This is a post in a series of interviews featuring up-and-coming illustrators, in a celebration of the first annual Illustration Week. Enjoy!
Tell us about your work making paper-cuts. How did you get into it?
I work in hand-cut, multiple-layered silhouettes. Using paper as my primary medium came about as chance, but has its roots in my past. Even as a kid I was interested in working in paper, starting with making increasingly complicated paper snowflakes. And when I took an Introductory Chinese class, we used X-actos to cut out patterns out of construction paper and I chose the most intricate one (and used the a really terrible blue and yellow color combo, ugh).
But it wasn’t until I was taking a class that worked with the New York Observer and doing an editorial assignment every week that I finally got to paper. The entire class got the same assignment that was then submitted to the Observer, that would choose one person’s piece and publish it. Every week I tried a different style – watercolor, ink, cardboard and paint, ink resists, etc. After all but the last week had gone by, my professor (Rudy Gutierrez) gave us a final, optional assignment. Around the exact same time that I decided I probably wouldn’t do it, I stumbled on Elsa Mora’s work – a Cuban artist who creates gorgeous folksy silhouettes – and I was determined to try it myself. The end result was being published for the first time and deciding that paper would be a really interesting medium for illustration!
Where do you get your inspiration? Are there any other artists doing similar work that you look up to?
Inspiration for me comes from a lot of places. My work often depicts natural themes and I can safely say that I am greatly inspired by Nature. And even though my work is typically made in flat colors and out of paper, I seek inspiration in all forms of the creative process. I love Walton Ford’s work for his gorgeous, gigantic Audubon-style paintings, Sam Weber, The Museum of Natural History, Salish tribal art, Van Gogh, Magritte, Klimt, Lizbeth Zwerger, and a pinch of Mucha. Fashion always inspires me, when it manages to be both ambitious and beautiful (I’m talking about you, McQueen, and your protegé Sarah Burton). Graphic Designers and Typographers always have the power to blow me away with the right project (currently crushin’ on Jessica Hische’s type work). Ancient Mythology, Witchcraft, and Nintendo too. I’m truly an obsessive researcher and love to find a thousand pictures of things that are so different from my own, and so powerful.
I am definitely inspired by other paper artists, but I don’t find myself looking at them very often or specifically for inspiration. Elsa Mora, of course, my alma mater of cut-paper. Kako Ueda does gorgeous, big pieces that combine flat paper with oil (or maybe gouache). Her work really fascinates me in its complexity and its darkness. Rob Ryan does a lot of really effortless-looking pieces that are sweet in their kitsch. And Bovey Lee’s use of perspective is always of great interest to me (find her piece that has a dress hanging on a chainlink fence and you’ll know what I mean).
The thing that I think sets me apart a bit is that cut-paper is by and large a fine arts world, with Rob Ryan being an exception there, and maybe Elsa Mora a bit. I had to think hard about applying paper as an Illustration form, because it can be pretty unforgiving, but definitely rewarding.
What is the process of completing one of your pieces?
The process differs a bit depending on whether or not I’m working in multiple layers, or if there are interwoven pieces, etc. But I always start with thumbnails that become bigger sketches, mainly for perspective and composition. Colors come later, and I go to my collection of paper that is simultaneously way too big and not nearly enough to pick out the appropriate palette. Then I start with the topmost layer, draw it out, cut it out, trace it on to the next layer, and keep working like that until it’s finished.
What are some of your favorite go-to materials, papers, etc.? Do you enjoy using any other mediums?
Hm… there’s a brand of handmade papers at New York Central that I love, especially this one orange that I’ve used too much lately. And I bought this textured, dull silver that I can’t wait to find the right project to let it loose. Indigo and Ivory are my black and white respectively, although I do use a bright white to contrast the Ivory sometimes. Canford cardstock is a great paper for its weight and the colors are really good. And always, always, always, a Number 11 X-acto blade.
And yes, I love working in watercolor. It’s funny to me because watercolor is so layered and diaphanous, with beautiful stains, and it’s very much the opposite of my paper work in a lot of ways. But I do love it, and am actually working on a Children’s Book that is going to be done in watercolor and ink.
Where do you see your work going in the future? What venues do you see your illustrations working best?
Lately I’ve been playing around with taking a complicated pattern and placing it on a piece of paper that is the same color, achieving a more subtle effect of shadows. It’s a lot of work for some shadows, but I’m a big fan. And I’m getting into a lot of typography too. New colors on the way!
I have to laugh a bit at the last question because I’ve spent a lot of time since graduating exploring a lot of venues. I’d really like to get editorial work, and a lot of people in that area have expressed interest. Being asked to do a few giant one-layer silhouettes for window displays is a fantasy of mine. Without a doubt, I want to publish an illustrated book done completely in paper. Album art would be incredible, especially if it were incorporated into the entire design. And I think that my dream job is doing book covers. I know that Penguin occasionally hires an illustrator to design a line of books and that would absolutely extraordinary. In the end, I’m open to everything. I always want to tackle new challenges.