CUTTING AND PASTING - COLLAGE

Formative feedback reflection
Having received feedback for both the Drawing Brief and Warm up exercises, it was encouraging to read such a positive response, even though I hadn’t done any serious drawing (or mark making) for a very long time. I instinctively work in quite a reserved, clean and precise manner (thanks to being a graphic designer for so long) and I think this course will definitely push my boundaries in terms of exploration, expression and confidence building in the way I approach tasks and different media. So far, exercises from mark making, drawing with line and collage are making me work more boldly, the latter stages of collage I hope have become a real turn in the tide. I also tend to get hung up on finished results and as pointed out in the feedback, the process is there to explore, make mistakes and getting the control freak in me to relinquish control. A sketchbook for scribbles and notes proved to be quite pivotal during stages of Collage where I felt I needed to take a step back from the exercises. Sketching and scribbling took the pressure off producing a ‘finished’ piece of work. Although at this stage, I really do think that nothing is finished as such but goes on to feed future work. As Lizzy has written ‘…this can be used to inform more resolved work later’. Also picking up on ‘…experimenting with your own methods of working’. I found during the early stages of the Collage brief that I was almost forcing myself to work in a way that didn’t suit or work for me, particularly with paper choice; I felt I should be using patterned paper, envelope insides etc.. I looked at what inspires me, what type of work makes me think ‘wow’, collated and lodged these thoughts in my head and turned to methods that felt far more instinctive while still attempting to push my parameters!

I have vast amounts of inspiration which at some point will be collated via a scrapbook (still digitally filed at the moment). This will help my critical and contextual thinking; I know when I like something, but why do I like it? I definitely need to ask and question myself more. Out and about, I visited Project 78 Gallery in St Leonards on Sea in December to see the exhibition ‘You can go anywhere from anywhere’ curated by Ismini Samanidou and Simon Barker and inspired by Ismini’s time at the Albers Foundation.

I will keep referring to the feedback incorporating the advice and suggestions into my work and continue to experiment, question and explore the creative process.

The Brief
According to Matisse, collage is a means of ‘drawing with scissors’ and is achieved using an assemblage of plain or patterned paper and card, as well as text and photographs. Papers can provide a rich palette of colour, texture, pattern and imagery.

The objective of this brief is to explore drawing, encouraging the use of collage to experiment with process and result through colour, form, line and tone using plain or patterned papers. Even though it doesn’t involve the use of conventional drawing as in Brief Two, it still encourages creativity, observational skills, unusual colour and pattern combinations while reinforcing simple design ideas to trigger the creative process.

I’ve never really used collage in my work so this brief was to prove interesting.

The brief initially asks for research into artists who used collage in their work as well as collecting material for the forthcoming exercises. I found many sources of inspiration but chose these three artists.

As I make my way through this course, I am constantly reminded of the way I work which isn’t always a positive! Naturally quite tidy, reserved, limited colour palette (my favourite colour is grey), not particularly daring or bold. At the beginning, I also had a preference for plain paper. Fortunately, this was set to change.

Block silhouette
I chose my objects. A kettle, a toaster, that Bialetti, an antique iron. Initially, I misunderstood this exercise and introduced line early on. I re-read the brief and re-observed the objects. The brief asked for multiple studies on an A2 sheet but I struggled to work that small due to paper thickness so I produced just one study per A3 sheet.

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I introduced negative space alongside using large blocks of colour. I thought I’d be brave and use the inside of an envelope! I felt both the colour and texture of the envelope really worked for the iron. But still, it felt too clean and literal.

Line with/without Block Silhouette
This exercise was about the creative use of line drawing in collage. I’ll admit at this point, I felt I was struggling with producing work that 1. was particularly creative, 2. I was pleased with. Cutting lines or stripes from plain paper was not inspiring me and I had to re-address how else I could interpret the brief. The plain paper was proving to feel limited yet I wasn’t being drawn to using pattern either.

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At this stage, I decided to create my own papers using pencil, oil pastel, Farrow and Ball paint and black ink, harking back to the happy days of mark making. As the Bialetti offered multiple challenges in itself, I continued to use this as my sole prop. Firstly, I tore and cut pieces of various papers with line and stripes to compose a Bialetti. The process felt a bit more interesting and a little freer but I still wasn’t overly satisfied with the end result.

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I then decided to simplify the paper selections as in Bialetti 1 and 2, opting for simple paint effects. Finally, I felt I was starting to make a little more headway. An old photocopy of a book’s pages became a good handle option. I experimented with different angles of the Bialetti but found I was endlessly aborting those attempts. I purposely kept the angles simple and continued with abstracting the shapes and elements.

Bialetti 1

Bialetti 1

Bialetti 2

Bialetti 2

I then took a bit of a break from the collage making, found more sources of reference and inspiration and spent some really satisfying time creating more interesting marks using a combination of white and Kraft paper and thin card. I applied paint and ink with brushes and a foam roller and used masks made from paper to create stripes and spots (with help from a hole punch). The ink and paper masks worked really well due to the fluidity of the ink and the uneven texture of the foam roller. These new bases were beginning to form a good foundation for the next exercise.

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Spots and Stripes
This exercise is about developing a series of repeat simple stripe or spot designs using the techniques discovered previously.

Attempt #1 (before creating my own papers)
I had recently purchased some A5 Kraft board and decided to use this. The plan was to produce small collages developing these into a final series. I started to look into other papers having felt uninspired by my paper samples for a while. It was evident in my research that I was immediately drawn to print (that could work as collage), even gleaning inspiration from quilting and surface pattern. I started to pull in type using letterpress, carbon paper and paint but with the paper and colours feeling a little repetitive and bland it was time for a rethink.

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Attempt #2
This time, I had the assortment of interesting papers with strong shapes and ink textures that sat beautifully alongside the flat, matt colour of the paint. 

I wanted to experiment with these surfaces to see how the spot and stripe elements could work together without necessarily creating a repeat pattern straight away. The process and results quickly proved to feel more expressive with the occasional ‘aha!’ and subsequently became much more enjoyable and satisfying. The compositions also started to remind me of (very) abstract landscapes.

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This ended up being the perfect warm-up exercise for the next stage. I knew I had elements that I could extract to compose and form a repeat pattern. I decided to work on a smaller scale creating individual ‘themes’ combining spots, stripes or a combination of the two. I limited elements so as not to over complicate the designs.

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The more I did, the more I enjoyed it, the shrinky dink size of these worked really well as preparation for the repeats. It was interesting to observe how this felt working on such a tiny scale compared to the larger scale in the previous collage exercises. It was fiddly and intricate but the elements came together more quickly and suited this particular exercise. From this, I was then able to select combinations to make a repeat pattern.

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Digitising collage detail into a repeat…

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And from collage to theoretical printed textiles…

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Looking back
This brief has certainly been a challenge. Many, many hours have been spent researching, sourcing inspiration and ideas, scribbling, sketching, thinking, head scratching, reading and re-reading, all with a mix of both frustration and excitement. It was also a very time consuming process compared to other conventional ways of working, the actual cutting, arranging/re-arranging and glueing of paper as well as all the paper prep. Ironically though, despite the early struggles, it turned out to be a big learning and discovery curve and I really enjoyed the latter stages. I’m still not sure if I’ve fully answered the brief in all the places but looking back, I feel the work has evolved to be much bolder and stronger and I’ve definitely gained more confidence from the process. I’ve discovered new ways of working, produced a type and body of work I’ve not produced before and would love to develop and explore a few new ideas further.