Artist of the Month: Layering Adds Complexity and Depth

LaVerne Kyriss

“Layering is the key to making collages,” explained collage artist, teacher, and SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild member Deb “Kress” Kresnicka, “but you also need a wide variety of materials that you can use to build a collage.”

“I explore a variety of subjects, create eye candy to dazzle the viewer, explore mood and message, and give you something to contemplate and digest,” she reflected, noting that the layers in her artist’s statement are as complex as her collages.

Kress grew up in Milwaukee and got interested in art at an early age. “I went to a wonderful grade school on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. We had art, music, theater, and were always encouraged to be creative,” she said.

A fine arts major in college, she went on to explore various media and taught art in various venues. “I started with oils in school, worked in acrylics, and spent ten years studying water color. I created murals and illustrated two children’s books over the years. Then I took a mixed media workshop and began exploring collage,” she said.

“When you start out in collage, you can begin by using images torn from magazines. You can use a board, canvas, or even watercolor paper as a base. You arrange elements on your base to create a design and layer them using glues, medium, and even acrylic paint,” she explained. “As you build up the layers and add additional elements, the piece takes shape. If something isn’t working or it needs toning down or highlighting, you can add more layers to that area.”

“I generally have one or more projects in progress at any one time. The ideas incubate as the layers are added,” she noted. “Sometimes I put a piece aside for weeks and then an idea pops into my head.”

“When you work in collage, you find you need to have a lot of supplies,” she confided, indicating two wall-to-wall bookcases filled with neatly labeled boxes and baskets. Strings, wires, stamps, papers sorted by weight and color, acrylic inks and paint, and various media are tools of the trade. “Having your supplies organized is a big help,” she added.

“If you really get into collage, you’ll want to make your own papers,” Kress noted, showing various textured papers created with a tissue paper base. “Hand-made paper with texture between the layers and acrylic ink-tinted tissue papers are wonderful to use in collages.”

“Collage always involved layering, which usually means gluing of some sort. The layering usually ends up creating some texture to the work,” Kress explained. “Assemblages can involve gluing, but are traditionally more three-dimensional works that have elements added to them – buttons, figures, you name it – to create an image.”

One interesting collage project Kress has often use in classes involves repurposing a book. “You begin with a book that’s headed for a landfill and it instead becomes a piece of art,” she said. “You can add elements to a page, cut things out, try different techniques and ideas, creating mini collages throughout the book. These altered books are small enough to be portable and can be worked on over time as you explore different ideas. Then you finish with a beautifully collaged cover.”

“Definitely take a class to learn the ins and outs of collage pretty quickly,” Kress advised. “Getting some basic training in drawing and composition and color theory can also be extremely useful. Then just go for it and start creating and collecting materials as you go.”