How they were made

Tiny cut pieces of paper are on a paper plate. A hand wearing a nitrile glove in holding a tweezer over the pieces.

Making each piece was a continuous process of gathering materials, cutting, and pasting.

Usually something would attract my attention. This could have been a found image or a section from a color photocopy of one of my own photographs. I then would paste this down with an acrylic gel medium onto a gessoed masonite support.

An over-the-shoulder view of a woman sorting photos.
A younger me sorting through stuff.
Photo: Brandi Easter

All the while, I’d be rummaging through my collection of old books with reproductions of paintings and photographs, and through files of my own photos, making color photocopies of the ones that seemed useful. For the most part, I didn’t look for actual images, but for areas of color, line, texture, and detail.

 Small pieces of cut up paper from various images in a divided plate. A hand sorts through them with tweezers.
The paper “brush strokes” require tweezers.
Photo: Brandi Easter

From these pages, I’d cut out hundreds of pieces, many as small as an actual brush stroke. These bits were for my pictures what dabs of paint are for a painting. They were the elements that made up the work and gave it its substance.

A small collage artwork partially finished on a worktable.

I glued these pieces onto the support. Nothing was usually sketched out, except for a few perspective lines on the Underground and street scenes. I like to work freeform. Once I was satisfied that a picture was finished, I’d go back over the top of it with a slightly heavier gel medium. This unified the surface and added to the overall texture and luminosity of the finished piece.

As my way of making collages evolved, I discovered that what I liked most about the medium was its almost sculptural aspect, the way the elements of the work could be blended and layered and shaped with scissors, tweezers, and acrylic mediums.

A surreal collage showing a volcanic eruption coming out of a clip art line drawing of a coffee cup painted blue-green. Animal shapes cut out from the volcanic cloud are arranged at the base of the coffee cup.
Afternoon Tea (7 x 5" circa around 1992)—an example of early play with photocopies.

My intention was to create pictures that had the look and feel of paintings, but with the sculptural quality of cut paper work.

I’ve used photocopies in my work for years. My earliest pictures were often filled with bits taken from black and white copies of found images and textures. Later along, I mostly worked with color copies of my own photographs.

Artists have used reproductions of source material for collage and related kinds of artwork since long before the common use of photocopiers or computers. Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), for example, often worked with photostats of images he got from the library.

More paper mosaic collage

A collage artwork showing a woman walking on an Underground train platform.
London places
Imaginary places
How made
A detail from a paper mosaic by Mary Delany.
Historical note