I selected my first collage with the simple colour scheme as the piece to develop further. I think that it appealed to me because of the simple, hand cut shapes and limited palette – similar to some pieces I had seen when researching collage.
1 Monochromatic study – black and white
I was looking forward to this exercise, as I am quite fond of black and white images. I decided to use copier paper for the white areas and find finely printed text for the background (light mid tones); bold type and black and white patterned images from magazines for the darker mid tones; and black or black with white text for the darkest tones. Although I did print off a black and white photograph, it was actually easier to discern the tones from the original collage, as it had such a simple palette. I made a sheet of dark and dark mid tone, cut and glued papers, and then cut the shapes for the collage from that. (It occurs to me that this is probably a good method for making ‘patchwork’ textiles that could then be cut into the required shapes before use.)
When I viewed the collage from a distance, my first attempt did not show enough contrast between the lightest tones (background) and light mid tones, so (again referring back to my research into Picasso’s collages) I added some darker patterns to the mid tones, in black pen and outlined some areas that required more definition. The cat cushion ended up wearing sunglasses and had a few white gel pen highlights.
I enjoyed making this piece from recycled magazines and I like the very simple palette. If I was making something similar again, I would make the background paler and more interesting, perhaps by tearing the shapes, or over-painting them. I think that the random placement of the dark and mid tones in the vases, representing fabric scraps and balls of yarn worked quite well, once the pen marks were added to darken the area. And the cat cushion stands out well from the other objects. The cushion (behind the cat cushion!) should have been a bit paler. The words on the objects could be made appropriate to them, if you could find the right text.
2 Single colour study
I selected the dark purple from the original collage to develop into different tones for this piece.
I painted out gouache on cartridge papers in five different tones. Unfortunately, I was running out of the ultramarine blue that I mixed with crimson red (and white or black) to achieve these different tones. Therefore some areas were rather translucent. I decided to use these pieces to my advantage in the glass vases in the collage. I am upgrading the quality of the gouache paints (as I use them up) from ‘student’ to ‘artist’ quality in the hope that I can achieve a flatter, more opaque coverage in future projects.
I quite like the streaky, slightly unmixed look of some of the colours, although, I think that for the purposes of this exercise, they should have been more uniform. The shapes are easier to discern in this collage compared to the last one because of the clearly defined values of the different tones of colour. The monochromatic colour palette gives the piece a unified and restful look. The colour makes me think of twilight, or the composition as seen by night.
3 Multi-coloured study
For this final version of the collage, I decided to use a mixture of found papers, painted papers, scrunched and finely cut papers to add a bit of texture. For the ‘glass’ vases, I used shiny and reflective cellophane. I made a painted background, then prepared each vase and the two cushions as separate elements, before combining them. I experimented first with tearing and cutting the papers. I went with fine cut strips and shapes for the ‘yarn’ vase (seen in the middle of the collage); and a mixture of cut shapes and torn, scrunched tissue paper to represent the fabric scraps in the vase at left of the image. Some smaller details were added to the cat cushion with a white gel pen. I decided to limit the number of colours in the palette that I was using to red, green, blue, orange, light brown and white. I felt that this would give the piece a cohesive look, while allowing for areas of high contrast in tone and hue.
I was quite happy with most of the tones in this piece, apart from the striped cushion, (just seen behind the cat cushion), which I felt could have been a bit duller in colour saturation, and the little scrap of white/light brown painted paper that I included at the bottom left of the vase on the left: it blends too much with shelf colour.
I made an evaluation drawing of the part of this composition that particularly interested me: the cat cushion. This got me thinking about the way in which childhood toys or favourite possessions are like self-portraits. A possible idea for future work?
This was an instructive exercise in getting the tones of the composition correct. I found that the black and white study was the hardest to get right, because I had used such highly patterned papers, and had mis-judged the mid tones. The final piece was, I think, the most successful in representing the objects and had the added interest of different textures.