A collage by Fabiano Piasecki A collage by Fabiano Piasecki

Escape to Collage

By Eric Alt

Eclectic collage is Fabiano Piasecki’s form of escape. “It’s the type of art I like to do to relax,” says Piasecki, who works by day as art director for Grupo RIC Paraná, a Brazilian multimedia and content agency. “I have no deadlines. I just do it for myself, so I am free to create.”

His pieces incorporate striking and sometimes aggressive imagery, typically in tightly clustered arrangements on stark white backgrounds. They often imply a strong message, but Piasecki maintains he creates them without the guardrails of a preconceived editorial point or a soapbox. “In my job, I need to follow some rules. In my artwork, I am free to create and I’m having fun,” he says. He leaves his pieces untitled because he prefers to let them speak for themselves.

Piasecki says he is drawn to the collage style because it is everything his other disciplines are not. His collages aren’t as meticulous as a sketch, nor as heavily structured as the ad campaigns or branding and identity packages he designs at work.

“I like the collage style because it allows me to use different types of photo images, handmade designs, vectors,” says Piasecki. “It is where I can mix styles that form a new style. I like it because I never get stuck to a visual standard. It allows for infinite possibilities.”

Piasecki knew the impact he was going for when he hit upon the core image for the above series. “I remember that I wanted to represent something related to war and the bad things that are part of it,” he says. “So I started with the heart and then I added other images. I wanted everything somehow to be part of this heart, as if it were one thing, something like a planet with things going on inside.”

FINDING HIS FORM

Born and raised in Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná in southern Brazil, Piasecki grew up knowing that a creative life was ahead of him. “I always liked to draw when I was a kid,” he says. Helping fuel his creative drive was his aunt, Teca Sandrini, an abstract artist and director of Curitiba’s Museu Oscar Niemeyer, who was instrumental in Piasecki’s early education in art appreciation. He studied advertising design at Pontificia Universidade Católica do Paraná, and worked for five years at several agencies in the Curitiba area before landing at Grupo RIC Paraná as art director.  Soon after he started working, Piasecki began collaging as a pressure release valve and a way to stay in touch with the playfulness of art.

Today, Piasecki is a self-described artistic hoarder, picking up inspiration from other art forms, artists, and the world around him. He refers to collage as the “glue” that joins many styles together in one place.

Piasecki points out that the term collage comes from the French word coller, or “to glue.” It’s a relatively young art form, with its roots in the avant-garde of the early 1900s—a style Piasecki favors. Cubist artists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are credited with its popularization, and they likely took the name from the physical need to cut, paste, and glue materials together. Today, software like Adobe Photoshop has made the collage easier to construct digitally, but the notion that it adheres together varied art forms—from painting and photography to three-dimensional textures and objects—keeps its name relevant.

Piasecki playfully refers to this piece as “my melting head.” The impact is entirely up to the viewer. “My intention was to show that there’s not exactly a meaningful image. Art doesn’t have to have a huge message behind it,” he says.

Piasecki finds concept inspiration in animated films and a wide variety of music. “I like punk rock and all sorts of heavy music, but I also love jazz and blues,” he says. “Even Brazilian music…I think it reflects in my work directly.” He admits his tastes are all over the place, which makes sense given the art form he’s gravitated towards—bits and pieces picked up from here and there, somehow forming a cohesive whole.

BITS AND PIECES

Piasecki’s nonchalant approach makes his finished products all the more impressive. “There is no rule that I follow. Often I see a picture and I think, ‘I will start something with this one.’ Other times I have a rough idea of what I want and I search for images.”

Piasecki has mined rights-free images from stock agencies and has recently been using more of his own photography. “I think it makes my work more authentic,” he says, “and I don’t run the risk of someone else using the same image.”

To achieve his unique muted color palettes and image design, Piasecki relies on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The tools of his day job, he finds them flexible enough to keep up with his loose, improvisational approach to his personal collage work.

“Photoshop and Illustrator are two tools I use a lot in Grupo RIC,” he says. “I have an affinity for them. Illustrator delights me with the possibilities of vector shapes that cannot be created in other software.” Piasecki’s feelings for Photoshop sound like a musician talking about his instrument of choice. “It is my favorite. It allows you to create and play. It is a versatile software and the more you learn to handle it, it’s like learning new notes. There is so much to learn in it.”

