Collage Workshop Part 2

We continued our collage workshop on Tuesday  with the aim of exploring the ‘visual metaphor’. ‘What is a visual metaphor?’ you ask, well, it’s where you show something symbolic of what you’re talking about instead of using a direct image. The best example I can think of, since it came up this week in my dissertation studio, is that of Art Spiegelman portraying Nazi soldiers as cats and Jewish victims as mice in his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus.

We were asked to create visual metaphors using collage. Bare in mind that time constraints and a general unease when using collage more than likely prevented me from getting my own Pulitzer Prize.

I decided to use someone else’s starting phrases to generate my metaphors, since, well ‘the polar bear was yellow and dirty’ was a bit too narrow, and ‘Southampton is a 1000 year old nowheresville’ was a bit to big. I’d also sort of done a visual metaphor with ‘dirty concrete enclosures’, but you sort of had to be there to get it.

‘obsessed with morbidity’ collage 1

One of the other students had been looking at an excerpt from Philip Hoare’s book Spike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital. The phrase ‘obsessed with morbidity’ looked like a good choice to begin with, with quite obvious imagery, and the potential to get more abstract as I went.

Two more takes on ‘obsessed with morbidity’ observing a withered apple and another woman staring into a mirror seeing only decay in her reflection.

Students were then asked to make collages using cut out shapes, something which I was keen to try anyway, since a large roll of coloured papers came into my possession not so long ago.

Another representation of a woman looking at a withered apple. I used smooth harmonious lines on the woman and jagged lines on the fruit to symbolise their beauty and decay respectively

Adding pen-work on top helps bring out the meaning more distinctly, I feel.

A more abstract version of the same idea, with just a tip of the nose, fringe and eye to represent the woman.

Both of the colour paper images were designed to give consideration to the rule of thirds, where basically, to help the compositional appeal of an image, you avoid putting things dead centre. There are also elements of the diagonal rule in play. The diagonal rule isn’t very complicated, simply lead the viewer’s eye from one corner to the opposite one by putting all the ‘stuff’ in between them. (Top left to bottom right or bottom left to top right, etc, etc).


Applying the diagonal rule to an old piece. It is more ‘dynamic’ now, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe too much…

We were also asked to come up with some text based imagery. Like I said, Pulitzer Prize next time.


Not the most innovative image ever, but from these humble beginnings…


Difficult to read, not very clever. Unfinished, also, but that’s the point. One can always come back and improve, or go forward and improve

Ultimately, I feel the day was well spent. A lot was asked of us, and collage is a logistically difficult thing to do to a strict schedule, especially when you don’t have that sixth sense of what to bring, and how to pull it all together that only practice can bring. I need to do a lot more exploratory work, really push the limits of what works and what doesn’t. One problem of ‘knowing what “works”‘ is that all this art and crafts and design and what not, is subjective. Legibility and readability are crucial (unless they aren’t, of course), but layout, colour use, text placement and all the rest are not so easy to feel confident about.

The best thing to do is, well, do. It’s always easier to look over a pile of finished stuff and see what stands out rather than worrying about doing it right once. Who ever uses their first draft? Am I right? The problem is, of course, creating that body of work to reflect over in the first place. I guess it’s time for me to get back to my core focus when it comes to illustration: doing it fast, and as well as possible, but definitely fast.


2 thoughts on “Collage Workshop Part 2

    1. Oh my. That is very interesting. I think I might be able to use that footage to generate some interesting outcomes, but I must reflect on whether it falls inside my current remit. I think it probably does. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

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