Those of you that follow me on my blog and on my social media platforms will realise that I have been developing my collage work for a while, alongside my sketching work (see previous Urban Sketching in Porto blog). However, my trip to Porto is the first time that I have developed my urban collaging pieces out on location. Collage for me is a natural mixed media technique. With a background in landscape design and an interest in the materiality of things, it gives me the opportunity to explore both texture and composition and to present them in a finished piece of art. This blog shares the approach I have taken to develop the sketchbook pieces and explains their possible future development.
Prior to my visit to Porto I pre-prepared my Seawhite concertina sketchbook using a range of paper materials (labels, tickets, textured paper, etc), glue, white gesso and acrylic inks. This approach is one that Karen Stamper teaches on her collage sketchbook courses (one of which I attended in May of this year). My only understanding of the place was from reference material (books, online imagery etc). My intention here was to be abstract, to get a sense of the place very loosely and to have some fun with it. Once created and dried, they are ready for work on location. Some papers were more easily placed than others, I was careful to use a range of sizes of papers and to create some kind of readability with the inks (e.g. repetition, opposite colours of the colour wheel together etc).
The materials I took with me included my concertina sketchbook and rubber bands to secure it with. A prit stick, coloured pencils, art graft, fineliners, Posca markers in a variety of colours, gel pens and a variety of papers (including those I collected during the trip).
This is where all the creation started! I didn’t start collaging for a couple of days but then realised that if I didn’t start soon I never would! Because my concertina was full of random collaging and mark making I decided to just start at the beginning of the sketchbook and make the most of it. I jumped around a bit but mostly I have ended up with a double page spread per location.
Once in front of a scene I tried to absorb the atmosphere and the feel of the place before working on the collage. I looked at the colours, the textures and the shapes and thought about what I wanted to record. Sometimes I looked in two different directions and amalgamated the elements. I usually started by identifying an element already on the page that worked for the scene. Then I worked from that, adding papers if necessary. I sometimes used Posca pens to create a skyline. Larger papers were used as foreground buildings. Coloured pencils were used to create more abstract effects. The fineliners were used to create a greater sense of the place, eg.e for creating roofs and tiles, for showing building lines etc. It is a sort of free-wheeling exercise, going back and forth, organically, not linearly. It is about impressions not always literal capture.
The scenes created were as follows. The Sao Bento train station, The Luis I Bridge, Derelict buildings, The view of the rooftops and street scenes.
The urban collaging pages shown so far are the ones I’ve completed in Porto. However, I have also got a number of pages that have not been worked over on location. I will probably use existing sketches and photos to complete the concertina. It will be interesting to see how these collages compare with the ones completed on location. I also plan to use the concertina collages to create finished pieces in the studio. I am likely to use the concertina as a basis for these collages. The collaging in Porto pieces will act as the start point. However, it is unlikely that they will be identical. I will probably adjust the composition to suite the format and ideas that develop from the studio study. At the moment, it is too soon to extract very specific learnings from the process. Instead I am concentrating on working with a ‘sense of place’ umbrella but trying to work more intuitively. Watch this space as I develop my techniques!