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A Cut Above: The Surreal Collage Art of Lola Dupré

By Charles Purdy

We can’t get enough of artist and illustrator Lola Dupré’s precisely fragmented, surrealist collage creations. So (as we often do when we spot art that makes us say “Wow!” or “How?!”) we asked her if she’d like to be interviewed. Dupré kindly said yes—but that we’d have to conduct the interview by sending emails back and forth, as she was in the midst of moving from one country to another.

Create: So where are you moving to? Your portfolio site says you’re in Spain now; is that right?

Lola Dupré: I am actually moving to Spain. We were living in Ireland, and we are literally on the train right now from London to Lyon. So I will actually possibly be answering these questions in two separate countries as the Eurostar zips along under the English Channel.

I love Spain. We lived there a few years ago and have been looking forward to going back. I love the pace of life in Spain, the culture, the food—and the climate is just icing on the cake. Though we are sorry to leave Ireland, a magical country that I truly love and where I have met some of the sweetest and nicest people.

I have always found it very inspiring and enjoyable to travel, and I have lived in a few countries across Europe. I think it’s amazing how much things can change just in the space of a few miles really.

Create: How would you describe your work?

Dupré: I guess it would be paper collage inspired by digital collage. I think the lines dividing things are blurred. At the moment, I am most interested in fashion and style collaborations.

collage image of a woman by Lola Dupre
collage image of woman with 13 arms by Lola Dupre
collage image of woman in hat by Lola Dupre

Create: What do you mean by “inspired by digital collage”—how does digital art inform your work or your process?

Dupré: All the cutting and pasting I do is with scissors and paper. The only digital work I do is when I am preparing a file for print. Or when I have a photo of the finished collage, I’m usually working with a retoucher who improves the colors and contrast digitally.

I think today when you hear the word collage, you might assume that we’re talking about digital collage. With digital manipulation being so prevalent in our culture, almost every billboard and magazine is full of digital manipulation, digital collage. And with my surroundings being my principal inspiration, digital collage becomes equally so. The effect of digital manipulation is usually very clean, no mess—objects cut out and arranged together or a waistline squashed, stretched, and manipulated. This kind of body modification is interesting for me, and it is kind of what I am doing a lot of the time. Exploring how far things can be stretched and manipulated. Also the classic copy-paste of digital collage—this is what I do, but with paper. I’m not cutting up one or two pages of paper but many.

Create: That's an interesting notion. So how do you make your collages? For instance, do you start with a good idea of what the finished piece will be? Do you sketch first, cut first?… I’m actually not sure I know how to ask about your process, I have to admit!

Dupré: I generally have a pretty good idea of what I am trying to achieve, but I absolutely stay open to any happy accidents that might occur. I think my technique changes quite a lot between pieces; sometimes I sketch, sometimes not. Sometimes I cut twenty pieces, sometimes one at a time. I think it could be bad to become overly attached to one technique, so I try to change things around whenever I can.

collage image of Putin in a rainbow shirt, by Lola Dupre
collage image of David Cameron, by Lola Dupre
collage image of Khaddafi by Lola Dupre

Images from Dupré’s Political Portraiture series.  

Create: What materials and tools—paper, scissors, or glue—do you prefer?

Dupré: Usually I use 80gm paper, because I find this just thick enough to be rigid when coated with glue, and thin enough to not create too much of a surface texture on the final piece. Sometimes I work with thicker paper, and I want to do more of this in the future when I get a chance.

When it comes to scissors, I like them cheap and nasty, usually kid-friendly and in some garish color. I do not think I have ever used a quality pair—perhaps they would be better, I do not know. Usually I am not cutting curves, just straight lines, so all I need is a reliable and comfortable cut.

I find most glues pretty decent. I am always working with PVA glue, applied to the paper with a small, medium, or large brush.

collage image of woman in glasses by Lola Dupre
collage image of woman with two mouths by lola dupre
collage image of woman with three eyes, by Lola Dupre

Create: How did you get started as an artist—what is your background?

Dupré: My education is pretty limited really. When I was young, I was really interested in architecture, creative writing, and animation. I received some kind of practical education only really in the studios I used to work at. Principally in Scotland, England, and Switzerland. For the longest time I was fascinated by stop-motion and time-lapse, and I still love this. But these days I really appreciate and love the accessibility and availability of collage art.

Create: Were you encouraged as a young artist?

Dupré: I was always encouraged by my friends and the other artists I worked with. I do not think I was ever encouraged by any kind of institute or official organization.

I was often working with musicians, animators, painters, sculptors—and I think it was always an encouraging, friendly, and constructive atmosphere where I was supported and exposed to new techniques and ideas.

Create: What inspires you these days?

Dupré: Pretty much everything. Right now, I am inspired by the French countryside. Next week I will be in Barcelona, and that will be my inspiration. I find everything and everyone to be inspiring in their own way. And if I was locked in a white cube, I would find that endlessly inspiring too. Inspiration is like air.

Create: What’s a project you're excited about now?

Dupré: Right now I am working again with Penguin Books, a cover illustration for Haunted Castles, by Ray Russell. It is my second project with them, and I always find them to be a really great and professional team to work with. The layout is one of their classic cover compositions, so it really is an honor and a pleasure to work for this format.

Create: It has been fantastic talking with you. One last question: What are three things you’ve learned that young artists should know?

Dupré: 1. Try to never burn your bridges, because one commissioning editor will more than likely be working elsewhere in a year or two, and will more than likely commission you again if the experience the first time was good. 2. Give everything you have—if you are expected to supply one sketch, give at least two. 3. Of course take pride and pleasure in your work. It could be years before it becomes profitable, so it must be a labor of love. Unless you are exceptionally talented, you will have to practice your craft a lot.

collage image of New York skyline by Lola Dupre
collage portrait of a man

Check out much more of Dupré’s work on Behance.