Friday, June 14, 2013

Picture Collages

No doubt, a single stunning picture trumps a slew of mediocre pictures.

But sometimes a single “perfect” photo, the one that looks just like a post card, is boring.  Somehow that one picture doesn’t tell the whole story. 

Culling through images, bringing together those pictures that best tell a story, convey a theme, evoke a feeling, or document a trip or event makes for a thoughtful and creative collage.

The idea of combining several images into one work of art appeals to my quilter’s aesthetic.  I never know exactly what to call these groupings of pictures – collections, collages, story boards, or mosaics?  I think of these photo groupings as picture quilts. 

A whole cloth quilt, one where a single swath of fabric is intricately quilted with lines and curves, becomes rich with contour and texture.  Simple elegance is the defining feature of these quilts. You cannot resist running your hands over them to trace the designs or wrapping your body within them to seek warmth and comfort.  These quilts are like the one stunning image that will stand alone.

hosta abstract

The patchwork quilt, on the other hand, combines blocks, often in repeating patterns, with consideration of design elements like color, value, shape, size, texture, space, and line.  Quilts, like photos depend on the basics of composition – contrast, emphasis or focus, balance, unity, pattern, movement and rhythm. 

Quilt styles, whether fabric or photo collages, may be traditional with repeating patterns such as a Nine Patch Square . . .

nine patch quilt blocknine patch quilt

. . . or more contemporary with improvisational piecing, non-repeating patterns, stripes, or bold and graphic designs.

Crazy Light Quilt
{Crazy Lights}

Life On The Farm
{Life On The Farm}

Pieces of Me Quilt
{Pieces Of Me}

Type “photo templates” into a Google search and loads of options will appear, many of them free. Making a photo collage can be as simple as “dragging and dropping” pictures into ready-made boxes.  Drag, drop, click, flatten, save.

But the art of combination lies in choosing and arranging the images (and not only the image, but sometimes which small part of the image).  Those pictures that make the cut are most likely the ones that begged to be made.  And the arrangement will depend on the story I am  trying to share. I let instinct, intuition and possibility guide the way.  I struggle to release my perfectionism, and often find the most pleasing picture quilts come from my mistakes.

Stormy Skies Quilt
{Stormy Skies}

This photo quilt, Stormy Skies, is a combination of pictures I almost tossed or didn't even consider worth taking - a cloudy sky before an evening storm while listening to Music on the Library Steps, the curves and lines of a Hosta plant along my path to work downtown, and an old umbrella left behind in an abandoned and neglected home. In the quilter's vernacular, these are called "fussy cuts," where the beautiful but small strip or square is salvaged from an otherwise ordinary piece of fabric.  For the photographer, the "fussy cut" is a simple crop.   

Whether single or grouped, there is pleasure enough in pictures to bring the fast pace of life to a stroll, the path of a lonely heart to a friend, and the fears we think we have hidden to the light of a new day. 

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