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Made With Envato: Creating Retro Collage with NaomiAmberDawn

We chat with Collage Queen Naomi to learn how she uses Envato Elements to turn create ethereal, dreamlike imagery with a retro vibe...

Posted 23 Jun 2021
Made with Envato: Naomi Amber Dawn

Based in Seattle, Washington, @NaomiAmberDawn is a talented collage artist and photographer. She creates ethereal and dreamlike imagery inspired by nature, music, and antiques, and her unique and mesmerizing work gives viewers a glimpse into how she perceives the world. Naomi’s incredible creations, which she shares on Instagram, often feature photography, illustration, graphic design, photo manipulation and collage. So, who better to give us a masterclass in mixed mediums, including the tools and techniques you need to create collage, than the collage Queen herself? 

Meet Collage Queen Naomi Amber Dawn

A passionate artist since childhood, Naomi has spent years honing her craft and love of collage. As a child, she spent countless hours collaging the walls of her bedroom to create a live-in masterpiece. Fast forward to today, Naomi has taken her early love of collage and photography to Photoshop, where she now crafts surreal, captivating artwork encapsulating other-worldly landscapes, bizarre photo manipulations, and psychedelic motifs all with a warm retro vibe

How to Make a Collage

We sat down for a chat with Naomi to get her top tips and tricks for creating digital art and collage, including how she uses Envato Elements to turn her imagination into original artwork.

What’s your artistic background and how did you get into digital art?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved creating art. Early on, I needed to find a creative outlet, and collage became very special to me. I would spend hours cutting up magazines and newspapers and collaging the walls of my room all the way to the ceiling. I’m also a photographer and have taken classes throughout high school and college. I discovered my love of digital collage by experimenting with collaging my own photos in Photoshop

What’s the mission or meaning behind your work?

I love to create surreal little universes that are interpretations of my daydreams. It is so special to me when people can connect with my art in some way, so I try to use specific photos of places or objects that spark a positive or nostalgic reaction.

4. What inspires your art? 

I find a lot of inspiration from vintage magazines, going to antique shops, listening to music, and being out in nature. I always try to incorporate some sort of vintage or retro piece in my art to blend old and new ideas together. 

5. How do your ideas get from your imagination to Instagram? What’s your full creative process?

I have a little sketchbook I carry around with me everywhere. I also don’t leave my house without my film camera (and some extra rolls). Photography really supports my creative process, because it helps me to slow down and view my surroundings differently. 

I also have a list in my notes on my phone of little ideas I come up with that I want to try experimenting with. Once I have a general view of where I’d like a collage to go, I’ll then start to explore different stock photos as well as photos I’ve taken to see if I can bring the idea to life. I have so many tabs open in Photoshop all the time with little projects I’ve started, some of which have taken weeks or months to get just right!

6. How does Envato Elements help you create your work?

Envato Elements brings me a lot of inspiration! It allows me to be able to create in ways I normally couldn’t. One of my favorite additions from Envato are the Photoshop brushes. I’m able to add stars and clouds to skies, and make them look more magical. There are also a lot of fun textures I can add to my photos in the final stages of editing.

Envato Elements brings me a lot of inspiration! It allows me to be able to create in ways I normally couldn’t.

Naomi Amber Dawn

7. What types of items do you use the most? Tell us how you create your Made With Envato posts!

My most used items are photos from Twenty20 and Photoshop Brushes. Specifically the Starfield Photoshop Stamp Brush. This brush makes everything look better, and I like having the ability to add a starry galaxy whenever I want. Three of my favorite #MadeWithEnvato posts all have a similar theme of using pictures from Seattle or the Pacific Northwest (my home!)

1. Glitchy 

This is a fun collage I made cutting up stock photos from Twenty20 of the moon, Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier, plus the Starfield Photoshop Stamp Brush from Envato Elements.

2. Troll Sighting

For this Troll Sighting piece, I used troll and forest stock photos from Twenty20 as well as the Fungi Illustration set from the Graphics category.

3. Drop of Rainier

This is a collage I created of one of my favorite places in Seattle: Pike Place Market. I produced this collage using stock photos of a spiral galaxy, Pike Place and Mount Rainier from both Envato Elements and Twenty20.

8. How does Elements fit into your creative toolkit? What other programs, tools and techniques do you use to create your work?

