Spotlight on Collage Artist Anna Bu Kliewer

During one of my very first fashion classes in college, there was a small unit on collages. You're probably wondering why there would be a unit on collages in a fashion class. I wondered the same and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the process of making a collage. Ever since that class, I gained a respect for collages I probably wouldn't have otherwise. I think a lot of people still see collaging as a crafty project for kids, while this is true, a collage can be so much more.

During the collage unit, I learned about the different kinds of collages and my favorite was the  'narrative collage', a collage which tells a story. Till this day I'm still annoyed about the grade I received for my narrative collage. The teacher wrote on the back of it, "story unclear" which was the reason why I received a C+. This blew my mind because I grew up believing art could have different interpretations and the viewer could use their imagination to create their own story...she disagreed. This is why I was delighted when, collage artist, Anna Bu Kliewer said when describing her artwork, " The story varies from viewer to viewer. It depends on their own experiences and dreams". Born in Ukraine and raised in Germany, Kliewer studied Fine Art at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada and Central Saint Martins in London, UK. Therefore, I will have to agree with Kliewer's reasoning for how she prefers her art to be viewed.  Continue reading below to learn more about this extremely talented woman!

What sparked your interest in art?

My parents were very supportive when I showed interest in art, I began painting with oils when I was about 10. I went to drawing classes with 40 year olds when I was 11 or 12. We weren’t a wealthy family, but there was always money for art supplies. Later on my art teachers just pushed me, otherwise I might have lost my creative drive.

Are you a full-time artist? If so, how did you make the decision?

It wasn’t really a decision, I continued making things and got good responses to what I was doing. I am extremely grateful to create and make a living off it. I have an agent here in London who gets me commissions and some collectors who buy my art.

Who or what inspires you?

Colours and moods. I see an image and it clicks, so mostly the actual photograph in front of me inspires me to add or remove something.

What is your artistic process?

I used to cut out small pieces out of magazines, sometimes I would cut things out for a whole week. I now have an extensive collection of about 10 000 cut out pieces, so I focus more on finding main images. Sometimes I begin with the background, sometimes with a tiny piece I like. There are no rules with collage, that is what I love about it. It is extremely playful and intuitive. But one thing always happens at the end: It clicks,I feel it is finished and the collage goes into my scanner.

Is there a theme to your work?

I care a lot about the hues matching, the hues need to blend in with one another.I would describe my pieces as surreal, often humorous and feminine.

Does each collage have a story or are some simply aesthetic?

The story varies from viewer to viewer. It depends on their own experiences and dreams. They are created with intuition, so it is first a subconscious story and later on when I revisit the work the story evolves.

Are your collages paper on digital? or both?

It always begins with paper. At a later stage there is a scanner and Photoshop.

Has your style evolved over time? 

There are colours that remain, otherwise it is always changing and evolving.I do remember a big change happening when I bought a scalpel, I was able to cut out smaller things that were previously impossible with scissors.

What is the average amount of time it takes to finish one collage?

Most take about 2-3 hours.I have made collages that took me 5 minutes and I still love them. With a brief it can take up to a week, even months.I do not pay too much attention to time, I just want it to make sense in mind.

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?

Understanding that being still and not creating is not procrastination, but part of the process. Reading books, daily walks and solo lunches are as important as flipping through books and magazines. Finding the balance can be tricky at times. A lot of people I know who are freelance have difficulties with time management, although deadlines can be very stressful at times, I am able to manage them, thanks to my ‘Germanness’.

How do you stay motivated when you experience a creative rut?

Headspace has been a great meditation app, it calms me down when I overthink things or put too much pressure on myself. When I feel stuck I try to surround myself with people. People who inspire me. Creativity sparks again when I have a more meaningful conversation about random things. Music and dancing are helpful, too!

What has been your favorite project or creation so far?

Working with my friend Carla on cocktail collages for her magazine.

What is your ultimate goal with your artwork?

An ultimate goal would mean that there is an end to it, a finish line I attempt to reach.I am happy as long as I am able to create.

Any last words? 

Be humble and don’t eat animals.