Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and live now? Did your family let you be creative or is that something you did after you left home?
I grew up and currently live in Buffalo, New York. My father and I went to the local flea markets and antique shops nearly every weekend. He would buy sports memorabilia and I would buy comics and Star Wars toys. My mother is a fan of modern art and she has a great sense of style. Our house looked like the Albright Knox art gallery: white walls with Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg gallery prints. Every year we went to Washington D.C. and they would let me roam the galleries and museums.
In laymen’s terms, how would you describe collage art?
Collage is when someone takes clippings of images and materials from their surroundings and creates a new work of art with them. Typically, these images are paper and photograph glued onto a board of card stock.
Inter-dimensional Jest by Red Wizard
You have a degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photographic Illustration. What other education have you had? How did that lead you into collage art? Did you learn your collage skills some other way?
For undergrad I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for photography. RIT likely has the best photography program in the world. Kodak is based in Rochester, and many photographic technologies were developed there. I wanted to study fine art, but I couldn’t convince my dad to let me go to school for it. Photography was a more ‘practical’ skill. Eventually I switched majors from photojournalism to fine art photography. Collage was a natural bridge for me between photography and fine art.
After I graduated, I attended an architectural design program at Harvard. I spent the summer of 2007 working around the clock designing and building models in the studio. A few months later I enrolled into graduate school for landscape architecture. Architecture school is like a hazing in design. You are forced to come up with giant ideas and construct tedious documents. All of these things get publicly dissed by your professors and the very next day and you have to start from scratch. Plenty of all-nighters and creative blocks over three years forced me to become really creative with materials.
Collage art can take many themes. How would you describe your style?
I would say that I am a surrealist. What makes surrealism powerful is not its abstraction, but it’s realism. It is shocking to see real-looking objects mixed together in unnatural ways. Collage is a great way to experiment with surrealism because the learning curve is so low. Without any drawing skills, you can make clippings of powerful symbols and create your own bizarre art immediately.
Where do the ideas come from? What inspires each creation?
I’m very much inspired by the vintage paper ephemera I collect. Half the fun of the hobby is looking for old paper ephemera at garage sales and flea markets. Each image is loaded with different cultural meanings. The symbolic power can be totally nostalgic, like a picture of Mickey Mouse. Old pictures can be beautiful and disturbing all at once, like old 60s Jell-O adverts. Not to mention the amazing colors and textures these old books and magazines have. They will never be reproduced. I believe we are entering a post-paper era. Many people don’t buy magazines and newspapers anymore. I personally enjoy collecting old science and religion books. They are full of images that try to explain how the universe works. I like to mix them together to explore old questions.
Tell us the meaning behind your name – Red Wizard.
My first big project was a wine label I made for Liten Buffel Winery. The first vintage was signed by my birth name, David Myers. The winery told me that my name on the label was so common nobody could find me or my website. Something had to change. At the time I was enjoying HBO’s Game of Thrones. I loved the character the Red Woman. She’s a sorceress who would divine messages in flames. I also have red hair so it works out.
Mother Makes Glucose by Red Wizard for Liten Buffel Winery, Niagara County, NY
You’ve recently discovered our workhorse scissors, the 7-Inch SCS-2 Serrated-Edge Stainless Steel Scissors. What other OLFA tools do you reach for? How do you use them?
The workhorse scissors were my best friends this summer. I expanded my studio this summer which required some serious cleanup and renovation. I used the workhorse scissors to cut everything from wire, freeze-pops, cement-board tape, aluminum tape, zip ties, insulation, rubber hose, plastic, vinyl, and other miscellaneous junk. Once I got settled into my new space, I started making my first (soon-to-be published) book. After an entire month of renovation my scissors can still cut neat trims on both card-stock and thin paper.
Can you give us a few cutting tips?
The less paper you have to wrestle with, the neater your cuts will be. When I find something I like, I always remove the page from the book first with an art knife. I use the OLFA 9mm SAC craft knife to remove pages out of books. I use the OLFA AK-5 art knife for cutting small objects and negative space. I have a huge OLFA cutting mat that covers my entire work area. After that, I make a big quick cut around the specific part that I want. Now I have a much smaller piece that I can fine cut with my OLFA Precision scissors. When a shape is very complex, it is easier to cut into the object a bit so you don’t leave a halo around it.
