Master retro collage illustration

Ciara Phelan’s

beauty of the found

When viewing Ciara Phelan’s artwork, a sense of fun and exuberance is clearly visible. “I love that I never know how a collage will turn out before I start searching for imagery. I never know what I might find or how I might be inspired – this keeps everything quite exciting,” she enthuses.

“My work is predominantly playful and visually packed,” Ciara says, explaining that she harvests source images for her artwork from her collection of vintage encyclopaedias and books that she scours from charity shops, eBay and markets. “I like images that have character and imperfections, or images that are weird and unusual.”

Birds of Eden, artwork created by physically hanging cutout elements with a frame 

Ciara leaves these images as close as she can to their original state. “I will usually play with basic things such as the Levels, Curves or saturation,” she explains. “Some images are overly yellowed due to age, so I even this out slightly using Photoshop’s Selective Color function.”

When it comes to composing her artworks, Ciara allows herself to be guided by her images. “I usually cut a few main elements and start exploring how they work together,” she says. “This can take a while as it involves quite a lot resizing, flipping and rotation.”

Although she usually works with a colour palette in mind, where the original images don’t work she will colour sections of the source images in bright vector shapes, and add patterns, to give a more contemporary feel.

From there, it’s a question of experimenting with the composition until she hits on what feels right. “I love the journey of collaging, and not worry too much about where I’m going to end up,” she says.

Birds of a Feather


Fairground Fun, an illustration for the NSPCC that is now also available as a print

Return to feature intro

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...