This weekend I took part in a Collage workshop at the Haus der Familie in Bonn. The workshop leader was Rose Kretzschmar, a local artist. I had previously taken a workshop with her called Intuitiv Zeichnen (Drawing intuitively) a couple of years ago and had enjoyed her open and experimental approach to drawing. The workshop this weekend was in the same spirit. I have not really tried collage beyond using partial images, which I then extend through drawing. I have included an example of this below.
I approached this workshop with the intention of following any suggestions made regarding techniques, and also experimenting with colour and materials until an image suggested itself. I decided to use the human figure as a theme as I am focusing on life drawing at the moment.
I produced two collage in the workshop itself on irregular paper sizes, and then explored another technique later in an A4 sketchbook at home.
In the first one, I used a page of blossom from a magazine.which I tore roughly into human forms. The page was chosen because of the trunks and branches, which suggest human forms. The larger group of three figures presented itself through the form of the blossoms and I accentuated this by using torn strips of paper. The blossom itself was a bit lost amongst its foliage and the effect was darker than I had expected. The magenta tissue paper was chosen as a bright contrast and the semi-concealment of one figure prevents the three figures merging into the one behind. The strips of paper were used because I misunderstood a suggestion (I think that Frau Kretzschmar was suggesting that I tore the figures into strips!) and I cut up the paper that was sitting next to them instead! The colour is harmonious but I decided that collage needs a prepared ground, and the blank paper was not an effective background to this image – too much white. Not sure yet what I would use instead in this image. The size of this image is between A4 and A3.
For the second image, I prepared the background as a first step before considering some different figure forms. This image was inspired by the collages of Matisse such as in Icarus. I wanted to convey a lively figure using positive and negative shapes and began with red tissue paper but this was ineffective. The texture of the tissue paper seemed flimsy over the firmer texture of the background. The figures were at first too small and too many, producing a rather “bitty” design. I decided to keep the composition simple and so drew one larger image and carefully preserved the negative image. The photograph has preserved the colours well but the blue paper is slightly reflective, as is the gold paper. The “sun” in the top right hand corner was made out of little offcuts of gold paper because there wasn’t a large enough piece for a spiral. However, I prefer this effect and would use this technique again. I am also pleased with the proportions and the liveliness of the main figure, which I drew in pencil, without a reference, on the back of the red paper. I am still not sure whether the little gold figure top left really serves compositional purpose but he supplies good colour balance. The original background had a further strip of the neutral paper to the right of the blue but I have cropped this from the photograph because it is empty and serves no purpose. However, this brings the foot of the negative shape too close to the edge of the format. The size of this image is approximately A3.
The third collage was made at home using a technique which Frau Kretzschmar uses in her own work. This involves cutting or tearing an image into strips and superimposing it over a background. I tried this with a photograph of a sculpture. The background was intended to be brighter, using the oranges, blues and greens that are hidden away within the mass of the sculpture and its surroundings. I used Derwent’s Art Bars but the paper in the sketchbook is not the right surface for a fluid wash, so I then gessoed over the streaks and used gesso to adhere the strips, leaving a little colour showing through. I avoided using perfectly tessellating strips and then used the small offcuts to create interest elsewhere in the image. An old credit card, dipped in acrylic paint picked up some of the more subtle colours in the photograph, and was used to create lines at angles to the collaged shapes. The whole does create a sense of the sculpture nestling in long grass, or perhaps a just a rock (and I can’t get away from the image of a map of Australia!). I recreated the negative shape using horizontal strips to prevent the overall image appearing too long and thin. However, there is too much empty space between the two main foci – there needs to be something connecting them. I shall be exploring the technique further, perhaps using pieces of my own work that I don’t like as a whole! The size of this image is A4.
Most of the books on collage that I have come across so far seem to be aimed at scrapbookers and art journalers, and while the techniques described are useful, these books do not really convey a broad range of collage work. A book that I looked at at the workshop and found useful (but only published in German) is Papiercollage für Einsteiger by Klaus Eid and Hakon Ruprecht. One in English that provides a good balance of inspiration with practical know-how is New Creative Collage Techniques by Nita Leland and Virginia Lee Williams.
A catalogue of the work of Rossfer and Shaokun (some images of their work here) was also brought to the workshop as a source of inspiration. Their collages are digital – and some of the images of children are questionable – but many of their images are beautiful and can inspire further ideas for collage or mixed media. I liked this image, which seems to be one of a series (another one here and others exist), for the way in which it integrated photographed faces with flowing drawn lines. Many of their portraits (an example) integrate different textures within the image and the individual portrayed is both partially concealed and – perhaps – simultaneously revealed through the chosen media.