Abstract Paper Collage: Organic Shapes | Daniela Mellen | Skillshare

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Abstract Paper Collage: Organic Shapes

teacher avatar Daniela Mellen, Artist & Author

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Class Intro

    • 2. Class Supplies

    • 3. Selecting Colors

    • 4. Planning the Collage

    • 5. Planning the Composition

    • 6. Refining the Collage

    • 7. Collage Element Placement

    • 8. Optional: Adding a Paint Layer

    • 9. Skillshare Class Wrap Up

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About This Class

Paper Collage is a technique where art is made by “cutting and pasting” paper into new shapes and forms. It’s a process where the artist selects the paper based on color, texture, or pattern and then makes a new element by cutting it into a shape. The new shapes can be combined, layered, or hollowed out, to create completely new forms. The artist works with the materials that appeal to them, then cuts the papers into shapes, making choices by emotion, feel, and intuition. 

In today’s class, we’ll focus on organic shapes: shapes that are undefined and unusual. We’ll start the process by creating preliminary mini collages to warm up our process, then combine them to form the finished collage. We’ll focus on 3-4 colors and then consider repeating similar shapes and sizes. We’ll think about using lines in our work to draw the eye along the composition and also look at drawing the eye using color and shape. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Daniela Mellen

Artist & Author


I'm an artist and author living in coastal Florida and surrounded by plants, animals, marine life, and the warm sun - all things that inspire me.

I am drawn to creating things and love to get lost in projects. Each day is an opportunity to learn something new, build on existing skills, and branch out to new ones. I was formally trained as an educator which is my passion and incorporating art into teaching makes my life complete.

As of April 2022 I upload classes monthly on Skillshare, but have a catalog of over 180 existing classes. You'll see handmade books, memory keeping, watercolor, acrylic paint, unique art supplies, and photography composition. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to seeing your work.

