Feb 18, 2023
Paper collage artist Katherine MacNeill studies one of many landscapes she created from layered paper and glue. (Lyonel Doherty photo)
Lyonel Doherty, Times Chronicle
Going places that few artists dare to tread is a challenge that Katherine MacNeill thrives on.
Taking the road less travelled allows her to essentially ‘build’ landscapes that come alive through multiple layers of paper. That’s right, paper. No oil, no acrylic, no watercolour; just small, painstaking strips of paper glued on canvas.
At first, they look like paintings, but on closer inspection you can see and feel the raised layers that give the work a three-dimensional appearance.
MacNeill literally fell in love with this unforgiving medium after being introduced to it several years ago at a workshop.
“It’s such a way of exploring and enjoying and spending time with your landscape. And you have to like it a lot because these [projects] take quite a long time.”
She starts the process by gathering material from old magazines, calendars, and books. Her husband Duane Hamm is also a great resource since he often takes photographs for her to use when she needs certain colours or compositions.
It makes her feel good that she is recycling this material before it finds its way to the landfill.
Once she has the desired pieces and colours, she glues them to the canvas in layers, starting from the top and working her way to the bottom. In some areas of the background you can actually see minute text and letters cut out from her source material. In the end, layers of glue are applied like a varnish to preserve the piece and give it a sheen.
MacNeill admits it is tedious work, but she loves the results and how it makes her feel. It’s like writing a book; you are creating a story with interesting characters and plot twists.
“This is how I am interpreting my connection to the land. We are part of this [landscape]; we want to sustain it. I don’t want that to disappear, and I don’t want anybody ever to forget that part of the land and scalp it or destroy it.”
Her artistic pursuits have given her a better appreciation for nature and the environment.
She recalls her penchant for doodling and drawing began when she was a little girl in Port Hardy. This led her to consider taking fine arts at the University of Victoria, but she didn’t have a portfolio, and frankly, didn’t know what one was at the time. She then decided on an English major and later worked as an accountant. Upon retirement, she took up paper collage art and never looked back.
In 2016 she made the “gutsy” move by entering the SNAP art competition and was chosen as a finalist from more than 1,600 images. She ended up winning a juror’s prize and $2,000 with the label of “emerging artist.”
Osoyoos artist Michael Jorden uses the term “hyper-realism” when describing MacNeill’s work.
She was recently featured on KSPS Public TV and has won “best in show” at the Oliver Fall Art Show and Sale.
Being a member of the Sagebrushers and Artists on Main, MacNeill has had the benefit of constructive critiques.
MacNeill is quick to acknowledge that she doesn’t copy photographs of landscapes since that feat would be impossible in her medium. Besides, she doesn’t want to copy anything; she wants to make it her own by reconstructing the landscape. And if you’re looking for perfection, forget it because it’s not going to happen.
Some of her work is ominously abstract, which is the effect she strives for on occasion. In one piece, a cloud takes on a spooky appearance of a ragged claw reaching out from the sky.
MacNeill feels privileged to have found a medium that few people have ever seen or dabbled in.
“It feels good to work in a unique medium. I feel really challenged by it and happy to share what I’m doing . . . and it’s a bonus that people are liking it.”