Here at Phoenix, we know Debbie Lyddon well because she used to be a member of our group, and so it was a delight to welcome her back as a tutor for this fun, stimulating and intellectually challenging workshop using collage to focus on design and composition.

Debbie’s engaging personality, well-planned structure for the day and encouragement of lots of group interaction made for an extremely enjoyable day.

Debbie Lyddon

Examples of Debbie’s own collage work

Debbie maintains that collage is perfect for exploring the principles of design because the paper or fabric pieces can be repositioned easily until, to quote artist Sandra Blow, a “startling rightness” is achieved, partly by intuition and partly by following the sound design principles of Space (balance), Shape, Texture, Edge, and Layering.

We began by working in pairs, taking it in turns to add drawn shapes in different sizes and weights to achieve a balanced composition, looking at space, shape and pattern or texture, which affects the weight of any given shape.

Compositions focussing on balance

We had each been asked to bring a selection of five objects, varying in size and form, for inspiration. Our next task was to choose one of these objects and first look at it closely, feeling its texture and describing it in words before drawing it from different angles, finding as many interesting shapes as possible.

Rosaline Darby’s fossil sea urchin

Lynne Butt’s vinegar bottle

Jo Combes’s salad server

Linda Walsh’s rice carrier

Next, we explored texture through the use of pre-painted papers, and the effects of different edges. We chose one of our shapes, cut it out from painted paper, and made a composition using both positive and negative shapes, still of course thinking about balance. Then we repeated this but with torn shapes, and then cut or tore out our shapes creating edges in response to the concepts feathered, scalloped, and jagged.

Positive and negative shapes and the nature of edges

After lunch, Debbie demonstrated her collage-making technique and sent us off to make our own, still using the shapes from our chosen objects, but using layering to create depth, and adding accents with stitch, as well as keeping in mind the principles of balance, shape, texture, and edge. The importance of stepping back and taking time to look and evaluate became increasingly clear.

Debbie also gave us a useful tip: photographing various arrangements before committing to glueing them down, and flipping between them, is an excellent way to judge which works best as the photograph flattens everything out, as well as letting you see several options side by side.

Debbie demonstrating

Our collages pinned up for a critique

Lynne Butt

Kate Davis

Marie-Ghislaine Beaucé

Jo Coombes

Rosaline Darby

Joan Bingley

Finally, we explored the way that these same principles of design can be applied to a 3D arrangement.

Collaborative group effort

Below are some examples of individual efforts, each using three randomly chosen objects, not necessarily those that we had brought ourselves.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and we have gained tools and insights that will give us more confidence in assessing and planning both our individual work and our group exhibitions – very worthwhile indeed!

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