by Deborah Walden | Photography by Bob Schatz
Success, it seems, has not gone to Wayne brezinka’s head. he is humble, thoughtful, and one of the most talented artists i’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. His collaged illustrations literally bring to life the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” by incorporating found texts and vintage ephemera to make images speak. Brezinka’s colorful designs have grabbed the attention of media outlets and major corporations across the country. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Both Neiman Marcus and the Johnny Cash family are among his impressive list of clients.
Brezinka, a Minnesota native, migrated to Nashville with big dreams of a graphic design career in the music industry. After realizing success with a major label, Brezinka felt the urge to be more expressive, experimental, and true to himself through his art. His time as a graphic designer had given him a thorough understanding of form, balance, and color. It had also taught him how to successfully incorporate image and text for a strong message. What it had not given him, though, was a sense of liberation. “Four years ago, I jumped off the illustration/design diving board,” says Brezinka. He ventured out of the world of commercial graphic design to explore fine arts and illustration. His work has flourished in this new-found freedom.
“When I took the turn for illustration, I started doing the stuff that was more hands-on,” Brezinka relates. His work grew organically from 2-D and digital formats to his current collage and shadowbox technique. Brezinka feels that this style comes naturally for him. “I’ve always loved rusty nails and vintage items,” he says. Brezinka’s three-dimensional art allows him to mix sculptural forms with flat surface patterns. His designer’s instinct for texture and line helps him create images that “pop” with lively and dynamic elements.
In today’s world of digitized images, one might surmise that Brezinka’s collages are designed on a computer. That assumption would detract from the magic of Brezinka’s craft. He claims, “The only thing I put together in Photoshop is a template.” Many of Brezinka’s designs actually start as hand-drawn illustrations. He moves from sketches and templates to the painstaking process of building small worlds with snips of paper, bits of string, and lots of imagination. He enjoys “tactile paint and glue” and the physical work of constructing his intricate vignettes. Brezinka’s studio bears witness to his eclectic influences, with stacks of old books and vintage objects that work their way into his art.
From a distance, the clippings of paper in Brezinka’s collages may seem like accidental elements. Brezinka’s thoughtful nature becomes evident in the details of his construction. Words chosen specifically for each subject are scattered throughout his compositions. Like secret messages to the viewer, they declare insights about the people, places, and ideas that fill his creations. Though intentional, Brezinka refers to his text elements as “happy accidents” that seem to fall into place, thanks to his instinct as an artist and a graphic designer.
For instance, a work like Evening of Stories invites viewers into a contemplative and peaceful scene. The brilliant blue of the sky, paired with the earthy browns of the trees, creates a lush blanket of color. Viewers can mentally step inside the quiet world of the collage. Brezinka’s instinct to escape into his work has come full circle, as he now invites his audience to join in.
Brezinka’s latest series looks to new horizons. Famine: The Faces of Mogadishu will raise funds and awareness for the millions of people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. Brezinka claims, “I could not get the images of people walking fifteen or twenty miles a day for water and food out of my head. It’s not something that’s forced. It’s something that came naturally based on what I was feeling toward the people.” Brezinka builds the faces for this series by making composite portraits of several individuals. The faces thus become symbolic representations of the suffering of whole communities. “I need a reference to people and what they look like, so I put different images together to create one face. I use that as template and build it from there.” The resulting portraits are colorful and expressive, with strong, bold lines that form haunting faces. A portion of the proceeds from this series will go to World Vision’s Horn of Africa Food Crisis fund.
For more information on Brezinka’s work, including the Famine series, visit www.brezinkadesign.com.