Ever wanted learn how to combine collage and stencilling within a single artwork? Join Ngarigu artist Peter Waples-Crowe to learn how to create a multi-layered, two-dimensional artwork using stencilling, collage, found imagery and hand drawing, and hear why these processes are important to him.
The resources on this page provide a step-by-step guide to creating your own mixed-technique artwork.
Appropriate age groups/school levels:
These workshops have been developed to appeal to students and teachers of all year levels. Please use discretion when deciding on the appropriateness of these workshops for your students.
Key term etymology:
The word collage has evolved over time from the Greek kolla (‘glue’), to Old French colle (‘to glue’), to Modern French coller ‘a pasting’, to contemporary English usage collage, which describes both an artwork made by sticking materials down on a support and the techniques used to make it.
About the Artist:
Peter Waples-Crowe is a Ngarigu, Melbourne-based artist, who works across performance, sculpture, drawing, collage, costuming and scenic design. Waples-Crowe’s intersectional identity, as an Indigenous and gay man, is a central area of exploration within his art practice and the subject of many of his artworks. Within his community Waples-Crowe is an emerging queer Elder, someone to whom younger Indigenous and queer people can look for guidance when finding their own place in the world. In addition, Waples-Crowe is a community health worker, and his experiences in the fields of Indigenous and LGBTQIA2+ health also contribute toward his creative practice.
Collage and stencilling are two studio methods that Waples-Crowe uses extensively because they allow him to combine found imagery, colour, texture and shape to create complex, multi-layered compositions that are rich in symbolism, narrative and visual language. These techniques are all also highly accessible, being low-tech and inexpensive, and can be practised with simple equipment, minimal space and without hazardous materials. This suits Waples-Crowe well for working in his compact studio, which is also a room in his home.
“I’m inside the (Aboriginal) culture because I’m Aboriginal, I’m outside because I’m gay. I’m inside gay culture because I’m gay, I’m outside because I’m Aboriginal.”– Peter Waples-Crowe, ABC, 2018
Examples of the Artist’s Artworks on Display:
What you will need:
- Found imagery (magazines, newspapers and old books are good sources)
- Cardboard (cereal boxes are a good source)
- Paint brush
- Pencils (greylead and/coloured)
- Two water pots (one for thinning glue and the other for washing paint brushes)
- Scalpel or Stanley knife
- Cutting mat
- Stickers (optional)
Set up your work space with all your materials and equipment.
Note: If using a scalpel or Stanley knife be sure to do so under supervision and to use a cutting mat so as to not damage the surface on which you are working.
Search through your found imagery for images that resonate with you. Peter Waples-Crowe often selects historical images of Indigenous people because he is interested in critiquing the strange and inaccurate ways in which Indigenous people have been portrayed through the colonial lens. Perhaps you can find some images that represent an element of your identity, and then use these to create an artwork that speaks of your own experience. Cut out or tear a selection of these images and put them aside.
From your collection of images choose one that you would like to turn into a rough-cut stencil. An image with high contrast and well defined positive and negative spaces will be easier to turn into a stencil. Images with large a proportion of fine detail are not suitable. Next, using a pencil draw your image onto a piece of lightweight cardboard. Break down your image into shapes that isolate the darkest and lightest areas. Choose which areas to cut away – these will be where the paint will show through your stencil.
Note: Before you begin cutting be sure that the shapes you have drawn are connected and have joins that will allow them to remain attached to the main piece of cardboard. If using a scalpel or Stanley knife always cut away from your body – that way if the blade slips you will not hurt your self.
Once finished cutting place your stencil on top of your paper. Being careful not to let the stencil move around while you use your paintbrush to gently dab paint onto the open areas. Always wipe excess paint from your brush to ensure you do not clog up your stencil. When you have painted each open area carefully lift your stencil away to reveal your image. Is the image surprisingly different from how you expected it to be? If so, in what ways?
You now have the basis for your multi-media artwork. The next step is to collage your found imagery onto your stencil. Experiment with arrangement by laying down your images in different positions before you glue them. Try cutting some and tearing others to get a range of edge effects. Consider both symbolic meaning and visual language – will you cover parts of your stencil with your images? Will you try to create juxtaposition within your composition? Will you try to create a sense of harmony or conflict in your composition? How will you achieve that? How can you combine found images with art element and principles to create a dynamic composition that is also rich in meaning? Will your images complement or clash with the colour of the paint used for your stencil? What aesthetic effects might this have?
Once you have collaged some or all of your cut or torn images begin working into the image using greylead, coloured pencil or markers. You can draw over certain elements to heighten or lower their visibility in the overall artwork. You could use line to extend some parts of your images further into the composition. You could also colour-in some areas while leaving others intentionally blank. This can be a good stage at which to try to make your composition more cohesive by using pencil to ‘join’ certain areas to one another. Another option is to add stickers at this point – letter and number stickers can be used to incorporate names, dates, and words to add another dimension of information to your artwork.
Stand back from your artwork. What are its aesthetic effects? Does it communicate a message? Does it radiate any particular feeling or mood? Does it surprise you or differ from your intentions? At this stage you can either decide that your artwork is finished or that you would like to keep working on it. You can revisit any of the stages – stencil a new layer over the top (perhaps using a different colour paint), collage more found imagery, or draw onto your image further. Where you choose to stop is up to you.
Invite friends, classmates or family to view your artwork. Ask them what their impressions are and note if they see things in your work that you had not, or which surprise you.
Extension: Create another artwork using the same techniques but change the order in which you apply them. Experiment with the effects of this – are the final results very different? Do you prefer one order over another?
1. Why did you choose your stencil image, what are its interesting formal and/or symbolic features?
2. How did your choice of found images add meaning to your artwork? And what are those meanings?
3. How did you find the experience of combining stencil, drawing and collage? What were some creative successes and practical challenges of working with multimedia?
4. What does your artwork say about you as an artist? Does it represent your personality, identity or interests in any way? What do you think a viewer would imagine about you if they saw this artwork before meeting you personally?