I love all of the Photoshop Brushes and Add Ons. There’s so many different textures and patterns you can overlay onto your images, which make the end result really interesting. I use Photoshop for all of my editing, but I’m looking into creating more art with Illustrator and Procreate too. Envato Tuts+ also offers free Adobe courses for all levels that are really helpful when you want to refine your editing skills. 

9. Would you recommend other digital artists to use Elements?

Yes, 100%! Envato Elements has really helped me explore different approaches to my work. There’s an overwhelmingly amazing amount of creative assets and tools that are unlike any other service I’ve used. Elements really has everything you need to create beautiful art (or almost anything digitally)!

Envato Elements has really helped me explore different approaches to my work. There’s an overwhelmingly amazing amount of creative assets and tools that are unlike any other service I’ve used.

Naomi Amber Dawn

10. Where do you sell or promote your work?

I promote most of my work through Instagram. I’ve participated in a few art shows, and my art is being displayed at a store in my city with some limited prints. I also sell my prints at a local farmer’s market in Seattle. It is really special knowing people are purchasing my art and putting it up in their homes. I would love to help brands with their marketing campaigns and branding, but I am still working on making that happen.

11. What are the most exciting opportunities to come from your art?

I think the most special thing that has come from creating and posting art on Instagram is the amazing community of artists that I’ve met from all over the world. It’s really beautiful to see how differently our minds see the same image. For example, sometimes I recognize a specific stock photo in someone else’s post that I was also messing around with, and it’s interesting to see how differently we’ve used it in our creations! We are also pretty much all experiencing the same thing when it comes to trying to make ourselves known on Instagram, so it’s nice to have a community of artists that can help you out and give great advice on their experiences. 

12. What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming a digital artist?

Don’t forget why you started to create in the first place! When you have a lot of commissions, it can be easy for art to lose its magic and just feel like a job. That’s why it’s so important for you to remember what you’re trying to get out of your art (if you just want it to be a job, that’s okay. It just wasn’t the case for me). I always make sure that no matter how busy I am with work and life, that I let myself create just for the sake of creating.

13. What creative websites do you visit to get your creative inspiration from?  

I get a lot of my inspiration and images from Twenty20 and Unsplash. I like to look at the different curated collections that are on the homepages and then go down a long path of finding a bunch of stock photos that stick out to me. Sometimes I see a photo and know exactly what I want to do with it, and other times I end up going in a completely different direction.

14. What are your top 3 tips for creating amazing, high-quality digital art?

  1. Always save a working copy of your art.

This saves so much work for you in the long run. When I started making digital art, I wouldn’t save the Photoshop documents and just export them as JPG and they were pretty small. I was excited to start getting prints, but the quality of my photos wasn’t good enough, so I had to go back and re-create my art from scratch.

  1. Create your art in larger sized files with high-quality images. 

It creates so much more work if you want to order a large print, but the quality is too low, so you have to go back and re create everything (this is also why my #1 tip is so important!).

  1. If you feel stuck or uninspired, take a break! 

Go out and take a walk, listen to music, or switch to a different task. You’ll have much better ideas when you come back to your art with a fresh mind.

15. Who are some other amazing digital artists that inspire you and why? 

I absolutely love the colors and florals from @odwyer_sio9. She always includes encouraging quotes in her captions, and all of her posts have such great energy! I also am very inspired by @marianopeccinetti. Their art is so psychedelic and trippy, I can just stare into those images and get lost. They use a lot of optical illusions and their collages have a very nostalgic feel.

16. How has digital art changed the direction of your life? 

In the beginning, I wanted to be a photographer. I actually quit my job to pursue photography as a career, then COVID hit shortly after. Since I lost a lot of business and was trying to find new ways to stay creative, I decided to learn how to use Photoshop really well. I have always loved collage, so I began to experiment with different photos I’ve taken while travelling and being out in nature. I am still working on making art my full time career, but hope to be a full time artist sometime soon. 

17. Any words of wisdom for others wanting to turn their art into a career?

My words of wisdom would be to stay consistent and make it a priority to create something every day (it doesn’t have to be good either, just create)! That was the most helpful advice I was given when I was just starting out, otherwise being an artist is just an idea and life passes you by really quickly. Months can go by without you even realizing it and before you know it, it’s been forever since you created anything.

Feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from! Check out this Made With Envato Interview on Creating Abstract 3D Art with Khyati Trehan, read more about creating collages with Frankie Lee Mwah, or explore imagination with Emilio Rios. And head over to Elements to start creating today!

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