DOWNTIME w/ Charlie Elms
1) Location? Folkestone, Kent, UK 🇬🇧
2) Years collaging? On and off for about 6 years, I’d say.
3) What do you love and hate about collage?
I’ll start with the things I hate...because I’m that kind of guy.
From a subject matter point of view, I’m not really interested in topical or political collages. That’s probably because I look to art for an escape and it kind of spoils it when Trump’s face pops up. (Even if it is on a pig’s body, in a compromising position with Putin :) I don’t ‘hate’ it, it just doesn’t draw me in.
I like the dreamy, surreal stuff, a combination of images that skews reality. I also enjoy experimenting with new methods and styles. Seeing everyone’s killer ideas and skills every day, gets me itching to go hunting and cutting.
The main reason I’m into collage is because I’m a massive photography fan. I can get lost in photos all day! With technology now, we’re spoilt rotten. Imagery is so accessible. (Almost too accessible?)
4) Biggest influences?
About ten years ago, I saw a series of John Stezaker’s work called ‘Old Mask’. He’d placed postcards of arches, bridges, caves and elds over black and white portraits, creating a mask. They really got me! I fell in love straight away. It was so simple, so effective. From his work, I learnt that simplicity is key. For me, less is definitely more.
Joe Webb was a massive inspiration when I started out doing digital stuff – and still is today. He’s a boss in this collage game! @joewebbart
Mr.babies is killing it on the analog scene. Damn, I love that dude. He’s the reason I got into to analog. If you don’t already know him, check his work out. @mr.babies
Photography-wise, I love Alexander Rodchenko. The way he captured shadows, and the moods he created with his work, was breathtaking.
Joseph Maddon is one of my favourite contemporary photographers. He works with some really interesting models and always picks great locations for his shoots. The man knows what he’s doing. @joseph_maddon
I could go on for ages, I follow some amazing artists, but my final mention has got to go to a highly skilled typographer called Scotty Russell, from Arizona. I met him online and did a little collaboration with him back in the day.
Apart from his dope typography work, Scotty just has best attitude to life and work. The volume of work he churns out is incredible, he releases creative podcasts and has built a great creative community. His hard work and positivity rubs off on me, so he is a big inspiration. @prspctv_cllctv
5) Analog Vs Digital?
My first proper collage, ‘Retro Perv’ was created in photoshop. I’m a full-time graphic designer by trade, so I pretty much live with a laptop on my knees.
I don’t know why, but I was attracted to images of porn stars of the 50-70’s era :) I guess I wanted to get a reaction. The photography was un-edited, more raw, and the women just seemed classier back then, no fake boobs, they weren’t orange from overdoing it on the sun- beds and they wore less make-up. Such a contrast to some of the creatures you see today.
I carried on digitally, experimenting with lm and motion, never really giving analog a thought. It was so easy to grab a cool image off a website and chop it up in photoshop, Bang! About an hour later and there it was. Even if the idea was good, it kind of started to feel a bit cheap and after a while I just fell out of love with the process.
Analog has reignited my passion for collage, and thrown a whole new light on it. I love the collecting aspect of it. Physically hunting through smelly old bookshops, depressing charity stands and muddy boot fairs. When you eventually nd that jackpot image, it’s so bloody rewarding. I tend to have an idea of what I’m looking for but always leave with a handful of something else entirely, and some new ideas.
For me now, it’s all about using second hand stuff. I like the idea of bringing to life an old dusty porn mag that’s been sitting in an attic for 30 years, and sticking it on the wall. With the time invested in collecting, then getting hands on with the cutting and sticking, the whole analog process of creating is more challenging & rewarding. The work feels like it has more value, more love, and actually makes me feel like an artist – not just someone who’s trying to be one.
6) How do you spend your downtime? My downtime is collage. Collecting, cutting and sticking. Other activities include arguing with my beautiful wife, trying to get my daughter to sleep and picking up dog shit.
7) Three tips for someone starting out in collage?
If you want to get into analog, some good advice is to start a collection of photos and imagery you love. Books, mags, your own photos, posters, toilet paper, whatever! If you have a good collection and style in mind, the rest is easy.
Develop your style by surrounding yourself with inspiration. It’s the best way to grow and develop. I’ve always thought that a designer is only as good as his inspiration.
Enjoy it, have fun and most importantly do it for yourself. The main reason I love it so much is because I’m in control, where as 5 days a weeks I’m working for other people.
8) Up and coming shows or projects we should know about?
I feel I need to grow, gain experience as an analog artist and build a good body of work before I plan any shows, gradually getting there though.
I’m currently building website, which will be live in about a month. Looking forward to that because I’ll be able to display all my uncensored work. If anyone is interested, I will post
it up on insta when it goes live, and I’d really appreciate people taking the time to have a browse.
Thanks to Kubi and the Sydney Collage Society for asking me to do this. I still feel pretty new to the field, so it’s been an honour and I’m very flattered to be featured.
PEACE & LOVE!
Artworks (top to bottom)
'Gone With The Wind' Digital collage
'Rockpool I' Analog collage
'Spin III' Analog collage
'Super Hands' Analog collage
'Disco' Analog collage
'Power To The People' Digital collage
'Room With A View' Analog collage
'Cupcake' Analog collage