In the ancient days, before Photoshop was invented, I first started doing collage work. I did them the old-fashioned way: by cutting out images with scissors and gluing them onto board, and then retouching and outlining things with pen & ink. I’ve always liked collage, especially with Victorian engravings. I just liked the aesthetic of those line-art images and how they combined, making new images with new meanings. This technique later developed into my current style of combining engravings in Photoshop, but these are the crude beginnings.
Some of these images served as inspiration for colored-pencil drawings, such as this one. I enjoy exploring a good idea with different media just to see where I can take it.
I like collage because it frees me up to discover unexpected juxtapositions, which is the essence of surrealism. Plus, I can work quickly, allowing me to see if an idea will work or not without wasting a lot of time. I prefer to work quickly, mainly because I have so many ideas I want to explore and I am impatient!
Some collages, like this Book Mite (above), were repurposed. This little fellah, created over 30 years ago, will be appearing in my upcoming book, Willoughby’s World of Wonder, where he will be joined by 131 other fantasy creatures. You’ll see the Goddess of Flight in Willoughby’s too!
Making collage the old-fashioned way helped me to hone my technique in collage, and developed my style. In fact, when I started making collage in Photoshop (around 1999), I actually forgot all about these early collages, thinking I was starting something new. That’s why I enjoy going through my old work: I discover the roots of my current work in the work I did decades ago. That’s why I tell young artists to keep all your old work, because someday you’ll look back on it and make new discoveries about yourself.