Collage Method

The method described here is based on Qu Leilei’s technique.
There are broadly 3 stages to making a collage:
i) Assemble interesting paper
ii) Design
iii) Back

1. Interesting paper includes:

Crash paper in my studio
a) “crash” paper in various colours.
Crashing ink & colour can be easily done on sized paper.
It can also be done on non-sized paper, but this needs to be thicker, strong enough to cope with getting saturated.  I like to use bark paper or mulberry paper.  You need quite a bit of space, plus newspaper or old blanket to dry the paper on.

A technique for colouring the paper is:
– mix dishes of the colours you want to use.  Not very thick but not too dilute: you want to be able to drip it and have a good intensity of colour.  If you are doing large sheets of paper, you need quite a bit of colour.  You can use mineral and/or vegetable colours: mineral colours tend to come out stronger.
– wash the paper with pale ink, using a large brush.
– drip or pour the colours on, but avoid pooling.  The colours can swirl together, but don’t mix them, or the overall effect will be muddy.  Leave it to dry.  If you pick the paper up when wet, it will run, so it is best to put it on several sheets of newspaper before you start, so that you can move it flat.
– do pieces of paper with different colours – some warmer, some cooler.

b) paper with calligraphy on.  This could be white paper, or crash paper.   You can use your sheets of calligraphy practice.  Try different sizes of calligraphy.
You could use this link as a starting point to find famous examples of calligraphy.
You could also use Chinese newspapers to get areas of text.
c) paper with painting on.  Again, white or crash.
Use bits of your old paintings and practices.
You can also paint details on coloured paper.  For example I painted very simple pine twigs for one of my cards.
You could also print seals onto bits of paper, including coloured paper.


2. Design means selecting the pieces of paper to use, tearing or cutting them, and putting them together.   Choose the overall colour and/or feeling that you want and find pieces that work together.  Also include smaller areas of contrasting colours.  Use a mix of larger and smaller pieces.  As with painting, contrast is important.  It may help to think of a shape for the main elements eg S or triangle.  Leilei suggests dropping the paper randomly to give a freer feeling!
Design can include signature and seals added after the collage has been backed.
I seem to favour rectilinear designs.  Qu Leilei’s designs below are very free.

3. Backing the collage uses the traditional Chinese  method of mounting onto a flat board.  Leilei’s useful tip is to lay out your design and photograph it so you remember what you are aiming for.  Back the design onto a larger piece of strong paper eg Wenzhou mulberry bark.  There are 2 approaches to pasting:

  • If the paper is strong enough to handle, you can paste the back of each piece and lay onto the backing paper separately, starting with the back.
  • Alternatively, the pieces of the collage can be pasted  starting with the front layer, adding the next layer & pasting again, then finally the backing sheet.

Paste the rear edge of the backing sheet and spread flat on mount board to dry.  (Video on traditional wet mounting).

Qu Leilei is a master of collage.  Here are some of his collages that I am privileged to own: