmations, and cut them out using a sharp kraft knife. Arrange them inside the sketched figure and secure with gel medium. Coat each affirmation with a layer of gel medium to allow for paint to be rubbed off in a later step. Tip: Those without a printer can write their affirmations out using a pen and paper.






Figure 4

Paint the top of the figure’s dress, using a dampened cotton swab to remove excess paint that covers the affirmations. Repeat as necessary.

Fill in the face with gesso. Once dry, draw facial features with a pencil and then paint in the skin and other accents.





Figure 5

Finish painting the other elements of the piece (such as the hair and wings). Outline the image using black paint or a charcoal pencil. Embellish with lace and other ephemera as desired.

After the painting has dried, spray it with varnish to seal.




From Art Saves by Jenny Doh, 2011; courtesy of


To learn more about or purchase Art Saves by Jenny Doh, click here.

For more on Jenny Doh:




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