How I make my collages

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For a few months now I've been making collages at the Croydon Life Drawing Group (or rather starting collages at the group then using it as the basis to produce a virtual collage). I thought it might be interesting to record the stages I go through in making these collages (although I’m developing my technique so I’m making each collage in a slightly different way).

steve 1 collage

I make a quick drawing on a piece of cardboard then cut out and stick down pieces of coloured paper. Mostly these come from magazines. I've pre-cut them and sorted them by colour which speeds up the process a good deal.

steve 2 drawing

I also make a tonal drawing. Unfortunately I made Steve's legs too short - which is why there is also an outline sketch to give me the correct proportions.

steve 3 virtual-collage-drawing

When I get home I scan the collage and the drawing on to my computer. I then make a line drawing in Adobe Illustrator and while I'm about it I correct the length of Steve's legs.

steve 4 collage-drawing

I also draw round the cut outs in the collage...

steve 5 combined-drawing

... and combine them with the drawing. (There was a bit of stretching of Steve's legs in the collage to get a proper fit).

steve 6 drawing-+-grids

I then slap three grids over the drawing. The first is perpendicular (or horizontal if you prefer to look at it that way). The other two are at approximately 30 and 60 degrees - although I line them up with elements in the drawing. I admit that it now looks a bit of a mess...

Steve 7 finished drawing

So having overlaid the drawing with my grids I take most of the lines out again. (I haven't touched my drawing or the drawing of the collage). What I want is to break the picture up into reasonable sized cells - I may have ended up making them too small. The grids also provide an overall rhythm to the picture.

Steve 8 virtual-collage ready

I've now finished in Illustrator. I open up the drawing in Photoshop and superimpose the drawing as a separate layer. Now I can start building up the collage...

At which point I got carried away and didn't stop to make copies of the collage in the process of building it up. Perhaps next time.

How I go about it is as follows. I have large files of scans from magazines on my computer (about 50Gb's worth). I start by selcting a colour that will approximately match one in the original collage and paste it into the virtual collage, move it so it's over the appropriate cell, select that cell then delete everything of that scan apart from that cell. I repeat this for every cell in the collage, correcting it from the tonal drawing (for example in the original collage the red in the thigh spread into the blue shadow behind it; I had to completely redo the face to get it right). I also need to refine the classifiaction of the scans so I can find the right colour more easily - my "red" folder contains everything from the palest pink to the darkest crimson.

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