Facemasks as inspiration: 3 ways

We’re all suddenly seeing a lot more facemasks in daily life than we’ve been used to. Before, on my walks I might expect to see laughing gas canisters, crisp packets and take-away boxes rumbling along the sidewalk gutters. Today, a new character joins the cast of castaways: the facemask, often disposable and light blue, but not always.

I’ve used the facemask as a project prompt, to see how this new character can inspire my art and thinking. Here are the results…

Hang in there (Digital collage)

Where facemasks are still uncomfortable and unfamiliar, could it be that one day we become so used to them that they’ll become a marker of comfort and ease?

Made with a print by James Tissot, 1880, from the Rijksmuseum

Got the blues? (Digital collage)

Blue plastic gloves and blue paper masks are a modern-day suit of armour maybe?

Made with a photograph by Anonymous, 1850-1900, from the Rijksmuseum

Surfacing (GIF)

Using the facemask as canvas makes the object, which can be seen to cover or hide expression, suddenly take on the opposite function, as something which communicates and is a vehicle for expression.

Recycling one artwork into different media

Using a collage as a starting point, and reconjuring the image as a drawing, painting and sculpture.

I found myself in the middle of an analogue collage revival – suddenly inspired by the piles of old magazines I had lying around I was creating lots of new collages. But traditional collage has its limitations. Once it’s stuck down the images become immovable and your work is done.

But instead of these collages being the final product, I wanted to use them as a springboard developing my artistic practice. What happens when you use a collage as the starting point, and remix it in different materials?

The starting point

A quick sketch

Acrylic paints


The results

Using a collage as a starting point for exploring new materials is a great idea. I especially enjoy taking the 2D image composite from magazine cuttings and shaping it into a 3D clay figurine.

Collage is great because it lets you create something new, often something you never could have imagined without being inspired by the source material. By reframing collage as the start of a new project, rather than the goal of the project itself, I found great inspiration to try new materials and develop the vision created at the start.

Where to find Creative Commons images for collaging

My favourite websites to get pictures for making digital collages

If you’re looking to make digital collages, the first thing you need is pictures to work with. Luckily, there are more and more organisations making beautiful pictures available to the public domain.

Here are a some of my favourite websites to use when I make digital collages. You can also see an example of the work I’ve made with their help.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rijksstudio from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is my most valued resource. It has completely transformed by artistic practice.


Its collection is extensive and very beautiful and easy to use. You can always find what you’re looking for, and it’s great for when you don’t know what you’re looking for as well. Before you get started, check out my collections. Maybe they’ll inspire you to start your own.

Made with Rijksstudio


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Unsplash is great for when you need a more ‘modern’ subject – for example you won’t find the hamburger you’re looking for in the Rijksmuseum’s collection!


Made with Unsplash and Rijksstudio


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Europeana is the destination for you if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Their collection spans European museums, galleries, libraries and archives, and includes images, sounds and videos.


It’s a huge collection, and I often find searching it difficult. So if you don’t know where to start, take a look at their collections, or read the blog series, which will introduce you to all sorts of wondrous stories and images.

Made with Europeana and Rijksstudio

Flickr: The Commons

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can find a lot of interesting photos on Flickr: The Commons. The only downside is that the resolution can be quite poor, but you can take that as a challenge to work in miniature.

Flickr: The Commons

Made with Flickr: The Commons


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Photogrammar holds a collection of photographs taken for the US government between 1935 and 1945.


I find the website a bit harder to use than others, but you’ll always find a wealth of diverse subjects you would never think of to search for yourself.

Made with Photogrammar and Rijksstudio

Let me know which sites you use to find digital images for collages!