Hacks, hobbies, and side hustles: Analog collage

Marisa Bazan on paper, scissors, and glue

A smiling mouth with red lips is distorted by a backdrop of  sound waves.

"Vocal Distortion” by Marisa Bazan

Hacks, Hobbies, and Side Hustles is a for-fun internal presentation series that began as a one-time event and fast became a popular way for us to get to know our talented colleagues. It has only two guidelines: finish in five minutes and focus on a passion that exists outside of Adobe. Learn where creativity takes the members of Adobe Design when they’re not working.

I studied humanities in school and was always appreciative of art and artists but too intimidated to give it a real shot myself. Then, after graduation, everything changed. I started working full time and quickly realized I needed a creative outlet.

Somewhere along the line I discovered analog collage.

I occasionally take on commissions, but mostly it's a personal creative outlet. For someone with no formal art training, looking through vintage magazines, cutting out pictures that catch my eye, and gluing them down is something I can wrap my head around.

An open mouth bites down on a multi-lane highway running through the middle of a city under construction.
Titled "101," after U.S. Route 101, this is a statement about California traffic. After creating it, a couple of local San Francisco bands asked me to make a flyer for their show at Hemlock Tavern (a San Francisco bar that is no longer open), and I ended up using this piece and writing concert information on the teeth.

My toolkit consists of an X-Acto knife, a purple glue stick, scissors, and stacks of old magazines and print ads that I find on Craigslist, eBay, and at garage sales... and a never-ending hunt to find materials and inspiration. I’ve cut through thousands of vintage magazines, dulled thousands of X-Acto blades, lost dozens of eBay bids for old magazines and print ads, broken two scanners, and self-published four zines.

I keep source files (magazines, ads, flyers) in a closet and my clippings in a portfolio box. Then, when I start collaging, I lay everything out on my worktable, and start to think about the story I want to tell that day. I'm hoping to one day have a studio so I can leave everything out, but for now, I pack it all up after each working session to save my desk the mess.

A couch backs up to a  long table strewn with magazines, cut-out images, glue sticks, and scissors.
Looks organized when I start but by the time I'm done my fingers are covered in ink-stained-glue, used X-Acto blades are laying around posing a safety risk, and there's paper all over the floor.

For me, collage has always been about taking images or ideas that have almost nothing in common and creating a story. Sometimes the stories are funny, other times they’re not, but there's always something romantic about the synchronicity of two images published decades apart, working together to illustrate an idea and create a new narrative.

That said, the process of creating an analog collage is a lot more serendipitous than people would imagine. Which means, I don't always end up telling the story I set out to tell.

A woman's legs emerge from behind a yellow 1970's wall phone perched on a shoot of blossoming roses.
"Don't leave me hanging on the telephone" required X-Acto blade surgery. I created it using three different images, four if I include the error to the right of the phone that I covered up with a piece of paper that closely matched the color. It's an imperfection, but it adds character.

I rely on the proportions of images working harmoniously, making it even more rewarding when there's a perfect fit. Once I find images I want to use, I cut and rearrange them until it works, or it doesn't. Since there is no "Command+Z," it's important to not get attached to a specific concept or image because sometimes projects look better in the recycle bin.

A young girl with braided hair and bangs looks straight at the camera while  biting into a coiled up snake in her hands.
"Snake Cake." I found the snake first. The mouth was open to a position perfect for biting/eating so I looked all over for a small-scale standing person but couldn't find one. When I found this little girl, I flipped the script and replaced the piece of chocolate cake she was eating (the crumbs are still on her fingers) with the snake.

Since presenting at a Hacks, Hobbies, Side Hustles event in 2018 I’ve had my work exhibited in a couple of group shows, created a website to showcase my collage and photography work, and published a new zine titled “Poached Legs” which was accepted into the Silver Sprocket store (where it's currently sold out!) and the 2021 East Bay Alternative Zine Fest.

A formally-dressed and bejeweled woman with a  hairstyle of climbing roses poses against a red background.
"Untitled" because I've created too many collages of women with flowers, and I'm running out of names. A print of this collage was part of Rock Paper Scissors Collective’s First Friday group exhibit in December 2021.