Thursday, December 18, 2014

Composition Collages - A Tutorial

This tutorial has been waiting to happen for months already. I promised to do it ages ago and took the pictures weeks ago, but somehow I just didn't get around to really putting it together. That all changes today: welcome to the Composition Collages Tutorial!

If you don't know what I mean by composition collages you can check some of them here, here or here. They are basically just what they sound like: abstract collaged compositions. They are very relaxing to do and I do believe they train your eyes into seeing harmonic compostions just by practicing abstract arrangements that don't have to mean anything.

Let's get going, shall we?

What you need:
  • a substrate (I use a sketchbook, but you can work on paper or cardboard or canvas or whatever)
  • paint to colour your background with (I use gouache, but anything goes)
  • a brush and water for the paint
  • decorative papers, several kinds that go well together
  • scissors
  • glue (I use a simple glue stick, but if you work on canvas you might prefer an acrylic medium)
  • some black markers or pens that will write well on both the paper and the background
  • a circle template (this one's optional, perhaps you like to draw and cut your circles by hand, but I'm anal so I need a template, haha)
What you also need is a playful attitude and the realisation that this is supposed to be a fun and loose exercise, not deep meaningful art. Just saying. ;-)

Start by putting colour on your background. I am showing you four pages from the sketchbook so you can see how different backgrounds get different results. The first two are very hodgepodge, let's-get-some-colour-on-there. 

As you can see the second set of pages has more specific shapes. Circles and a grid. I chose my colours to fit the colours of the paper I picked out, but you can totally choose to go for more contrast and see what happens then. Experiment people!

Now it's time to put your substrate aside and get out the paper. I picked four different kinds that matched well. I do love pretty papers!

Now take your scissors and cut that paper up. Cut squares and rectangles and use your circle template (or your less anal cutting skills) to cut circles of different sizes. It's important to get different shapes and sizes. 

I usually stick to rectangles and squares and circles, but there is no reason at all why you shouldn't be cutting diamonds, hearts, stars or whatever you fancy if that's what you want.

When you've cut up your paper put the shapes aside where you can easily see and reach them and get your substrate back on the table.

Now the real fun begins! Pick a bunch of shapes and start arranging them on your backgrounds. There's all kinds of rules for composition, but I would just like to say: put them where you like them and let that be that. ;-)

Try to vary different sizes and shapes to see how they go together.  Don't overthink it. We're not going to win any awards with these compositions, we're just playing. Have fun with it!

If you have come to a composition that you like, glue that stuff down! Now the base of your work is done.

Now it's time for the finishing touches. Get your markers or pens and start outlining the shapes. You can use different marks for different shapes or different marks for the same kinds of papers. You can also outline the page itself as I did above. Or maybe you would like different thicknesses when it comes to your lines. Fine tips or broad tips leave very different marks.

You can draw outside the shapes or on top of them. Experiment and see what you like.

There, you are done! On to the next one?

The fun of this exercise is that you can vary in backgrounds and see what happens to the overall image or you can vary more in the shapes and colours of the paper pieces to see what happens. I've done dozens of these by now and none of them are the same even if they fit together. You can also see what happens if you fill up your page more or keep it very minimal. It's all part of the experiment.

Here's an example of more elaborate and colourful backgrounds for instance: 

Well, I hope you had fun seeing how these composition collages work and I hope that you want to give them a try. You just might like doing them as much as I do. If you do I would love to hear about it, either on or off the blog. My mail addy can be found at my profile on the sidebar, so feel free to mail your results to me. It always makes me happy to see what people come up with through my tutorials. Of course if anything is not clear or you have any questions you can also let me know.

Keep making stuff and have a wonderful and artsy day!