Coursework Part 3: Exercise 3.4 Collage Studies

Part 1

The first task was to take a photograph of a messy corner of a room, or a cupboard. I had an embarrassment of choices, and took ten or more photos, but managed to narrow it down to three alternatives:-

I have decided to work with the image at top left, showing a cat cushion and two large glass vases: one filled with scraps of fabric, and the other with yarns. This image gives lots of colours and forms to work with. The wardrobe did not give a variety of shapes, and the shelves of ornaments were a little sparsely organised.

I plan to approach the collage making, by first searching out any likely papers in my ‘collection’ and then painting some in gouache to make up the missing colours.

Part 1 of the task requires me to make three collages: one simple; the second with an unusual colour palette; and the third, a complex palette.

For the first, simple collage, I will select a limited palette of five colours and concentrate on the light, medium and dark tones in the image. I uploaded the image into Adobe Color CC and made a custom palette by selecting five colours from the picture.


I used gouache to paint the five colours onto white paper, as I did not have any ready-made papers in these colours. I used the reverse of some scrap paper from my wastepaper basket, but as it had a slightly glossy finish, it proved not to be the ideal surface for painting on, and the resulting papers were ‘stripy’.

As this was to be a simple collage, I concentrated on the light and dark tones and kept the shapes fairly simple. The reflections on the vases and some of the fabrics within were the palest areas (represented by the pale, greyish pink); the cat cushion and a few balls of yarn and scraps of fabric were dark (here represented by the dark purple-blue); the rest were in the mid tonal range, so I used the red and khaki green colours to represent them. I retained the paler grey purely for the background. The pieces were cut free-hand with a large pair of scissors.


Collage #1

I’m not sure that anyone would guess what this represented, but I think I managed to find the high and low lights in the image, and give some idea of the forms. As mentioned, the coloured paper was too stripy – I’ll remember to use a matt paper another time!

Now to make a version using an ‘unusual’ colour scheme. I thought of exaggerating and changing the colours in Picasa 3 software to see what I could come up with. Using various filters on the image gave some interesting results. These were my three favourites.

I will work with the ‘heat map’ filter image, shown at left, above. I managed to find some bright plain coloured papers to work with, apart from the ultramarine blue, which I will again paint in gouache.

With this collage, I decided to restrict myself to hand torn shapes. I layered the torn green paper over the gouache-painted blue and some turquoise paper that had been scrunched, sanded and holed to distress it. Last came the smaller highlights of yellow, orange and red.

Collage #2

My version is rather ‘primitive’ (for example, the sewn stitching on the cat cushion), but the layered surface with rough-edged, torn shapes was pleasing. The approach of using layering was quite successful, however, ‘distressing’ the turquoise layer did not work very well: I had hoped to achieve a more lacy effect. Possibly even more sanding, or working on wet paper might have worked better.

For the third collage, I will take my tutor’s advice and apply some constraints: the complexity will apply to the colour palette I use, but the shapes used will be limited to squares.

I started by pixelating the image in Picasa and printing off the resulting image twice: one copy as a colour guide, and one to keep track of the pieces I had completed.


It didn’t look too tricky at first glance, but when I worked out the number of squares (432) and realised that I would have to find the appropriate colour for each – sourced from magazines, painted samples, and other papers to hand – it did seem rather a daunting task. I decided to just plug away at it, completing the squares at random, as the appropriate colours were found.

Collage #3

There was something satisfying about completing this piece – like finishing a jigsaw puzzle. There were lots of chromatic greys and shades of brown in this piece, so I had to judge, for example, whether a brown was warm or cool, red or purple tinted, light or dark in tone. Some of the found papers had a mix of colours on them, so I sometimes had to decide if the optical mixing was equivalent to the tone in the printed image. Although this was a very time-consuming piece to make, I like the resulting collage. It reminded me of a project I had started (and abandoned!) taken from a hexagonally pixelated image of a landscape, to be made up in hexagonal patchwork. It got as far as cutting out the hexagons and colour matching with the image, but I didn’t have time to sew it all together. I think it intrigues me because it is the ultimate abstraction – removing the obvious forms and leaving the eye to make what it can of the patches of colour, different tones and saturation of the squares.


As I was completing this task, I found I became better at judging which colours would work just by looking at the palette found in a magazine image, for example. The importance of tone seems especially important, which I see I will be working with again in Part 2 of this exercise.




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