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Collage Exercise

This exercise is to help you develop sketchbook skills. It gives you the opportunity to see how working in sketchbooks can involve lots of different activities: seeing, collecting, sticking, drawing, note-taking, making connections, thinking, doodling, discovering…

The exercise is in three parts:

Collecting Images – You’ll choose a selection of images from magazines, photos, memorabilia, postcards etc

Selecting a word – You’ll choose a word (from the list below)

Connecting – You’ll connect your selected images and the word, and use your imagination and memory to create visual stories.

Step 1. Collecting Images

This is an ice breaker exercise to help you explore some of the activities that can take place in your sketchbook.

You’ll use found pictures and words to create new images which are personal to you. Try not to overthink what you draw or write, just let your ideas flow and don’t talk yourself out of it! 

It may be useful to find some place in your sketchbook, maybe the back, where you can make tiny notes, during this exercise, to jog your memory of the process later. These might just be single words, or short sentences. Don’t worry about joining them up or connecting them.

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The first part of the exercise is easy and should be fun too! Just very quickly and simply, without getting too bogged down into thinking, collect and cut out a group of images that you like.

Cut images out of magazines, maps, photographs, memorabilia, newspapers, post cards, wrapping paper, comics etc. Images can be completely random and totally eclectic. What connects them is your liking them and that’s all!

We suggest you allow about 20 minutes to half an hour on this part of the task.

The trick with this stage is not to get blocked or worried about what you’re going to do with the images.

Step 2. Select a Word

Have a quick read through all the words below. Without thinking too much, choose a word that you like the sound of. Just one word.

Fog, Scrape, Christmas decoration, Maraca, Ice-cream, Leaf, Yellow submarine, Ruler, Lightning rod, Internet, Headache, Brick wall, Picture frame, Nail polish, Raisins, Fire extinguisher, Home, Basket ball, Airport, Mirror, Together, Coat hanger, Ball room dance, Shooting star, Upside down, Sideways, Animal parade, Fishing net, South Pole, Doll’s house, Sore throat, Gingerbread man, Tooth brush, Handkerchief, Ankle, Bull’s-eye, Stick Figure, Shoulder pad, New shoes, Newspaper, Superhero, Helium balloon, Belly button, Circus, Seashell, Wine glass, For sale, Goggles, Hula hoop, Sandwich, Fly swatter, Alone, Code, Beach, Slot machine, Lawn, Toilet paper, Coat hanger, ATM machine, Top hat, Light at the end of the tunnel, Type writer, Cork, Crowd, Tennis elbow, Diamond ring, Ice skate, Holiday Cellphone, Broken, Tomato Ketchup, Self-service, Credit card, Peanut, T-shirt, Rosemary

Write the word in your book. You can write it in normal writing, or you can write it in a very visual font (if that appeals). 

That’s it! Now you are ready for Step 3!

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Step 3. Working with Images & Words

Go back to your pile of  selected images and start to randomly stick them in your book – you don’t have to work on one page only, but can work on as many pages as you like. If you created “spaces & places” in your sketchbook you can choose which of these you want to work with.  You don’t have to work in chronological page order. If you are stuck for ideas, just start sticking – but have your word in the back of your mind all the time.

The process may seem very random to start with but the combination of the word and images will start to trigger your imagination and evoke memories, ideas or a visual stories. Without realizing it you will start to connect images together.

As you start to stick the images in your book, you may decide to cut your images up further, changing their meaning and using different elements from images. Don’t be afraid to cut into and jumble up images.

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Use as many pages of your sketchbook as you like. Follow your instinct. When you hear that voice inside your head saying “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “This isn’t working” just ignore it!!

If a thought or idea pops into your head as you are cutting and sticking, write it down on the page.

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The point of this exercise is to get ideas flowing and enjoy the process of working in a sketchbook. There is not a right or wrong way of joining up images and unexpected combinations and connections are likely to be made. 

Have fun!


Acknowledgement: ideas and photographs acquired from