Collage Projects in Relief – An Artist's Guidelines

You know those optical illusions where first you see a vase and then, if you look longer, the image switches to two face profiles (or vice versa)? What you're seeing is the postive and negative views of the same drawing.

collage cutouts noe
Dimensional collage cutouts by Lendon Noe
from "Collage in Color II."

Being able to see the negative space in a drawing or around an object can be very useful in all aspects of art. This skill helps you give flat art such as paper collage art more dimension.

Lendon Noe is a mixed-media collage artist who has worked to bring more dimension to her work by highlighting the positive and negative parts of an image.

"I am interested in achieving a kind of 'relief' effect by layering, so I begin by dividing my design into foreground, middle ground, and background. Each division might have sub layers as well. I think and sketch it all out, but I always leave room for serendipity. My designs may evolve and change as I work, and I am quite open to that. This kind of layering can be achieved with any subject matter," says Lendon on "Collage in Color II" interactive emag.

"Once I am satisfied with my basic design, I begin to look for the kind of paper and surface treatment I want to use to actually create each layer."

collage by lendon noe
Collage by Lendon Noe.

Here are Lendon's guidelines for how to make a collage with dimension:

  • My first considerations are weight, color, and the value of the paper. In the beginning, I keep it simple. White on white is elegant. Black and white or other monochromatic (one color) palettes are very powerful. Earth colors and neutrals are fairly easy to work with, too-maybe with a splash of bold color for emphasis.
  • I often choose Rives BFK for my paper, lightweight and heavyweight. I find Rives to be a good archival paper for many techniques and it is reasonably priced. The lightweight paper cuts easily and the heavyweight sculpts well. The background of my collage is often also the mounting piece for all of the other layers and Rives heavyweight is usually sufficient.
  • If you are including objects other than paper in your work, you may want your backing to be mat or illustration board rather than just paper.
  • I prefer using whites, solids, and some of my own stained papers for my collages. I save patterned papers and other paper ephemera for emphasis.
  • I love using ink splatters for surface treatment and often include text, image transfers, and some personal drawing in my collages.
  • When you are planning layers to cut, look for negative space "holes" or "trapped shapes" to add variety and interest to the design. Silhouette cutters are well-versed in finding that little sprig of hair that curls up and over to add interest.

You can watch Lendon's process and see more of her work on "Collage in Color II," now available for iPad.

P.S. How do you find relief in your art? Leave comments about your ideas and experiences below.


Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques


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