This is an extreme example, but you get my point (sorry butterfly).
How do you organize ‘the mess’? Do you have some great storage tricks you can share?
I organize my clippings with things I find while thrifting for paper ephemera. I like to be able to see everything when I work. Mostly, I split wood cigar boxes in two and use them as trays. Each tray has a subject like “gemstones,” “eyes,” or “dinosaurs.” I garbage-picked a few chests of drawers that I use the same way. For example, I have a dinosaur drawer filled with loose sheets, and when I want to put my tray away (filled with smaller clippings), it fits into the drawer as well.
Your online lessons on how to collage are very thorough. Do you teach in person as well?
Thank you! Yes, I teach collage workshops at a few places in the Buffalo area. I basically recreate one of those popular paint nights but with collage (and without the cheesy tropical sunset paintings). My favorite place to host is called The Tabernacle, which is this old temple converted into a jazz club on Buffalo’s West Side. A local artist spent two years of his life painting the inside. Imagine if Dali had painted the Sistine Chapel—that’s The Tabernacle.
You have so much content and many tutorials on YouTube. How are they organized so people can easily find those they are looking for?
My YouTube channel is all about collage and is organized into four main playlists. My “How to Collage” series has over 17 videos and is expanding. It has everything from “how to get started” tips to more advanced topics, such as “How to make a large mural using collage and adhesive vinyl.”
I also have a playlist of my podcast, Cut it Out! Collage and Paper Craft Conversations. I interview my favorite collage artists from across the globe. It is super inspiring to see what these artists are doing with collage and how they are pushing the medium.
I try to make a video about every collage I make. When I don’t have time to share how I made it, I create a time-lapse video of the work. You can see me make it from start to finish and learn some tricks along the way.
On your website you have a free collage kit readers can download. What are some ways to use the images?
My free collage kits are becoming quite popular. I created them because many people have trouble finding cool vintage pictures to collage with. The kits are totally free and each one includes a PDF file that you can print as many times as you want at home. Each kit is designed so you can make at least two complete letter-sized collages, so they are perfect for anyone who wants to dip their toe into the hobby. I am releasing three more collage kits in September. I am super excited about them. One of them is Salvador Dali-themed. You can find my free collage kits redwizardcollage.com.
Your blog on making wine labels looks like lots of fun! What other items could be used if someone wasn’t a wine drinker?
A really fun thing that I have been getting into is making zines: little self-published magazines. Anyone can make them and other zinesters (zine makers) openly trade them with each other. They are a super cheap way to collect handmade art. I have some collage zines at my store for only $2.50. I also sell prints, t-shirts, and collage kits on my site.
Your art work has been featured in exhibits at galleries and other venues. How does it feel to see your work that way? Where have you had showings and where can people see your work now?
Most of my effort goes into creating content online. The internet is just so powerful. About two years ago, my art went viral on the TikTok app and one of my videos even received 7 million views. It was amazing. I earned 12,000+ followers in a single night. My account now has over 84,000 followers. You can’t fit that many people into an art gallery. Of course, having your work displayed in a gallery is certainly an honorable thing. Some of my collage work is currently on display at the Cut it Out! Collage Show at Revolution Gallery in Buffalo.
What other hobbies do you enjoy? What do you do on your day off?
My wife Michelle and I just had our third baby six months ago. My wife and I work full time, which basically means I only have time to brush my teeth in the morning and collage late at night! (Just joking.) I am an outdoors guy for sure. I hunt for edible mushrooms in the summer and fall. I also play the nerdy fantasy trading card game, Magic the Gathering.
What’s next? What would you like to do that you haven’t tried yet?
I mostly just want to make as many collage friends as I can haha However, I would like to work on more large mural projects. I have the ability to cover indoor and outdoor walls and entire rooms in vivid collage. The material I use is similar to what people wrap delivery and food trucks in. If anyone would like to get in touch with me or just say hi contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my website www.redwizardcollage.com.
Red Wizard poses in front of a weatherproof vinyl collage mural.