Check out my blog for additional info on my website dan... See full profile

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1. Class Intro: Paper collage is a technique where art is made by assembling different forms and shapes of paper. Essentially, it's known as the cut and paste technique, which is part of its appeal. The process of creating a collage is enjoyable. It's visceral. The artist handles the paper, selecting the colors and textures, and then transforming bits of paper into a finished work. In today's class, abstract paper collage, organic shapes. We'll take a closer look at the process of creating a collage composition using undefined shapes and the space surrounding those shapes. Hello, I'm Daniela Mellen and author and artist in today's class will tip toe into the world of abstract composition and work on uniting individual shapes together to make a whole collage. I'll show you my process and explain why I made my composition choices. In order to help you make your own choices. We'll start by choosing papers to collage, then creating preliminary designs on index cards. These are like preliminary sketches. From there. We'll take a moment to consider the placement of the shapes and the new shapes that they create when United. We'll also look at how the combined pieces direct your eye. From here will transfer our design technique to a larger substrate. Once complete, you'll have a finished design, or at least another step in your collage process if you want to continue it further. Thanks for joining me today. Now let's get started. 2. Class Supplies: So here are the supplies that we're going to use today for our abstract collage using papers focusing on an organic shapes. I have an assortment of painted pages here. Most of these are gel printed that I created myself, but you don't have to use gel printed pages. You can use any paper you'd like. Couple of tips I like to stick to thin paper. So most of this is painted onto just copy paper, so it's not too thick. It doesn't give me a lot of height or weight. And it dries a little more flexible because the paper is so porous. You can use patterned paper, book pages, or you could paint your own paper just as I have done. And I am an assortment of colors because I like to really focus on the color and we'll talk about that as we start our process. For my substrate, I just have some card stock and this is what I'm going to adhere. My collage too. I have black and white so that I have options when I'm creating my piece. And I like to choose based on the colors that I've selected, whether the pop on a darker background or the white background. And to that end, you can use any color card stock. I have three by five cards because my process isn't completely intuitive. It starts out that way and that's where I use the cards, but then I transition it to my substrate. I have a pencil, a nice sharp pair of scissors, and I'm comfortable using, and a glue stick. If you want your artwork to be permanent, I would not suggest using a glue stick. This is very temporary. But for my artwork, if I find that I've made a collage that I like, I'll either recreate it onto bigger substrate or I'll scan it into my computer and use it that way. So I'm not really looking for creating a finished product today that will last me for generations. Optional. And this is not going to be used for every collage, but I'll show you a process where I just use some acrylic paint on my finished collage. If I want to give it a little something extra, if I feel like my collage is nice, but it needs another step. And to that end I just have some bottle caps here. And that's mainly because of the round shape. Again, it's optional. And when we use it, you can determine if that's something that you'd like to add to your style. In the next chapter, we'll talk about selecting our colors. 3. Selecting Colors: And the way I select my colors for my organic shapes is I choose a dominant color and then usually two other colors. Now, when I say colors, I'm using that term very generously. So for example, let's say I chose red as my dominant color. I'll tell you my process how I choose the other two colors and then I'll explain what I mean by saying generously. So if I chose red as my dominant color, the next color I would choose would be the color opposite on the color wheel. So just very quickly, Here's a color wheel. And if I chose red color opposite, it is an awkward green here. So that would be the color opposite on the color wheel, kinda of a green color. So I would choose my red for my dominant color. And then maybe the aqua green for my non-dominant color, my complimentary color. So that leaves me with a third, or possibly even fourth color that I want to choose. And so the question is, well, how do you choose that there are many options. Well, today I'm going to take either one of those colors, either the red or the blue green, and choose something next to it on the color wheel. So if I was to choose red, I would probably choose an orange to go with that. And those would be my three colors for my collage. I could also, because I'm going with the blue-green, choose a green to go with that as well. And as you can see, I have many options. Now, what I mean by saying, I choose something generously, choose the colors generously is I don't just choose one. So if red was my dominant color, I'd make sure I haven't couple of choices that I can go with all my red to use an assortment of papers. And that's one reason I like using the gel print because even from this one sheet of red, I have variations in the red, so I get lots of reds. So if I choose red is my dominant color, I would set aside these three papers and this would give me the option of working on the reds. Likewise, if I chose that blue-green, I would choose all my blue greens, set them aside. And then if I was choosing green to go with it, I would choose my green papers. So I remove the papers I wasn't going to use. And then these would be the papers the assortment of papers that I'm going to use for my project today. I have my red, my blue-green, and then blues and greens to go along with that. But for today in class, my example I'm going to choose, I'm going to use some of this purple as my dominant color. And mainly the only reason I'm making my decisions because I happen to love this paper and it's inspiring me the shapes and the purple. Incidentally, it already has some of the complimentary color into it, which is the yellow. So I'll choose my purples because I know I'm going to use that. And then I'll choose my yellow sheets. And now I can choose an additional color. I can either choose an orange or a green, or I could err on the side of the purple and choose a blue. And I think that's exactly what I'm gonna do. So I'll choose some blues to go along with that, maybe just those. So I'll remove these papers that I'm not going to use. And these are the colors that I'm going to use today for our collage. My purple is my dominant color, followed by yellow, the complimentary color, and blue, the analogous color. In the next chapter, we'll start our collage. 