December 17, 2010

From Polish Paper Cutting to Album Covers

Charcoal, pencils and colored pencils have always felt more comfortable for me to use over a paintbrush.  Over time I've been able to refine my painting skills, but I always preferred the detail and versatility (and portability) of the pencil.  But at times I found myself limited by the pencils and wanting bold swaths of colors, without having to pick up a paintbrush.  So about seven years ago I started to experiment with cutting out some of my artwork in pencil/charcoal and mounting it. 
In this case, I used origami paper squares.  [Yes, I was an origami-folding nerd.  Still am on occasion!]...  

When I started painting more often in recent years, I found myself again combining different media, wanting the best of all worlds.  This time incorporating my photographs and mounting on canvases or panels.  I wanted the ultra-realism of the photos, the bold colors and textures of the paint and canvas, the detail of the pencils and charcoal, and exact paper-cutting to get the shapes, depth, and positive and negative spaces that I was after. 

"Lisboa 2": photo paper, acrylic, colored pencil on canvas

So where am I going with all this?  It took me a while to figure out where my preoccupation with intricate paper cutting was likely coming from: wycinanki [vee-chee-NAAN-key].  The curves, the colors, the symmetry, the detail...all mesmerizing, almost psychedelic.  Although I could never compete with these Artisans of the Colored Paper, I have since childhood admired them and it has slipped out of my subconscious into my artwork, albeit quite distortedly.
Some great examples of the Polish folk art of paper cutting:



I bring this up now because I recently finished working on the album cover for my super-talented sister, Ashia Grzesik's, upcoming EP release...

We both decided separately and subconsciously that it should have a subtle Polish/Eastern European feel, so it includes some more obvious imagery along with what I will call "modern wycinanki".  It combines all of my favorite mediums: paper, colored pencil, charcoal, acrylic paint, photography.

A step-by-step of the process:

Working out the basic "bison" design on pen and paper... 

It wasn't until I was researching pictures of wycinanki for this post that I realized that maybe it wasn't such a random choice to do a semi-symmetrical design, as I had originally thought :)

Completed bison design with watercolor pencils and charcoal...


Most of the cutting done...

Framing the photo (The Dead Sea, taken June 2009)...

Photo and bison design mounted on the painted canvas...

It's funny how certain things from your childhood and cultural heritage creep in and infiltrate your creative labors without you realizing it, at least at first.  


  1. You are so awesome! Why does the only friend I have with an artistic bone in their body have to live so far away?

    Hope all is well~

  2. come move to new york!!