Collage for Surreal Swap
Copyright © 1997

One of the many art mailing lists I've been on sponsored a Surreal Swap. Here is how I did the above image...

I went through my large collection of collage papers and selected images that I might want to use, making sketches along the way as I narrowed down my choices and planned elements that I would have to fabricate. I made a tracing of the sketch to aid in positioning and cutting out the colored paper objects.

Next I decided what rubber stamps I was going to need. I carve a lot of my own rubber stamps but for this swap I used mostly commercially produced stamps. The man/fly and clown sandwich are by Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers, the melting clock is from the Museum of Modern Rubber, the duck and green foliage are by Appalachian Art Stamps, the numbers are from an unknown toy set from Wal-Mart, and the small numbering stamp was purchased at Office Depot. The palm tree pattern on the large green shape was made with a stamping marker by Rose Art. The only hand carved stamp in the picture is the "paramecium" shape stamped in yellow and blue on the "ground" part of the image.

From the "bottom" up, here is how I built up the image... The sky was cut from sky-patterned copy paper then glued down. Then I stamped the pink numbers on the light pink "mountain" range, cut that out and glued it. Next was the pale yellow "ground", stamped with yellow and blue paramecium shapes. I drew a black horizon line and purple cacti with marker. Then I stamped the green foliage and glued down the orange plant, which was a found magazine picture. I stamped the palm trees on the lime green paper, cut out the weird shape, glued on the smiley face found picture, glued the green thing down and outlined it in thin black marker to set it off from the background.

Only the duck, clown sandwich, and melting clock elements were left to fabricate. I stamped the duck in black on blue paper, the clock on pale green, and the clown sandwich on purple. I cut out the images. Each image had some little marks around it that indicated space. The duck has little lines to simulate the water's surface, the clown sandwich has little crumbs that define the space the sandwich is sitting on, and the clock has a shadow rendered in dots. When cutting these images out of the colored paper, I trimmed off these marks and retained only the object itself. I then applied the rubber stamps again in black right on the actual collage in their designated spots, then glued down the colored cut outs in the correct spot over the black stamped image. That gave a bit more realistic sense of space to the objects.

Since it was a Surreal Swap, I broke many rules of perspective but followed others. For example, in a landscape cool colors are usually in back and warm colors are up front. I followed that rule in the sky, mountain, ground progression. Fine, sharp detail is usually up front and softer, less contrasting areas are in back. I pretty much followed that rule too. Then I messed up the space by making the mountains completely flat, by making the duck and the clown sandwich float in strange places, and by making the yellow ground drop away as a vertical plane instead of horizontal like it's supposed to. The paramecium shapes try to make it a conventionally horizontal, while the clock makes it vertical and they fight with each other. The green and orange foliage bases are obviously supposed to be growing from in front of the duck, but the duck floats for some reason in front of the plants instead of behind. Also the duck is simultaneously floating on air and water at the same time. I did this stuff on purpose, I assure you! It was fun to mess up the spatial relationships like that. The sky, the fly man, and the big green shape are about the only things in the picture that obey the laws of nature.

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