Ross Collins (@rosscollinsartist) is a unique talent. With a background in design and an art degree from the University of Cambridge, his creative abilities are as enlightened as they are versatile. As a lover of collage art, founding the @double_expo feature hub was a natural extension of his passions and has grown into a truly beautiful grouping of some of the most mesmerizing artistry available via Instagram. A few weeks ago we wrapped up a conversation with Ross in which we discussed his inspirations and editing habits. Read along!
My name is Ross Collins and I'm from Watford, England, which is just outside of London. I live with my wife and my two young daughters, Lara and Summer, who take up most of my time! After university I worked as a middleweight designer for a firm in North London before realizing I could no longer look at a computer screen all day, every day. After a brief spell teaching at my old uni, I retrained as an art teacher at Cambridge University. I now teach art to 11-18 year olds.
In my spare time I produce handmade collages which I exhibit and sell whilst undertaking some design work for a few old clients. Outside of the world of art I've played bass guitar in a number of bands and enjoy football, cricket and running.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET IN TO PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN?
Art was always my favorite subject at school from age 5 upwards. I was always going to do something creative for a career. I settled on a graphic design degree when I was about 18 rather than fine art as I thought it would lead to greater career opportunities. It was whilst studying for my degree that I started using programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for the first time. This was way before there was such a thing as a smart phone app that would allow you to manipulate imagery!
WHAT SORT OF GEAR DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH WITH AND WHAT ARE THE APPS/SOFTWARE YOU USE THE MOST?
For photography I normally end up using my iPhone although I have an old Canon EOS.
Although I use Photoshop and Illustrator for my design work, the majority of the edits that I post on Instagram are made using apps. I use Mextures and Union App on pretty much everything but I have about 20 other apps on my phone in total that I use from time to time.
HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
Social media has been very important in helping me establish myself as an artist. I regularly sell analog collages online before they even reach a gallery or exhibition. Instagram has helped me to make friends and connections all around the world and it's been a great deal of fun posting digital work on this platform.
It's also been great discovering new artists on @double_expo and @collage_expo. It's amazing how many talented people there are out there,
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
I hope that viewers are inspired to create their own work when they see mine. I guess my work is really about the aesthetic appearance of the imagery. There is no hidden or deep meaning to what I do. I just enjoy making things that look beautiful!
WHAT ADVICE OR EXPERIENCE HAS LED YOU TO PROGRESS THE MOST IN YOUR WORK AND STYLE?
Just exposing myself to as much visual material and artwork as possible either online or in person. Running hubs has been a great way to discover new people and learn how to do new things. Most people don't mind you asking a few questions! It's been interesting to see certain styles of edits take off over the last few years on Instagram. Someone does something new and all of a sudden everyone is doing it!
WHAT DOES YOUR EDITING PROCESS GENERALLY LOOK LIKE?
90% of my work is produced on my iPhone. I spend quite a long time looking for appropriate images. It's really hard to find appropriate portraits to use for double exposures in particular. I only use work with a creative commons license and don't steal images. Most work is produced by trial and error in Union App. I quite often have 10-15 versions of an image. I then pick the best and again create a number of versions in Mextures. I have a back log of stuff so I often upload images months after I have produced them.
HOW SPECIFICALLY DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
I put every image that I create through Mextures. As I usually piece together a variety of images in Union App from different sources I find that the end product looks unbalanced in terms of light, color and tone unless I place Mextures filters over the top. Often I create my own, but sometimes I adapt images from other artists on Instagram who have been kind enough to share them. Mextures is invaluable to me.
WOULD YOU MIND SHARING A FEW OF YOUR OWN MEXTURES FORMULAS?
STARS - DJNEFBR - I was looking to create a landscape which faded into darkness around the edges. I added lots of Vignette, but also the Daybreak filter to keep the center bright.
TAKEN - IFYKGGU - I was creating a figure being abducted by aliens late at night in a dry, arid landscape, so I added lots of warm filters.
DEGRADED - WIYVBZW - I was creating a double exposure and wanted quite a dirty and grainy feel around the portrait.
BIRD - TWCDTTS - Quite a subtle laying of filters. I was going for a vintage feel on this image.
TINMAN 1 - DPBZBIE - I wanted to add lots of warmth and light to quite a cold portrait.
WOULD YOU SHARE A HANDFUL OF YOUR FAVORITE ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW?
@mrpiper1980 - Stunning digital work. Very clean.
@n.o.x.x - In my opinion, the most talented digital editor on Instagram. Someone that everyone else tries to emulate.
@derekgores - My favorite analog collage artist. I love his portraits.
@garethhalliday - Another analog collage artist, but a completely different style from Derek Gores. Images made from magazines etc..
@a_collage - I love her sketchbooks in particular.
@union_app - My favorite app and I always enjoy seeing what others do with it. Very inspiring.
@thegraphicspr0ject - I guess the page that got me into digital editing in the first place. When I first started an Instagram account I stumbled across this page by accident and then was hooked.
@campovisual - Another amazing account with inspiring digital work.
Look into more of Ross's work here and check out his online store while you're at it!