News-Star: Community

High school art teacher sees world in 3-D

Frank Kreacic fills in spots on one of his new paintings.
Frank Kreacic fills in spots on one of his new paintings.

In Frank Kreacic’s artwork, old school meets modern.

He has taken his lifelong fascination with serial comic books from the 1960s and 70s and put a twist on them, creating 3-D pieces of art that don’t require a pair of glasses to appreciate.

Kreacic, who teaches art at West Johnston High School, won first place this year in a competition among members of the N.C. Art Education Association. He said the idea behind his winning entry, “Google Me,” is that when people look at the painting and see who the artist is, they will likely Google him.

To Kreacic, that’s a metaphor for the current state of the art world. “(The Internet) has changed the whole idea of selling and viewing art today,” he said. “The Internet allows you to be your own (art) dealer. And that’s the artist’s job today.

“ ‘Google Me’ really pushes the idea of what’s going on today,” Kreacic added. “If someone saw it in a museum or a gallery 40 years from now, they could say, ‘Hey, this was made in the early 21st century, when Google was big.”

Kreacic competed against about 30 other teachers from 12 counties in central North Carolina. Their works were on display to the public in July.

Kreacic begins his art process by using Adobe Photoshop to create collages of images he likes, usually from comic books or graphic novels. Next he sketches the collage onto a canvas and covers it with resin to create a base. He then layers – resin, paint, resin, paint – until he is satisfied with the 3-D effect.

The collages are pop art-esque – something Andy Warhol might have appreciated. What’s jarring is the 3-D effect the layering creates: When you walk away, it’s almost like the image is following you.

Kreacic said he finds inspiration in the works of Roy Lichtenstein and in the science fiction films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Much of the serial artwork he chooses for his background sketches has a nautical theme, a nod to his time working as a diver at Sea World in San Diego, Calif.

Kreacic has taught all grade levels in his 15 years in the classroom. He is also a freelance artist, a career he pursued when he realized a teacher’s pay wasn’t going to support him and his family the way it once had.

“(Teaching is) the only profession where you stay longer and get less pay,” he said.

Kreacic is in the process of creating an entire show using his resin technique and is on the lookout for gallery space. He’s interested in Artspace in Raleigh, where winning artists receive six months of studio space. He’s working on the 10 pieces he needs to submit an Artspace application.

Kreacic’s day job as a teacher allows him to integrate his artwork into his curriculum, especially in his Advanced Placement class in studio art. Students in that class spend the year developing a portfolio centered on a theme. Kreacic is able to guide them on that path using his own work as an example.

Kreacic is proud of his work but says his vintage/modern fusion isn’t a new concept. In fact, artists have been pulling past and present together for years, he said.

“I try to pull the past into the future. Artists who do that are the best thieves,” Kreacic said. “We just change things up to make them new.”