Piasecki’s advice to newcomers is to explore. Pick up what you can. Improvise. And have fun. “There are good tutorials on the internet,” he says. “But absolutely explore the software. Much of what I learned, I learned by myself.”

Piasecki enjoys his work as an advertising agency art director, but says he needs his eclectic collages to blow off creative steam.

HOW A COLLAGE COMES TOGETHER

Want to try collaging yourself? Here are some tips from Piasecki on how he constructed two of his pieces, from inspiration and raw assembly to final product.

This animated GIF shows Piasecki compositing pieces to represent Paraná, his home state, and ends with the final collage.

1. Start with a rough concept: In this poster, Piasecki crafted an emotional tribute to his home. “The central idea was to represent the state of Paraná,” he explains. “I wanted to represent the place that I live and love.” Piasecki emphasizes that in collaging, the images and the process of assembling them often inform or transform the piece, so be open to change as you go along.

2. Gather the elements: “Starting from the idea of the state of Paraná, I then sought images that represent it,” he says. He looked for “all the monuments and important sights of cities and local nature across the state. 

The tree is the symbol of Paraná, behind you can see the Iguazu Falls and famous animals and elements that are representative of the state.” He was drawn to elements he felt personally connected to, such as the instantly recognizable elliptical structure of the Museu Oscar Niemeyer.

To further personalize the piece, he added a handwritten poem to the mix. “An editor who I work with, Diego Gianni, created a poem that celebrates the state of Paraná. I wanted to put it on the image in a handwritten style to bring some romanticism to it, as if it were a letter.” The poem emphasizes the fragility of place, calling out extinct birds, vanished peoples, and ever-changing rivers while evoking the promise of a “beautiful unfinished tale.” (The full translation is at the bottom of this article.)

3. Assemble the composition: “In this piece I sought not to use a main image, so the challenge was to fit them all in without hiding any of them. There was a lot of trial and error until I found some harmony,” says Piasecki.

Piasecki built the piece one layer at a time in Photoshop. Once he had the basic composition, he turned to Illustrator: “I used colored shapes to give more life to the art,” he says.

4. Fine-tune the colors and textures: “I used some filters and low saturation to give the impression of something that was lightly worn,” says Piasecki.  “To create my collages, I use more Photoshop than Illustrator. In Photoshop, I insert colors, gradients, hue/saturation, color lookup, blending modes, work with brushes, newspaper clippings and other effects. I think it's good because there are endless possibilities within it. In Illustrator I work only with forms that I can't do so easily in Photoshop, such as more complex vectors and patterns. I can say that 80 percent of the work is done in Photoshop.”

Below, Piasecki describes how he conceived of and executed another collage of a woman holding a child.

1. Start with an image that interests you, and manipulate it: “I started by choosing the image of the woman with the child,” says Piasecki. “I had the initial idea to do the tentacles coming out of the woman's face. I wanted to combine visual elements that were more aggressive with some that were more delicate. I looked also to work details like shadows and depth, mainly on the face with tentacles, which is where I spent more time to get the final result.”

2. Add images to develop the concept: “Once I got the result I wanted, I began adding other images in a little more random order until everything was to my liking,” says Piasecki. “This piece does not have a very definite concept, but is intended to demonstrate contrasting elements—curved lines and straight lines.”

3. Fine-tune shadows and auxiliary shapes: “I created the curves with the Pen tool in Illustrator. I pasted the vector into Photoshop and added a photo of a planet in space,” says Piasecki. “I created the curved strokes with the Pen tool and cut them out using layer masks. The Pen also created the shapes that make up the edge of the hole in the head. Then I used some soft, dark brushes to create the shadows, which gives a sense of depth.”

Find more of Fabiano Piasecki’s work on Behance.

The translation of Diego Gianni's poem (seen in the collage representing the state of Paraná) follows:

Paraná, stage of Araucarias.
Name of the river that runs
between lives and stories
and no man shall enter the same river twice.
The waters are not the same.
Men are not the same.
Made the old pages of prose
that search travelers' diaries,
the youngest of the southern states
has so much history to tell.
Your sky birds, extinct like the sky that looked before
if they could, if they could, what to invent to sing?
Paraná, so hard to explain
how much the friendly Capybaras that bathe in our lawns.
Paraná, stage of immigrants,
is actually a beautiful unfinished tale,
of these only time takes care to fix