I love photomontage. I love the idea of creating a mash-up of images and I’ve been exploring it’s modern sibling – photoshop. I should enjoy the freedom to juxtapose any photo, shape of colour of my choosing, but here’s the problem: I was initially defeated by my own technical ineptitude. Yes, I know - read a manual, but even basic, ‘for-dummies’ guides are not aimed at techno-fuckwits like myself.
And so I chose my images: a street scene, a man juggling whilst riding a unicycle, a rabbit, a blue bus and a shot of a recognisable, even iconic famous person, for reasons I shall explain later. I am ready to start creating, except that I can’t assemble the separate layers, until a friendly library technician (speaking so slowly I think he’s going to shout: “Do you want to go to the toilet?” as if I am ‘deluded and confused’) patiently demonstrates a mystical process involving a magic lasso, and carefully drawing around the outline of a bunny.
The next step is the hand-tinting (or for smart-alecks, the colouring-in) and so it’s time for my first trip to the art store, where I soon become a legend: with no knowledge of the pros and cons of the different materials, I ask vaguely for something in silver and gold, returning several times to pick up a selection of strident blues, shades of grey in pastel, pencil and let’s be frank – crayon. My best discovery is the joyous metallic Indian ink.
I spend time layering colour, tinting and obscuring the street elements and shimmering misty semi-images, in an approximation of what I saw a few years ago, when I went temporarily blind (which is even less fun than you might expect). My mind could not process the dwindling information my optic nerve was relaying, and so I saw people on the street at dusk as jugglers on unicycles.
A huge bunny rabbit became the emblem for what happened, as that's what my mind showed me – not really a bunny, but a man waving his arms around. Finally, I add a recognisable face vexatiously obscured, which happens even now (it’s James Dean in case you didn’t guess.) Next, an azure bus, which soon became beautiful to me, since blue was the only colour I could perceive.
To my amazement, the incredible website and huge artists support network Central Station select this image as work of the day. For the first time, I actually feel like I might be on to something. It’s also shown in
Unfortunately, I had used ordinary photocopy paper, not specialist water resistant paper, and when the finished picture was finally immortalised in a lovely silver frame, it returns with a noticeable crease, which - mercifully - I manage to ease out. Lesson learned.
I used the hand-tinted photomontage technique to develop another picture in the sequence, which I am asked to lend to the Whitelines Gallery in
, for a show on Drawing. My response to the lovely curator Leigh Chorlton is to question his sanity. He’s saner than most, so I deliver the picture. And just so you know, I remember that rabbit fondly. Edinburgh