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Digital collages

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

This assignment was one which I found extremely challenging because I was deeply out of my comfort zone. Born in 1981 I am not a digital native and I have long avoided learning how to use Photoshop.

Our RMIT lecturer, Andrew Gunnell, asked us to learn Adobe Photoshop and create five digital collages with a maximum of four source images. Every step of the way I took slowly and deliberately. It took me a long time to relax and enjoy the process of this kind of work.

To help me, I found that my desk space needed to be well laid out and neat to make me feel more comfortable during the online classes. I looked at videos about ergonomic work stations and made sure my set up supported my posture as much as possible. I'd regularly take breaks to stop me getting stiff and sore. I basically tried to make my posture and work station look like this:

To help with my emotional reactions to learning Photoshop via distance and during the COVID pandemic, I worked on making my workspace calming. I lit a candle before class and found a cosy blanket to wrap around my shoulders. Sometimes I would get a treat glass of wine or some chocolate as a little treat to keep me at the desk and working when I wanted to run far away from learning this new skill. Some Wednesdays during class, I would literally force myself to stay in the studio and work - no matter how I felt about the product I was making. It was a weird feeling for me because I'd never had to disassociate from my emotions to make art - to the contrary, I usually feel a blissful flow when I create. I wondered if this was the new way of working as an artist!

I realised near the end of the semester that a large problem with my practice was to do with my terrible IT system. My brother-in-law helped me buy and set up a new computer, and with a faster machine, suddenly I was making more whilst drinking less, and enjoying the process a whole lot more too!

I found it quite easy to find four images to create my collages from. One was a close up of a woman wearing a burka, which aligned to the Afghanistan theme I've explored this semester. Two were from my travels in Spain late last year when I walked the Camino de Santiago. I chose these images because I wanted something light after so much of a war theme in my work recently. The last was a close up of a spotted and scratched gum tree that I had taken in Flagstaff Gardens at the start of the semester. I'd wanted to include this for its abstract pattern which I thought I could use creatively to mix up the look of my images.

Here is a slideshow of the four original images:

My plan initially was to just work on changing each image separately. That way I could play with the different tools and use the distorted four images to start meshing together to form the collages once my skill sets developed. These are the examples of the adjusted images.

Once I had adjusted with these images, I started exploring layering two of the images together. I was really happy with how this one turned out with the playing with filters and effects. The warping of the upside-down burka image that was embossed, and the high saturation of colour for the landscape with I'd adjusted, made me call this image Painterly Road Curtain Raiser.

Other collages of just two images included the following. Gosh that embossing tool is cool!

I explored how the Photoshop screen printing elements worked and tried to incorporate it into the images. I can't wait to do physical screen-printing in the studios in semester two. Here is a pixilated burka jelly fish floating in an upside-down painterly sky followed a few other two image collages.

I wasn't a fan with the hard edges between the images and worked to blend them as much as possible, or at least incorporate the look into the piece. Pixilation and the blending and erasing tools all helped with this.

I also liked the embossed and high warping of fully saturated colours.

Slowly, I started stitching the four images together. At first they were rough - I was just happy to have somehow managed to get all four images on the one document.

This boxy blurred tri-colour look was my rudimentary beginning.

But as I continued to experiment I enjoyed the look of many of these pieces.

I had a bit of a break-through with these five key images. I felt like for the first time I could get the four images to look comprehensive - as if they all told a story of journey and torture. The burka image looks a little shroud-like, the bark like whipped skin. Whilst I do really like these images, I didn't expect to make something that looked so dark and Handmaidens Tale-esq. I thought I'd try to make the next set of images more psychedelic and fun.

And this is my go at making a more joyful set of digital collages:

I found that playing with the colour spectrums was really fun, and previously I'd not been bold enough to simply make erasure shapes into the image. Now I liked the random dotty look and the way they made added a pure spectrum colour tone to the piece.

The bevelling effect, overlaid with the sunshine coming through the feet image created a bright and happy symmetry to the otherwise chaotic imagery.

Over all, I feel like I went on an emotional rollercoaster with this project. Sometimes I felt that everything I made felt like a happy accident I was unlikely to be able to replicate. Having said that however, through this project I learnt an enormous amount - maybe more than any other project this semester! Along with new skills and some cool new images, I also got a new computer, all born out of my frustrations!

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