My eCollage process

History / Motivation

I started making small collages in my sketchbooks back in the early 1980’s. In those days, I was cutting up photos from magazines, as well as rejected pieces of my own work.

It was a way to discover more about composition and design.

My husband at that time John Reuter-Pacyna (1942-2004) made beautiful collages from material he and I found discarded around trash cans in the west Belmont neighborhood of Chicago where we had a studio space to work.

John Reuter-Pacyna “Futura-4"

He had a great eye for composition and structure, and was a full-time professor at SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) in the Design department.

I had had several shows of my “imagist” paintings in Chicago, but my work was gradually shifting toward abstraction. And I didn’t know much about composition and structure. He was a great help to me in my learning.

Jay Zerbe untitled collage 1983

What I learned from the process

I was making non-objective constructions in my sketchbooks using images from magazines, as well as my own works on paper, to educate myself.

I have made quite a few “material collages” (as I now refer to them) since then. You can find them on my website,, by selecting: gallery/(search all art types)material collage.

In 2017, I started to create digital combinations using pieces of my paintings on canvas and paper, as well as pieces of my material collages and drawings from sketchbooks. I no longer used any commercially available materials, such as magazine clippings or trash that wasn’t my own.

ovals324 (one of my stencils)

eCollage Technique

I used black and white “stencils” to give me a head start on a composition. I now have 351 of those, and end up adding a couple of those per week.

I do end up layering over those with pieces directly from the “mother” source of the imagery toward the end of this process. All my “eCollages” (a term I initiated – or at least think I did) have a name that comes from the mother (source piece), followed by a number. If no number appears, that is #1.

Photoshop technique

I create these eCollages in Photoshop. They can have many layers! Sometimes 20 or more. I play around with the layers, pasting into the stencil areas, and moving the components around until I am happy with them.

The final result

For the example shown above, this is the finished eCollage.

I really enjoy making my eCollages. Obviously! And they are a very useful “model” for my paintings.

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