5-3-1 Exercise: Collage made from random elements

Research: Find one or two Cubist paper collages and assess their effects with some brief notes in your learning log.  Widen your research into collage and painting.

Look for at least two other examples of artists from any period who use paper as an independent element with paint. Photocopy an example of the work of each and write brief notes to go with your photocopies in your learning log.

Random Collage: use a large sheet of paper (A2), photographs, previous watercolour experiments, magazines or newspaper supplements, any pieces of a range of different kinds of paper or card, light fabric, adhesive, an old brush, watercolour paints and drawing media.

This simple exercise will free up your sense of pictorial design and help you to identify possibilities in abstract composition.

Tear up the papers into pieces of any size and shape. Lift up a random selection of papers and allow them to drop at random onto your sheet of watercolour paper. Now look closely at where they have fallen and try as well as you can to fix them in place with your adhesive. Work fast and use your pva watered down a bit to seal the edges more effectively.  If you find that your random composition looks incomplete or that there are too many areas of paper not covered, repeat the exercise and glue further layers.

Look at your arrangement both close up and from a distance to assess its pictorial qualities or potential. You could make notes in your notebook to help you:

  • Are there colour combinations or juxtapositions that especially appeal to you?

  • Are there areas of tonal contrast that are interesting?

  • Are there elements of pattern emerging?

  • Can you read in possible figurative elements?

  • Can you link up separate areas to make a more satisfying composition?

Abstract Painting: Now choose any combination of media to develop an abstract composition.

Consider the use of watercolour to put a stain over whole areas of the collage or to provide a ground colour or a range of linking coloured areas. Think of how colours work across the whole composition; how they provide balance or a sense of pictorial space. If you have used any torn watercolour paper you will notice the texture and interest provided by its torn edges and the way that this soaks up pigment. Use drawing media under or over your watercolour. If you want to introduce new opaque areas or provide elements of resist you could use oil pastels. Consider how shaded areas could add depth and tonal contrast by using a tonal drawing medium such as pencil, charcoal or conté crayon. You may wish to develop linear elements. You could draw, paint or dribble fine lines that add interest or definition to your composition. Try to work loosely and intuitively over the whole picture area.

Notes: When you have finished, assess what you have done and write up your thoughts in your learning log referring back to your initial notebook notes.

Research 1 for Exercise

Cubist Collage



http :// artchive.com/artchive/p/picasso/suze.jpg




Braque, Violin and Pipe (1913)


Still Life On A Table With ‘Gillette’ – Braque

Having already started on the Cubist trail some years earlier in 1912 Picasso and Braque pioneered the use of paper cut-outs in their painting.  This became known later as Synthetic cubism and is considered to run from about 1912 to 1914.  This movement and style was characterised by simpler shapes and brighter colours rather than the sombre, austere, and rather complicated grids of analytical cubism.  In Synthetic Cubism Collage is used alongside paint.  In earlier cubism they had broken objects down to a grid of complicated planes (flat shapes). Now Braque and Picasso (plus some others such as Gris) built up their pictures using collage and simple shapes.


So instead of looking closely at an object such as a bottle and drawing it with lots of detail etrc, they now used the simple outline shape of the bottle instead, or cut-out this shape on paper and applied it to their composition.

Braque chooses a stringed instrument as his subject matter.  Studies the shapes within the object and pulls them apart so that he can move them around, like a deck of cards.

In his Still Life on a Table Braque returns to similar elements utilising newspaper with cardboard and charcoal drawing.  Again he has deconstructed the objects and re-assembled in a manner that confuses but slowly reveals itself upon examination.



Siphon, Glass, Newspaper, and Violin by Pablo Picasso


Suze by Pablo Picasso

Picasso and Braque each took cubism in different directions.  Picasso continued to work in collage, incorporating wallpaper, cut pieces of canvas, newsprint, lettering and other materials into his compositions.  His innovative constructions in wood and sheet iron, painted and wall-mounted, combine the qualities of painting and sculpture.  Dispensing with the time-honoured methods of carving or modelling, this was an entirely new way of creating sculpture.


