Watercolour collage

As you may have spotted, I love watercolour. I want to see how far you can push it as a medium, so I like to explore new ways of using it. I run a weekly class, and thought that watercolour and collage would be an excellent topic to shake all my students out of any comfort zone.

Collage can be used in many ways:

To add texture – eg tissue paper stuck down to provide a wrinkly surface, or mountboard appliqued to the surface to add contour.

To repurpose failed paintings – rip them up (I think a ripped paper edge is nicer than a cut one) and then stick them down to make a new picture.

To add to a painting – collage on top or in addition to a painting.

To introduce pattern or colour to the background – applying papers (or other objects), which might then be coated with a watercolour ground and painted over.

I have enjoyed the latter process most, so here is an example:


First I ripped up some Indian newspaper and pasted it down (using pva glue) onto an off cut of mountboard. In general paste the heaviest weight surface and apply the more delicate. I then found some lovely tissue paper with peacock feathers and applied that. I used white watercolour ground to knock back the busy patterns and to allow watercolour to be absorbed into the surface. This needs to dry for 24 hours if at all possible. The more layers you add, the more absorbent it will be, but the pattern will be obscured. Of course you could use a transparent ground – it goes on white, but dries clear.


Once dry, I used different width pens to draw in the tuk tuk. I did not over finish the drawing, as I want to leave a role for the watercolour. If I have done too little, I can add later. It is harder to get rid of too much.

Then I used washes of watercolour avoiding the temptation to colour in my drawing. I want the paint to add a new dimension. Once dry, any line could be strengthened or a white pen can add highlights if needed.


My final act was to add three tiny pieces of text – on the front tyre, the roof luggage and the side panel.

My students spent the afternoon making interesting backgrounds, so I am excited to see what they will do with them next week. I hope to bring you a myriad of interesting collages next week!

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