The complexities of collage

I often find myself drawn to collage, but I admit to thinking they were an easy option – after all, how hard can it be to stick pieces of paper together to create a new image? The answer – much harder than I thought !

During lockdown I couldn’t always find the energy and motivation to create new designs but I still wanted to print, so I returned to my love of monoprinting with natural materials – leaves, grasses etc – as a more spontaneous way to create images.  A monoprint is a unique print, not part of an edition, in which a print is pulled from an image created on a re-usable plate – I use plastic sheet as a base. I create colourful backgrounds using the viscosity inking method in which inks of different viscosity are applied with hard, medium and soft rollers, using foliage and materials such as textile and card as resists. Sometimes the foliage is inked up and placed on top of the plate to create a layered effect.

I was a bit concerned that my paper supply might start to run low during lockdown, so rather than trying to create complete images I decided to print on offcuts of paper left over from editioned prints. I also sifted through many failed prints (printmakers don’t throw things out !), tore the clean edges off to print on, and kept some of the failed images to hopefully re-use. My plan was to combine the new, small prints together with sections of the failed prints, into collages. I had no idea how difficult this was going to be!

I now have hundreds of small prints that I have tried to organise by colour and theme but sometimes I can sit for hours moving pieces around like a jigsaw to try to create a new image and find that nothing quite works – I just don’t seem to have a ‘collage brain’!


Getting a balance of shape, size and colour is more difficult than I anticipated, and trying to create a new image from smaller fragments is incredibly challenging, but now and again something clicks and the pieces literally fall into place.


I’ve learned that working to a pre-defined shape and size helps, but overall I’ve developed a huge admiration for those collage artists who make it all look such an effortless and simple art form.

Janice Simpson

York Printmakers

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