Figurative Collage Set on Flickr

Sketch for How May I?, mixed media collage on paper, 2009 by Sarah Atlee Sketch for How May I?, mixed media collage on paper. Click image to view on Flickr.

For about ten years now I have collected pictures to use as ideas for new pictures.* I often start a painting by gathering a small pile of image sources, either intuitively, because they seem to go together, or for a specific purpose. I used to create a pencil-and-paper sketch of these various sources, attempting to synthesize them visually before starting the painting. I would also scan them, resize them, struggle through PhotoShop layers to get them to fit together just right. At some point I thought, "what I really want is this head on that body," and went: rip, slap, tape, done. I realized that the collage is visual shorthand for my pictorial plan. It didn't have to make sense compositionally; the collage is a convenient way for me to gather a group of visual sources onto a single page. Plus, the faster I make the collage, the more unexpected and interesting visual moments show up in the result.

I've scanned a bunch of these collages and uploaded them to this Flickr set. Enjoy.

*Old-school illustrators call this a swipe file. Though it was years before I learned that what I was doing was a traditional practice; before then I thought I was (gasp) stealing and that it was (gasp) wrong. Thank you, illustration.