Cityscapes + apertures course

Collage with tissue paper

A thoroughly enjoyable weekend of outdoor drawing, learning perspective and creating colourful collage images.  We explored two styles of using collage and even made our own self-coloured tissue paper to use.

This weekend’s group of students wanted to get 2 things from attending the course.  Firstly, to brush up on their knowledge and skills in 2-point perspective and secondly to learn new ways of using collage.  It’s a good job they signed up for this Cityscapes + apertures course because this is exactly what this 2-day weekend course is all about!

It was a busy weekend and I think everyone learnt a lot.  It was interesting to read what the students thought…

What did the students think?

This course forms part of the ‘Improve your drawing’ series of workshops.  Here are some of their thoughts about this course.

“…I became more aware of the impact shapes make in the picture and how the eye is led around the whole thing…” – Meg K

“It’s challenging, but lots of fun.  Takes you out of your comfort zone.  Prepare to get messy!” – Helen J

“Fun, supportive, good to develop existing skills.  Tones, shapes, perspective.  How to just be creative.” – Tracey M

The experience

Day 1
The weather wasn’t great on the first day but we were all determined to go outside and draw some of the local red brick mill buildings.  We were preparing to make a collage in the style of Caroline Johnson and she is well known for her collages of Manchester’s buildings.  So after I gave everyone a re-cap of 2-point perspective in the warm studio we braved the chill and spent the next one and a half hours getting to grips with perspective.

Helen’s collage mid-way to completion on day 1 of the course

Tracey’s collage completed at home a few days after the course.

After returning upstairs for a warm cup of tea and biscuits we set about translating our sketchbook drawings onto A2 paper ready to receive the collage papers after lunch.  Once our drawings were ready I demonstrated how to make our own coloured tissue paper.  This was great as everyone mixed up a beautiful set of colours for their collage.  

Making your own coloured paper is far better than using shop-bought paper as you have total control over the colours, shades and textures in your final art work.  The studio was a hive of activity as hairdryers were going full blast with everyone drying their papers as quickly as possible!

This style of collage takes a lot of patience, a fair bit of planning and a lot of careful cutting out and gluing down.  I was pleased to see everyone getting stuck in and the studio went really quite as all the students were concentrating so hard.  Although a lot of work it was actually really relaxing and it transported you away from the humdrum of work and daily life.

By the end of the day one student had completed their collage and the rest needed more time when they returned on day 2.

Day 2

Students returned on the Sunday and got right back into working hard on their collage – trying to get them completed before tea. 

After tea we started on our second collage of the course – this time a much looser, more intuitive and fun way of working.  I tend to describe it like ‘painting with paper’.  A fine art approach rather than the illustrative approach the day previously.  It’s a very intuitive way of working and only requires a small thumbnail sketch to guide you as you work as your art work will change as you work, assess and respond to each piece of paper you glue down.

To begin we made quick sketches from the studio windows overlooking Ancoats and the tall buildings in the centre of Manchester.  We made some abstract sketches inspired by the angles of rooflines, walls, perspective lines and shapes of buildings and hills.  This transferred so well into wonderful abstract art works.  It always amazes me how varied everyone’s collages looked by the end even though we all started off looking at fairly similar scenes from the windows.  That’s what being creative is all about, I guess – finding something personal to say that’s different from everyone else.  It’s pointless if we all create exactly the same picture!! 


For this collage we used a mixture of papers – self-coloured tissue paper, shop-bought tissue paper and a variety of interesting papers and scraps.  I think the results are brilliant especially considering the limited time we have during the course.  See what you think. 

Key learning

The key learning that I wanted students to leave with at the end of this 2-day course, was to have a sound understanding of 2-point perspective, experience of two different collage techniques and how to make their own self-coloured tissue paper.  I think we achieved this, along with giving students the opportunity to be free and creative, make a mess, experiment and try out new ideas in a supportive environment with my guidance and advice.

Materials and techniques

We purposefully used a limited range of papers this weekend as the challenge was to find how many different ways you can use a limited range of materials.  This is a challenge all artists face and is an excellent discipline to help develop your creativity and make you extend and develop your skills as a creative artist.  I think the results speak for themselves.  See my Gallery page and let me know what you think via the ‘Leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the page.

I think we all agreed that collage is a versatile and brilliant technique!

Time flew by and the weekend course enabled students to extend their skills and knowledge.  Everyone went home tired but happy with their results, a few with a little more to do to fully complete their collage art works.  I have now (June 2017) changed this course to Cityscapes: urban sketching techniques – to find out full details about this course click here to go to the course page on my website. 

There are 4 other weekend courses that are part of the Improve your drawing series which you can find out about by clicking here – Creative Sketchbooks, Painting with texture, Re-interpreting still life and Experimental drawing.