Metaphorical Narrative

Author, Author: Reporter, Development, Projects, Visual Research, Workshops

Continuation of the Collage Workshop

After the first collage workshop where I collected images that were used directly to create new images, we were given the task within the studio to move on from this to create our own images using textures and paper types, focusing on the the use of shape. Based on a new sentence chosen from our selected Southampton texts, the overall aim of this second part of the workshop was to try and create metaphor and narrative based collages, not working with obvious imagery, but that which suggests what the sentence is communicating.


collaging textures and drawn elements

Inspiration and Motivation

Before beginning, we were shown examples of metaphorical imagery and how collage can successfully work as a method for this. My favourite examples were of Henri Matisse, who cleverly uses simple shapes composed very carefully, and Blexbolex whose cross layering of different coloured shapes creates depth and additional detail. I was encouraged by these examples to think about how I could recreate these techniques and appropriate them for my own desired outcomes.


Blex Bolex illustrations, taken from Seasons (Credit: authors image)

As well as these examples, I really liked the work of Isabel Greenberg because of her intriguing use of colour and dark backgrounds. I thought her use of colour would be useful as I was going to be working from the Spike Island by Philip Hoare which talks about the Gothic nature of Netley Abbey in Southampton. I really wanted to capture the atmosphere in my illustrations and thought Greenberg’s illustrations were a perfect example of what I wanted to achieve from the workshop.


Isabel Greenberg illustrations (Credit:

Challenges and Difficulties

Nature is my most favourite subject to draw. So naturally I gravitated towards a sentence from Spike Island that gave me an opportunity to draw plants, which was:

“Gothic patterns of windows wrapped round and round with ivy”

I encountered many issues with this sentence. The most prominent being that I picked it with preconceived ideas of drawing nature and I couldn’t seem to move past this when generating ideas and thinking metaphorically. I realised in that moment I had limited myself, as even though I pushed as far as I could and generated two collages, I found the thought of working on the collage brief quite daunting because I was stuck.

I was reluctant to change my sentence because I thought I had done a lot in the process of working towards the only two collages I generated, but once I realised I couldn’t get past this, I acknowledged that changing to another sentence of interest would allow me to open my mind up and adapt to the challenge of the brief and explore metaphorical imagery. My sentence changed to:

“The abbey’s morbid charms”


Exploring my initial sentence


Initial collages based on first sentence

Developing Ideas

Approaching this new sentence, I realised why this was immediately a better choice than the one before it, because I chose to focus on the word “morbid”. The word alone sets an atmosphere for the illustrations by giving myself the chance to explore the word morbid. The descriptions of Netley Abbey in Spike Island are very Gothic so I decided to come up with as much imagery as possible relating to this theme.

As my focus was wanting to use simple shapes effectively, something I experimented with when using the previous sentence, I thought I would continue using this as I quite liked the simplicity of the aesthetic and how layering different materials over others can create a level of depth and new detail to an image. Much like that of Blexbolex. Additionally, I found that working with tissue paper was effective for this because it’s translucent enough to let the choice of paper behind it affect it’s colour and texture. I decided, also based on my previous sentence test collages that I would work on black paper to enhance the atmosphere of darkness and morbidity in the sentence as well as the rest of the text, much like Isabel Greenberg’s illustrations.


Brainstorming the word “morbid” from the sentence


Visual exploration of the word “morbid”


Pre-collage composition sketches

Final Outcomes

Overall, despite my initial struggle with collage and trying to work with metaphors and narrative, I was pleased with my final outcomes because I immediately imagined them making up a graphic novel, much like some I saw at my visit to Gosh! Comics. I like how well I considered composition as the negative space enhances eeriness but also the colours are really bold and bright against the black background which is particularly striking in reference to the text and recurring mention of the moon light.

To improve and push these further, I don’t think I would develop the drawn element into these collages because I think the boldness of the shapes alone are stronger visually but I do think I should find another way to experiment with drawing and collage to capture an atmosphere. Also I;m not pleased with the use of hand rendered type. It feels misguided and with the success of the collages, I feel as though I could benefit from more considered type with my images, either that or I do further investigation into hand drawn typography.




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