After centuries of little movement in style etc. artists embraced the fast moving art movements of the late 19 and early 20th C, Cubism opened up infinite possibilities for painting, including pure abstraction, and was developed in many forms by artists across the globe and not just in Paris, Europe but the world.


Picasso has been working with collage, using different materials including newspaper.  The papers often reflect the issues and commentaries of the day and their inclusion in works of art are a juxtaposition of art and reality.

Picasso used a variety of materials in his composition but these were mainly charcoal, collage, gouache and paper.



Research 2

Look for at least two other examples of artists from any period who use paper as an independent element with paint. Photocopy an example of the work of each and write brief notes to go with your photocopies in your learning log.

Moving forward in time from the Cubists approx. 100 years we ae with contemporary artists who use mixed media to devise their compositions.


Mark Bradford – The Devil is Beating his Wife (and detail). 2003


Mark Bradford – Kryptonite 2006 Mixed media, collage on paper

Billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, permanent-wave end papers, stencils, and additional mixed media on plywood.


Bradford works in both paint and collage, incorporating elements from his daily life into his compositions.  He used remains and cut-outs of posters, billboards stencils, logos and other materials he collects

In the image “The devil beating his wife” he consolidates them in an abstract deconstruction of culture.  The dark background hints at the ‘dark’ subject of the Devil.

The result is an image which looks like a close up pixelated image though without the detail or patterns to convince us what it represents.

In Kryptonite he moves onto a more grid like composition though again utilising the resemblance to a pixelated close-up.  Again he seems to have de-contructed the image and it is easy to see why he is often compared to Piet Mindrian.  Mondrian over a period of time slowly moved from representational painting to abstracting colour and form and eventually using just colour to devise his images.


Cellar Light (oil and acrylic, 40×28) is based on a paper collage Brym created from several printed photographs.

Maya Brym, Text from her website, link below.

“I wanted,” she says, “to create a feeling of compression in a starkly lit interior space that’s offset by the wilder energy of the vines growing in the dark space just outside.” The interior elements were made in acrylic, while the outside space and the forms that move from outside to inside were painted in oil. This is the first painting in a body of work she started following her first solo show in December 2010, and for her it “evokes that transitional space of ending and re-beginning that we continually experience.”

Brym uses layers of collage, paint and photographs in her composition echoes of the Cubist collage of Picasso, Gris and Braque.  Her use of cut-out object photos and drawn / painted elements around the pasted photos hint at the 2-dimensional de-constructed images of the early Cubists.  She uses acrylic and oils to unite the various picture planes in the interior still life composition.


Rita Kohel, Bodden abstract 2, Collage: Paper on Cardboard Abstract landscape


 Rita Kohel

Using a light defused  background of paint dribbled down the paper Kohel has used these coloured ghost like images as support for her tree like structure which dominate the main picture plane.  These abstract marks resemble a small copse of trees and coloured washes are added to represent the sky with the deep reds of the setting sun to counter the light blues and yellows of the ghost like background.







Images from websites noted, accessed on 8th Oct’16





Random Collage

5-3-1-01-a 5-3-1-01-b  5-3-1-01-c 5-3-1-01-d

An A2 sheet of paper with random elements of paper dropped onto it and then glued in place.

Rotating the sheet presents four views and possible ways to orientate the ‘painting’.  I favour the far left hand version.

5-3-1-01-cropAre there colour combinations or juxtapositions that especially appeal to you?

There are several combinations of shapes and colour that appeal.  I have selected one and cropped the image to show it.  The juxtaposition of the red, blue and orange seem to jump off the page.  This is in part to the contrasting complimentary colours of blue and orange.  The heavy tones are offset to a degree by the white of the ground on view.

