Animator & Illustrator Bela Unclecat on the Benefits of Movable Collages
Bela, you use a variety of techniques in your art. Among them all, collage has its own place. What attracts you to this technique?
I use collage mostly as a sketchbook practice — as a fun brain exercise in the moments when I want to make something quick and spontaneous. Often I make collage illustrations after a tiring day or in the morning to warm up. Collages allow me to create something unusual and unexpected, something I can't achieve by usual drawing. I find myself thinking differently when I cut paper, arrange it and glue. I see it more as a puzzle or some kind of a game — it actually brings me a special joy and allows me to think outside of the box.
What kind of materials do you use?
I use whatever I can find at home: all sorts of paper, newspapers, leftovers from my previous illustration projects, colored paper, pieces from food packages etc. I have a big collection of paper, which I recently arranged in different files by color and size, so I can quickly find the piece I need. I especially like handmade and recycled paper.
What are the benefits of the collage and paper cutouts techniques?
There are many benefits! I guess for me the main benefit is the speed and the possibility to rearrange stuff. You can quickly create something nice by cutting big pieces of different textures and the outline made with scissors is very accurate and sharp. Reaching this effect with drawing is not so easy and requires more time. And if you directly draw something on paper you can't simply move it to another corner — you have to act from what you’ve already made. With collages you can move parts along the surface to find the perfect spot for it before you glue it on. And because normally I don't just glue a piece on a first place that comes to mind the result often turns out quite surprising! Another benefit is the possibility to make movable parts — to bring the illustration to a different dimension. I like when a collage can move a little and often try to think if I can leave some parts unglued and play around with the movement.
We really like your movable paper characters and illustrations. How did you come up with them and what kind of mechanisms are you using?
I first started to make them when I was volunteering in an animation studio for children called "Poisk" back in Novosibirsk. Children there make paper puppets to animate their own stories. I was helping them with animation and learnt a lot about it myself. Actually children showed me how to make puppets using a needle and a thin wire and I still find this way to be my favorite. With this mechanism you can create an infinite amount of ideas of what and where to move. I think I’m a bit addicted to it — I often want to make a simple collage but end up putting a wire in at least one part of it.
How do you start your collage illustrations and characters, do you work with preliminary sketches?
Since collage for me is mostly a sketchbook practice, I like to keep them spontaneous and quick. Often it's something abstract combined with paint. Or sometimes I think "oh, i want to make a paper doll of a girl on a skateboard" then I sit and make it, but still it's quick and without any sketch upfront. In rare cases when I want to make a detailed illustration I make a rough sketch before.
How would you describe your style of work, what is your method of working with collage, decoupage, and paper cut-outs?
I would say it’s colorful and fun. Whether it’s a silly character or an abstract piece, it’s mostly something cheerful and light. In the future I'd love to make more detailed and big projects using the collage technique, as well as animations and books! It's a huge field with lots of possibilities to experiment.