Kirsten Francis’ Artistic Shift


Papirmass Collage Artist Kirsten Francis

It’s amazing where inspiration can spring from. As artists, we’re often asked this question and it can be a challenge to pinpoint an answer, because most of the time, inspiration finds us. For our September artist, Kirsten Francis, inspiration struck by watching her children’s playful approach to their art projects. After 10 years of working as a full-time artist making woodblock prints, Francis shifted to mixed media and collage work when it was time for her to return to her art practice. While her work has evolved, becoming more complex and intricate, the youthful exuberance remains.

Learn more about Kirsten’s creative journey below and notice the intricate layering that goes into her energetic collages.

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Greening by Kirsten Francis - Papirmass Artist

Tell us about your artwork for Papirmass (not pictured).

‘Jettison’ is a collage depicting birds in flight exploding forth from a black hole. The birds, each cut out by hand and sourced from vintage books, are layered over and woven into a background of concentric circles made with strips of paper hand-cut from a magazine photo of outer space.

Describe a good day in the studio.

I work best when I have a deadline, whether it is for a show or a project for a client. Maybe it is the sense of urgency or the adrenaline, but I feel myself loosen up and my creativity really flows.

What is your creative process?

I usually work on several pieces at one time and they all come to inform each other. I start with a base image, which is either concentric circles or one of my drawings. Then, I will introduce various images that I have already cut out (I have boxes and boxes of pre-cut images of all kinds). I’ll play around with the placement and composition of these, and the direction of the piece will change. Once I have figured out the composition, I will take a photo of it to use for reference when I’m glueing everything down, which is a painstaking process because of all the overlapping images.

Kirsten Francis working in her studio

How do you get into your creative zone?

The zone is elusive. I drink coffee, listen to podcasts about art, and remind myself that I only have a few hours before I have to leave the studio. Invariably, I enter the zone just as I need to pack up and leave.

What’s your studio like?

I am fortunate to have a studio in my home. It used to be part of a much larger room but I had a wall built because my kids kept coming in and helping themselves to my art supplies (despite having their own fully stocked art room). It is crammed with magazines and old books, has several flat files, a drawing desk and a large work surface where I can spread out my mess. The one downside is that I share this room with our 2 cats, and they do not care about art one bit! I have learned to put things away and to throw a heavy sheet of plastic over my work table every night.

What are your most important tools?

Xacto knife, heavyweight paper, and good quality glue.

"Corona" by Papirmass Artist Kirsten Francis with girls and birdsWhat inspires you to create?

Making collages is my way of dealing with being bombarded by so much information, visual or otherwise. When I cut out and manipulate the images I find in magazines or books, I am mastering them, playing with them and changing their context. I find it is best not to take myself too seriously and to have fun.

Did you go to school for art?

I have always been interested in art. I started figure drawing in secondary school and studied Printmaking in my twenties, eventually getting a BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. I spent over 10 years as a full-time artist making woodblock prints. After having children, I felt like I had to start all over again. I got inspired seeing my kids’ fearless approach to making art—they just dove in! I volunteered to teach art in their school and that experience really helped me to start making art again.

How do you promote your work?

As a shy person, I find it difficult to put myself out there. That said, I exhibit my work in local and regional art shows, and I also promote my work on Instagram.

Holler collage by Papirmass artist Kirsten Francis featuring girls, circles, plants and travel

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would have told my younger self not to be so self-critical; remember that this stage in life is part of a process.

What do you love and hate about the creative life?

I love that I get to do what I do. I can’t stand it when I’m working on something crucial and my time to work runs out!

What are you currently excited about?

I’m excited to start a new series of mixed media drawings based on collage compositions.

"Looking Good" Collage by Papirmass Artist Kirsten Francis featuring flowers and vintage cars

Favourite artist?

Frida Kahlo

Favourite film?


Favourite book?

Anything by Terry Pratchett

"Whorl" Collage by Papirmass Artist Kirsten Francis featuring flowers, girls, and space objects

Favourite Musician/Album?

Peter Gabriel’s “So”

Favourite city to visit?

Portland, Oregon

Favourite meal to cook?

Veggie marinara sauce and pasta

Favourite Online Art Blog/Account?

Jealous Curator

Our September 2019 Edition will feature work by Kirsten Francis. Subscribe to Paprimass by August 31st to receive an exclusive collage from Kirsten and explore more of their work in our online gallery!