This project was one of the last assignments in first semester, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Our task was to create a set of postcards using mixed media collage. They could be created manually or digitally (or both), and we needed to incorporate the following principles of design:
  • Colour (colour theory / schemes)
  • Contrast (dominance / subordinance and emphasis)
  • Movement and direction
  • Pattern (repetition and rhythm)

Japanese postcard collage - set of three

You can click on the image above to see a larger version of my set of three collages in Flickr. Following is a description of how my design came together, as well as individual pictures of the three pieces.

I'd never really done collage before, and found it difficult to decide on a theme beforehand. But as I thought about potential supplies that were available to me (textiles, tapes, magazines, patterned paper, wood, stamps, maps, paint, string, books, buttons, photographs, etc.), I started to form ideas for where I might begin. I enjoy origami, but I accumulate origami paper at a much faster rate than I can use it (thanks Daiso). So I decided to use my origami paper collection as a starting point for my collages - they would certainly provide the pattern element at the very least!

While sorting through my papers, I found a set that featured famous Japanese woodcut designs, including several from Hokusai's Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series. Beginning with the Fine Wind, Clear Morning design (sometimes called Red Fuji), I started to play around with how I might incorporate images of Mount Fuji into my collages. I held a piece of red patterned paper next to it to see how I might combine them, and found that the origami paper was slightly transparent and allowed patterned paper underneath to show through. I loved the effect, and this became the key to developing a design that included both dominant and subordinate patterns through the use of cut and layered paper.

I really enjoyed the fiddly cutting that was required to realise my idea, especially for the Shore of Tago Bay design. Total satisfaction for the side of me that loves details! The next element that I incorporated was pages from a Japanese book I found at a Little Free Library - you never know what treasures you will come across in a Little Free Library just when you need them! These provided a great accent, and an additional source of pattern.

Finally, I wanted to add the kanji characters for Mount Fuji (Fujisan) to the pieces. I did some research on the characters and how to draw them correctly. I used a Japanese brush ink set with an inkstick and inkstone to create them. I ground up fresh black ink (very exciting to finally try this out!), and wrote out the characters many times. Rather than draw directly on to the collage, I selected the best of my practice efforts and scanned them onto the computer. I then added them to the collages digitally using Adobe Illustrator for the final printed layout.

Fine Wind, Clear Morning

Japanese postcard collage (1 of 3)

Shore of Tago Bay, Ejiri at Tōkaidō

Japanese postcard collage (2 of 3)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Japanese postcard collage (3 of 3)

So there you go - my little tribute to Hokusai and Japan in collage.

Special thanks to my friend Kate for gifting me the patterned origami paper that I used in these collages. It was just perfect for the traditional Japanese origami designs that I wanted to showcase :)