Richmond Barracks

Collage making with Colin

Last month, we were delighted to welcome Colin Eaton, architect and artist, to Richmond Barracks where he ran an in-person collage workshop.

Below, Colin shares some of the wonderful creations made by participants in the workshop, gives an overview of the day, and shares some of the exercises the group took part in, so you could even have a go at making your own at home.


Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone who attended the workshop for your curiosity, creativity and fantastic level of engagement. Your input, creativity and  chats and conversation helped make the workshop memorable and meaningful.  

We started with a brief overview of what collage is. What does the word mean? We then looked briefly at the history of collage  and after that I showed you a selection of my work.  

Then we looked at the basics of cut and paste. Ways of cutting, (and tearing), various ways to paste and the variety of  backgrounds which can be used. We looked at some handy tools to have – such as cutting mat, tweezers and a tray of some  sort to place your cut pieces so they don’t get lost in all the scraps of paper!  

As the group worked,  I highlighted some useful mantras:

Warming up

We started with an introductory exercise. We took a sheet of white card which I had pre-cut it into strips along 90% of its length and I asked participants to bend it, fold it, curl it  or whatever they saw fit. This allows you the freedom to play with the paper and get the feel of manipulating paper.

Cuts and tears

We then looked at the various effects achieved by cutting or tearing paper and how cutting with scissors and knife can yield different results. We saw that tearing or ripping with or against the grain will affect the edge condition. We experimented with this. We also placed our coloured card on the table and put a ruler on it and then whilst pressing on the ruler to lift we pulled  the card and I showed you that the rough edge is called a deckled edge.

The Wheel

We then did a longer exercise, which I call “The Wheel”. This exercise is ideally done in a round table format in groups but  because of the current situation I devised that each member of the group would affix a piece which you had cut out and then pass to the next  person. The aim of the exercise is to understand visual balance and the visual categories of front/back, background/foreground. It also helps you become aware of the relevance of the placement of elements and to achieve balance and dominance of form and  colour.  

Two wheels were created and here they are below. It’s interesting that they have a more ‘top, middle and bottom’ composition rather than a radial wheel like one. This may actually have been because we weren’t sitting in two groups around a table and doing simultaneously. There is a compositional awareness and structure to each so well done to everyone who took part.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd - when less is more

In our next exercise we looked at doing more with less. We considered composition and when enough can be enough. The  idea of trying to tell a story by reducing the elements used to a minimum. I asked the group to create a collage using just three elements. It’s an exercise in discipline and teaches you to work with what you have – limited as that might be in some cases.  Again, everyone took to the task and the results were great. 

The inspiration of the poet

The next exercise was “The Inspiration of The Poet”. We looked at reappropriation of imagery and context. We took an already existing piece of work, in this instance the painting The Inspiration of the Poet which was created by Nicolas Poussin in 1629. I showed how this painting was an inspiration for a painting by Derek Jarman, Spring – Inspiration of the Poet, which he painted in 1965.  

Everyone in the workshop was given a colour copy of the painting and I asked everyone in the group create their own intervention on the piece, altering it in whatever way they wished. I suggested using magazine imagery to cut and paste elements onto the original piece or  even to cut pieces out of the original image. Anything at all. It was an exercise in ‘seeing’. What did you see? Why did you see  it? The  interventions were creative and inventive and a joy to watch. What we learnt was that through collage we can alter scale and perception and timelines. We can be political. We can be humorous. We can be like the Surrealists. Endless  possibilities.

Wise words from Willy Wonka

Some of you may remember the wonderful 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory featuring Gene Wilder as  the eccentric, but fabulous Willy Wonka.

As he said in the film,, “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll be free if you  truly wish to be”.  

And in that vein, I hope that in some way I released new parts of the imaginations of the group, and to you reading this today. 

Everyone in the workshop entered into the spirit of the workshop with ample curiosity and creativity and engagement. Thank you all for attending and participating. In giving we receive, and I certainly left with a great buzz and sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at seeing everyone’s work.  

Here’s to pure imagination and creativity!


Colin Eaton is a visual artist working mainly in the medium collage. Based in Dublin, he trained initially as an architect. He has since gone on to develop his art practice focusing mainly on collage techniques and including painting, graphics and mixed media. His work has been published in several magazines and web sites in Ireland, France and USA and he has had several group and solo exhibitions. He has also written several articles for design and art publications and has curated and given workshops in the medium.

Posted 08 February 2022
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