4. Planning the Collage: So to start my collage, What I'd like to do is plan out a few collages, maybe three to four on just index cards. And I treat each index card as its own collage. Now what I do is I use the same papers and the same colors for each of the collages that I make on my index cards. And then I'll transition it to my substrate, my card stock. So the collages that I make on these index cards are going to be tiny, but they're going to use the papers that we've set aside for our main collage. So to do that, I'll take the papers that I want and I'll start cutting them up. And I'll do the same thing, cutting out various shapes with the other colors as I see fit. But I'd like to start out with my main piece, my inspiration piece. And since I'm only working on one collage at a time, I'll set my remaining card, stock, remaining three by five cards aside. And I'll just create a shape here. And I, when I say I'm cutting a circle, It's just circular. And I definitely save this scrap. I can use the negative image by cutting it down so that I have the shape that I really like. And I can either use this in the current collage that I'm working on, a three by five card or C, but to use it on a separate one. So right now I'll just go through and cut out a few different shapes from the dominant color that I have. Because it's organic shape. I can just play around making different shapes and then I can fine tune them. So this is kind of a very organic little shape and I'll put it down. I usually go for two, maybe three colors or even just one. It really depends on my mood. If I want a more fine tuned abstract shape, I'll take my scrap of paper and I'll create just a shape out of pencil. And then from here I can cut that out. So I'll speed this along so you can see me cutting out different shapes and how I go about doing that. And then we'll come back and talk about our placement. So there I have my first collage. Now I'll just continue working on the remaining collages, again, using similar colors and different shapes, I can consider repeating the shapes I already have because I like that look, or I can come up with something completely different. And this is just where I'm testing out my ideas. I like to use the negative space in various shapes here where I cut out pieces. So I have a closed shape and then I kind of open it up, creating little windows and places inside that create interest. So I have three collages. Now this is a preliminary placement and the next chapter under spend a little more time with my placement and I'll talk you through it as I go to really help you figure out some things to consider as you're doing it. 5. Planning the Composition: So now I have my three index cards with a basis for my composition. And now it's time to actually set it down, adhere it to the card to see the placement in the formation. And there are a number of factors. Now there are rules of composition and they're worth studying and they're nothing that can be done in one class. But the thing to remember with the rules of composition is that they're completely overlapping with one another. Nothing is stand alone. So basically we're going to look at space today and form. And by that I mean the space that are images are elements, are shapes take up and the forms they take. We also want to think about leading the eye. So we don't want to have things that just kind of sit out of nowhere. We want the eye to follow our shapes or our composition that we make. So for example, for this piece here we'll start with this one. I have a bunch of different shapes, all organic. I have some lines, some rounded shapes. Now I have this big shape, which would be my dominant shape on this particular example. And then I have other shapes. So to include that, I'll figure out the placement. And I'm not worried on these three by five cards leaving the edge or anything like that. This is just about creating that composition. So I have my shapes here and I can decide where I want to layer them. I have different colors and different shapes. Now, I like to take that shape in the background, that yellow shape and combine it with other shapes. I stick to the rule of odds. So here I have three lines. And then I can figure out where I want my other shapes to go from there. One tip that I like to do is once I have this setup, however, I'm going to set that up. If I take a picture with my cell phone. And that way I have it as a record. So that way when I do go to glue it down, if I forget where I put a piece or it moved, I can refer back to that picture. So the first thing I'm gonna do is just remove some of these pieces. Train him, mostly keep it intact. And I'll start gluing them down. And I'll start with this long shape here. Now this particular glue stick is purple and it dries clear. So you know where you've put your glue. Move these pieces off. You can find glue sticks that are repositioning will just find the one that works for you. I just want to cover it with enough glue to really hold it down and place. Can work on this on an angle if I want. And if I don't like the end result, that's okay because I can change it when I worked on my actual collage. These are just ideas. I'm kind of auditioning them, seeing how they go. And I might be inspired to do something else. After we set this down. Now I like the way that I'm using these lines here to combine those two elements to this particular collage. The overlap, the color it cut, it draws the eye because of the shape of that line. And I can decide if I want to stagger it or make it completely staggered. And then I have that one more shape, which I think I'll put somewhere over there. And I'll continue with these two, again telling the process as I go. So for this one, there's only four shapes. But because the elements are so intriguing, this one has a part missing from it. And this one is kind of open. There's lots of possibilities here that there's four elements, but there's lots of designs in Windows. So I'm just going to take my photo so I can refer back to it. And then I'll adhere it down. And now for my last composition, I have some interesting shapes here. This open shape results in a shape within it. And I like the way that looks. So for this one, I'm just going to pull that off these pieces off and attach this down right away. Since I know that's my starting point for this particular collage. And now with these two remaining shapes, I can decide if I want to add them in or just leave them like this. And now that I'm taking a closer look, I actually like that openness. This one's kind of busy. This one has a lot of chaos going on, but this one really works for me. So I'm going to stay here. Likewise, if you wanted to add more pieces to your collage, go right ahead and now's a good time to do it. In the next chapter, we'll come back and start extrapolating from here to make it into that larger collage on our card stock paper. 