Learn how to collage with artist Fiona Clabon

Illustrator and collage artist Fiona Clabon shares the inspiration behind her beautiful artwork and shares her tips for making your own collages.

Fiona Clabon collage

Hello I’m Fiona, the illustrator and owner of Fiona Clabon Illustration. I enjoy creating bright and bold illustrative products, designed to add a little joy, fun and colour to the home and as gifts for loved ones.

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All of my designs are created by hand using paper collage. To create my collage papers, I first roll out coloured printmaking inks onto a large board. Pressing a piece of plain paper down into the wet ink and then pulling the paper back up leaves the piece of paper covered with beautiful speckles of coloured inks.

These are the papers that I then cut up and use to make my collages with.

Once the collage is complete, my designs is transferred to the computer to then be printed as a range of products. I create and sell prints, greetings cards, and coasters.

Fiona Clabon illustration

How do you come up with your ideas?

My ideas normally come from things around me, and the things that I love or enjoy in life. I’m currently working on a coastal series which I’m really excited about, based on UK beaches and coastal towns I’ve visited that often have a little story to tell.

I normally sketch out ideas for designs first, or work from photographs I’ve taken, like with the coastal series for example. Once I have a rough composition sketched out I chose my papers and get cutting.

Fiona Clabon - Finished Product (1)

I find that starting is often the hardest bit – like having a brand-new notebook and wanting to make the first page really neat!

But once I get going I often get completely absorbed by the process, which also makes it a great way to turn off from other distractions in life.

Fiona Clabon - Studio Space (2)

What’s your workspace like?

I live and work in beautiful Bristol, which I absolutely love. I’ve worked from a studio space at BV Studios in Bristol for over two years now, and since having it I can’t imagine life without it again! I’m in a large room with ten other female creatives, ranging from illustrators to set designers and workshop facilitators.

Before moving to BV I was working in my parents’ house, but now having a studio space away from home has meant that I can easily separate my work and home life, which I love.

I think it’s really valuable and important to be able to have that distinction between the two and to be able to fully turn off at the end of a day and have a space to relax in that isn’t full of stock!

Making collage

How to create your own collages

It doesn’t have to be expensive hobby, which means anyone can have a go at collage. Try some with your children, family or on a lunch break at work – enjoy being absorbed in something completely different…

Making collage

1. Experiment and play!

If it doesn’t go quite right, it doesn’t matter, no one else is going to know. Chose colours you wouldn’t normally lean towards, and ideas you’ve not explored before. Play with combining different colours – perhaps choose three colours to start with and stick to this limited colour palette. How does using just black and white or muted tones effect your final result?

Fiona Clabon - Finished Product (2)

2. Try creative exercises

If you’re warming up or not quite sure what to collage (starting something is always the hardest bit) give yourself some creative exercises to do – for example I sometimes get a few pieces of paper out, and then set myself a five-minute timer on my phone to create something with these papers. You could also try tearing instead of cutting (the result will feel really different) or choosing one colour and then collaging with papers of varying tones of that colour. I find these kind of processes a great way to start collaging, to get ideas flowing and get any apprehension out of the way!

Fiona Clabon - Paper Making (6)

3. Make your own textured papers

I use printmaking inks to create textures on my papers, making each piece unique. You could try this too or try using different brushstrokes to add paint to papers, using wax crayons to make textured rubbings or soft pastels to create smooth marks.

Fiona Clabon - Making (2)

4. Wash your hands a lot!

Sticky fingers are inevitable and remembering to wash your hands frequently means you’re less likely to get sticking marks onto lighter coloured papers that just aren’t going to come off!

Fiona Clabon - Finished Product (3)

5. Choose your papers

Sometimes I find it easier to chose my papers first, to have them out in front of me as then that’s one of the decisions made so that when I start cutting it’s easier. It also means you can easily make sure you’re happy with your colours before you start sticking and it’s too late! Perhaps think about what mood or feel you’d like your collage to have, whether it’s bright and bold or a muted limited colour palette.

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See Fiona’s work in her Etsy shop or follow her on Instagram @FionaClabonIllustration.