Kirsten Francis is a mixed media artist living in Encinitas, CA. She received a BFA in Printmaking from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland OR and was a printmaker for many years. Francis creates colorful and intricate collages using a combination of found images and her own drawings.
Working with images cut from magazines and books, Francis explores her experience of contemporary, suburban American culture. Her collage and mixed media art have been featured in solo and juried exhibitions throughout Southern California. She also creates collages for branding and corporate commissions, and teaches collage workshops.
Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?
It was only when I stopped making art that I realized how important it was to me. After my children were born, I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to devote to creating my own art. I was creative in other ways but it was all oriented around the home or the kids’ activities. When my daughters started making things in preschool I was inspired to join them in cutting, pasting and drawing – I had forgotten how much fun it was!
Carrie: How would you describe your art?
Right now my work is collage based. I use images cut from magazines or books and use them to create intricate, clustered compositions that are almost sculptural. I feel compelled to subvert the intention of these images (usually commercial) to create something new, weird and personal. I also use my collages as the subjects of drawings, transforming the images once again.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
A disaster area! I have a room at home that I use as my studio. In it I have a desk set up for drawing and cutting, storage for art, bookshelves laden with magazines and books to use for collage, and a giant work table that is covered several layers deep with cut out images, pages to be cut up and works in progress.
I also share that room with our 2 cats so every night I cover the work table with a sheet of plastic.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
My process is pretty intuitive. I sort through my images until I find some that resonate with me. I will add other images, moving them around and building up a composition. I use images based on what they represent but have found that it often works better to choose them for their shape or color. I let go of my attachment to an idea or concept and let the meaning of the collage reveal itself.
Once I am happy with the composition, I glue each separate image to a backing paper, giving them stiffness, and cut them out again. When I reassemble the collage, I only glue it down in select areas, allowing it to float off the paper and giving it a three-dimensional quality.
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
I hope that they see the beautiful and absurd in the mundane world – that there is something extraordinary that exists just below the surface of what we think we know.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?
I am motivated by goals and deadlines. It has been very helpful to organize my work into different projects or series that i aim to complete in a certain time period.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
It depends on what kind of ‘stuck’ I’m dealing with. If I am getting frustrated with how a piece is progressing, I will deliberately let go of my expectations. Often that means removing an element that I am particularly attached to or changing my concept. Once I do that, new possibilities open up.
Sometimes I’m ‘stuck’ in the sense that I can’t get anything started or that I have no ideas. It helps to give myself a simple assignment like making a collage using only images cut from one magazine or drawing the cat.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
The biggest hurdle or obstacle for any creative person is feeling stuck or uninspired. It has been really helpful to realize that being stuck is only temporary. I just need to recognize it for what it is and then take a few measures to move forward.
Carrie: You’ve completed a few challenges recently. How have the challenges helped your practice as a creative?
Since I am so goal and deadline oriented doing a daily challenge is perfect for me! It is also great practice – making something new every day and getting into the habit of summoning creativity and inspiration (and faking it when they don’t show up). I take it seriously enough that I hold myself accountable and don’t miss a day, but not so seriously that I sweat over what I’m making. (Better done than good;-) )
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
The free magazines and books that I get from my local library!
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired when I see how other artists work, solve problems and overcome challenges so they can create. I love it when I see a time lapse video of an artist working on a piece or when they post different stages of a work in progress. It demystifies the whole process and makes me feel like I can make something, too.
Carrie: What does the word artist mean to you?
To me an artist is someone who creates something unique out of nothing in order to express themselves.
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