6. Refining the Collage: So now I have my card stock and I have my black and my white. But before we decide which color I want to use, I wanna kinda play with the formation. I want to merge this all into a single composition. Now, I don't have to be contained by only using these shapes for this formation. I'm still in the planning process so I can alter anything I see here and I still have my scraps that I can cut additional shapes from if I want to. But for now, I'm kind of just designing that shape. Envisioning that card stock behind it. And I kinda like the way that looks. I like this being tall. So I think I'm going to use that there. But I also like playing around and seeing how it goes. I think I want this line to be this way, something like this. So this is kind of the formation that I think I'm going to stick with. Once again, I'll take my phone and make a photograph. Just as a reminder in case I forget which way I want to put it. And again, this is not etched in stone. I could change it any way I want. So now I'm ready to extrapolate and decide if I want it to be my shapes to be on black card stock or the white. For this one, I'm going to stick with the white is when I have my card stock here, my formation more or less here. And the next step is to pull up my scraps and start the cutting process all over again, imitating the shapes that I see here. So for example, I'll start with this one. I have my yellow paper and now I want to create that shape. I can alter it and create it from this deeper yellow or I can stay with this yellow that I did for this. I particularly care for this. So I'm gonna do that here. Because my background is just a little bit larger than what I see here. I'm going to make these shapes just a little bit larger. So I'll set this aside and I'll eyeball my shapes, cutting them out to the approximate sizes that I want to see. So I'll cut out all my shapes and then we'll come back and work on the placement. 7. Collage Element Placement: So there I have all my shapes cut out and I placed them down. Playing around with the formation, the composition, so that I combine the elements by having this overlap. I took these blue lines and I overlap them into this piece here, this panel. And I took those blue lines and I elongated them so that they overlap into this panel. And I could play around further moving the pieces just a little bit. I also left out this little piece here, this little yellow piece because I liked the way to just that one, bright yellow looked. And that's part of the process which I find so interesting. So what I'm gonna do now is just take my photo of my completed design, since this is the design that I like. So I can refer back to it and I'm going to glue it down using that glue stick. And then we'll come back and look at our finished work. So now I adhered on my pieces down, but I decided I really did want another one of these yellow pieces in here. So I'll just add some glue and set it in here. And my abstract collage using organic shapes is complete. The next chapter we'll take a look at a different collage using the same procedures and we'll add acrylic paint to it. The reason we're not using it on this one is I don't feel like my collage needs the acrylic paint. I feel like it's a nice finished piece of work. 8. Optional: Adding a Paint Layer: So here I have another collage that I did. And instead of using multiple three by five cards, I did all my trial and error on a single card. I was just playing around and I came up with this idea that I really liked. So what I want to do though, is when I was pasting it down, I realized that these circles offered me another area for repetition. So I didn't add here my little accent, my little complimentary colors to my piece yet because I will do that later. But what I wanted to do now is add a little more accent for the circle using Just a bottle cap. And the only reason I use a bottle cap is because it forms us a nice circle. I can use a paint brush just as easily or stencil. But all I do is I just put some acrylic paint down onto a little lid here, my palette really eye pressing the cap until I get that shape and I'm not looking for a perfect circle. But I can press it off a few times. And I just want to go around really emphasizing those circles. Again, I'm using the rule or the principle of repetition to try and create some more interest in my piece. And I can even go over them just a couple of times and see how that adds a little bit of interests which I quite like. I could outline additional pieces if I wanted to, but I'm really happy with that. Now once that dries, I'll add here this piece all the way around. And then this collage will be complete. And while there's not overlap, like in our previous collage with the lines drawing the eye. I can use these little points to direct the eye. So I'll do that. And then in the next chapter, we'll come back and do a class wrap up looking at some variations using the same techniques and maybe some ideas that might inspire you with your collage. 9. Skillshare Class Wrap Up: So here we have our finished collage from class today. We have lots of organic elements and they're placed in such a way at the composition makes it interesting. The eye is drawn following the lines and there's a lot of intrigue here with the missing shapes and the empty background. I showed you my process where I started from little three by five cards, little auditions or mini collages, and then extrapolated into getting something bigger and more precise for what I wanted. Now if I wanted to take this further and put it on a large canvas, I could do that because I have the basis for my process. We've already reviewed the process. So it's just a matter of doing it one more time, finding the exact colors and shapes that you want to make your collage really pop. Now I have a few more examples to show you. So now in class we've reviewed this collage and adding paint just to emphasize some of those shapes and those layers. Again, we started from a mini collage, but this time only one because the pieces were simple enough to do. And then I just attach these little rounded triangles. And that kinda directs the eye because the eye jumps from these three spaces because that color really pops being the complimentary color to that blue. Now here is another collage using the same process that we used in class today. I have my three cards with each one full of mini collages. And then I played around with how I liked the way this would look. By combining it. Again, I use those colors that are complimentary and analogous. And the result is really striking. I love the way these colors pop, the lines still direct the eye and there's some continuity here because of our lines draw the eye as well as overlap. So there's lots going on here. I find this to be a very beautiful collage, mainly because it speaks to me, because these are my favorite colors. And I have one more to show you. So here is the last collage, and I used black card stock instead of the white because I really wanted these shapes to pop. And here's the sample that I made on just a single three by five card. And because I practiced it on white, when I transferred it to the black, I got to play with some white as well by adding white layers. And that really makes it stand out. Now I really like these shapes, these negative shapes in between everything. So while you see this rounded shape, you also see the ruffles from the other side. So I hope you'll try your hand at creating this abstract collage using organic shapes. Don't fret too much about the different rules of composition. Really play with it and see what works for you. Because the most valuable lesson you'll find is when you find something that works for you and you just take a moment to study it and consider it. You'll learn loads from y that works for you. In this case, I really like these overlapping lines. It draws the eye as well as the colors that cause a little bit of a pop. If you try your collage, please snap a photo and post it on social media or in the project section. Please be sure to follow me here on Skillshare to get notified of future classes. And please consider leaving a review. Thanks for joining me today.