Are there areas of tonal contrast that are interesting?5-3-1-01-bw

In order to examine the tonal result of the random paper drop, I reproduced it as a black and white image.  This illustrates the tonal blocks around the painting, and makes it easier to see the pattern of diagonals etc. which have occurred in the image.  There is also the interesting tonal contrast between the white ground and many of the shapes, tones and colour in the composition.

Are there elements of pattern emerging?

Diagonals from bottom left to top right as well as backward leaning red shapes along the lower edge.  If one colour, tone or shape dominates the others it can start a pattern by your eye visual linking others similar objects.

5-3-1-01-figCan you read in possible figurative elements?5-3-1-01-added

Yes I can, strangely enough!  I can see possibly three figures represented.  The upper red blocks and shapes make their heads and progressing down the figure there are various shapes making up the bodies.  I have made a rough approximation of the shapes which can be discerned.  These figure shapes are indicated by the blue silhouette figures.

Can you link up separate areas to make a more satisfying composition?

The red paper elements make a strong visual impact.  I have added some to the image by adding on shapes electronically. The have been placed to reinforce the imaged figures which may be discerned.  I initially placed then as red solid shapes but adjusted the colouring to show as striped to indicate which ones they are.


Abstract Painting with Collage

Paris in the Autumn:


Paris in the Autumn

Above the basis of this collage is a trip I did a couple of years ago at this time of the year to Paris.  This collage version of a mind map shows what we did and where we went over the few days we were in Paris in October.  The background to the collage is an abstract watercolour painting using autumn colours and the abstract blends and shaping of colour determined by the Clingfilm placed onto the wet paint.

Collage elements were chosen and cut-out; these were arranged and re-arranged to determine the final placement and then glued in place.  Once the paint was dry I used acrylic paint to develop the mind map elements of the work, i.e. the arrows, lines and circling of words and elements.


The Grand Illusion

The Grand Illusion – Property development: the underlying idea of this collage is the overdevelopment of rural and urban spaces and the overbuilding of already developed urban spaces with extensions and back garden and corner in-fills with more building.  This theme is further reinforced by the recent planning approval of a nearby ancient wood, orchards and fields for another couple of thousand homes.  Everyone is moving to the country but it will not be here when they arrive.  The woodland paradise of the ancient woodland (called Bluebell Wood) where I frequently dog walk, dodgy knee allowing, will now disappear.  Elements will remain but with several ‘paths’ and roads cutting through it the nature and ecology will disappear – forever.  Thus this escape to the rural paradise is but a ‘grand illusion painted by developers and bought by home-hunters.  The very fact of creating the grand illusion destroys it.

The underlying abstract watercolour painting on which the collage elements are placed onto a Clingfilm derived autumn coloured with tree shapes incorporated into it.  The watercolour painted element in this work is in the background and done prior to the collage elements were placed.  Both the above abstract works have central themes though the work itself is abstract so this is actually a half step into the next exercise.

Exercise Notes

Abstract painting with collage

This is more enjoyable section of the course for me.  Using the multi-media components allows you to let your thoughts run free.  Selecting a few elements for collage gave me the idea for using my past experience of a trip to Paris in the Autumn.  I them developed this into a mind map collage of the trip and places visits and things experienced from galleries to the Moulin Rouge and the Louvre.

Using elements which are already an object in your painting gives this element a new lease of life, in fact giving it a new life.

The watercolour element of these painting: Paris in the Autumn and the Grand Illusion are the backgrounds which were random works as a result of utilising Clingfilm to develop the texture as the ground for the painting.  The cling film element can be manipulated to induce a texture that ‘matches’ the theme of the work underway.  I was able to introduce tree trunk shapes by pinching the plastic film into ridges.

These works developed spontaneously as I was working and only near the end did a clear plan develop able where each piece would fit and which pieces of the selection were extraneous to the work in hand.

Essentially the main thing I took from this exercise was the sense of freedom working on a random piece of work, allowing it to develop where my mind took you.  The thinking was then finalised into a definitive idea and then finally pushed in that direction to complete the pieces.