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‘The ultimate jigsaw puzzle:’ Local artist details unique style of making art from pieces of paper
Guy Frazer
Guy Frazer, of the Sawnee Association of the Arts, uses finely-cut pieces of paper to create colorful works of art. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

This article appears in the March issue of 400 Life.

Most works of art begin in a pencil or a paintbrush before making it to paper, but for Forsyth County’s Guy Frazer, the paper is the art.

For about the last 15 years, Frazer, a member of the Sawnee Association of the Arts, has been creating his own unique art by cutting and ripping pieces of different colored paper to create scenes of nature and people.

“I like Sudoku, and I like puzzles,” Frazer said. “This is like the ultimate jigsaw puzzle, just putting things together. Colors are funny because I’ll cut something out and put it on, and I will have a background color and it just doesn’t match, so I’ll have to put it aside.”

Though his art now hangs in Cumming’s Brannon-Heard House and has been featured in a number of competitions and galleries, Frazer said he doesn’t have a lifelong background as an artist.

Guy Frazer
- photo by Kelly Whitmire
Taking on some art as a student at the University of Florida, Frazer went on to a career with Sears Roebuck before returning to school at Florida’s then-Indian River Community College to earn a degree in interior design and technology, which includes architecture. But Frazer said art was “always in the back of my mind.”

After taking on a new job as a sales manager with Havertys Furniture after graduation, Frazer began working with colored paper to build displays. Eventually, that led to him experimenting with turning the pieces of paper into a piece of art.

“When I did retire, I took some of the skills that I was doing for the floor plans,” Frazer said. “I would take colored card stock, and when I did the floor plan where normally you’d see the bed, sofa, everything, I would use colored paper, kind of like the colors people were designing in their homes. I had a lot of scrap one day, so I put it together and made a seascape. That got me hooked. From then on, I’ve just been doing it.”

The Florida native has made seascapes one of his most common themes but said anything can lead to inspiration.

“When I start working, I get all of these ideas,” Frazer said. “I write some of them down. I take a piece of paper and draw some pictures so I can go back and remember those. If I go out at 6 a.m. to walk the dog and there’s a sunrise or a tree or something, I dash home and sketch it out and put it to the side. I’ve got a drawer full of ideas, so I’m never out of ideas. The thing is just getting motivated.”

Frazer described himself as a critic of his own work and said he sometimes needs prodding to finish certain pieces, which can take weeks or months.

“A lot goes in the trashcan,” he said. “My wife, she gets on to me and says, ‘Don’t throw that away. Don’t throw that away.’ So she’ll save it, and later on I will go back and work on it again.”

Like any type of art, the method has its pros and cons.

“In paint and acrylics, you have literally hundreds of thousands of colors you can mix,” Frazer said. “With color card stock, you only have maybe 25 or 30 colors and different types of paper, so your value is just distorted, you don’t have the variety, so you have to think a little harder. Sometimes I can take two pieces of paper and sand it down and get three colors out of it.”

Guy frazer
- photo by Kelly Whitmire
Sanding the paper is important as it gives more texture and allows for a greater variety of uses. 

“I started using sandpaper because the cuts were pretty rough, so I started sanding them down to see if I could blend them in, and that worked pretty good,” Frazer said. “Then I started doing the skies and even water, so it’s an evolving technique. To get the sunrise on, say, the Florida Keys, I would take a corner and rip it across so you can see the underlying colors.”

Being limited to fewer colors means Frazer has to keep a lookout for how the pieces of paper play and contrast with the rest of the work.

“You can take something with an orange background and take a gray piece of paper with it and maybe a blue piece of paper on the bottom,” he said. “You can swear that gray changes colors as it goes from one color to another color. Those values change, and that’s what keeps me intrigued.” 

Frazer said as an artist he wants to see his own skills increase and see others do the same and said having a group like SAA was a benefit to all artists in the community.

“You’re looking through God’s eyes,” Frazer said. “When you finish a work of art, no matter what it’s got on it or anything. For that millisecond, that augenblick, for that brief moment of time after you finish it, you can glimpse paradise, and I think that’s the whole thing.”