So…how the heck DO you make everything?
Personally, I seem to be drawn to really deep, meditative, process-heavy ways of creating art. Before I was into papercutting I experimented with printmaking (I still miss carving out all those wood blocks sometimes to be honest). There’s just something about totally immersing yourself in the little details of an illustration, and nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment when it all starts coming together in the end.
For the full idea of my process, I draw lots of sketches (good old pencil on paper) to decide the overall idea and layout. Then begins the meticulous drawing in Photoshop, where I plan out every little part of the piece. This is the actually hardest step for me because it requires SO much brain power and the ability to think ahead.
Did I leave room for supports? Am I remembering the layering order? Have I figured out how many colors I’ll need to paint – and have I made sure to vary where those colors will be in the piece? Have I made it deep enough or too deep for the frame I’ll be using???
Over the years I’ve learned the importance of really bearing down in this decision-making stage so that I can really focus on just the cutting and gluing later – if I don’t plan it all out up front, there will be nothing but disaster later on. (Usually meaning I’ll be tearing things apart after gluing, or re-cutting shapes more than I care to admit.)
Then comes the real production! And yes: everything is cut by hand. I like to say when I’ve done my job right during the drawing process, the cutting becomes a “cut-by-numbers” sort of situation. Everything’s been planned out already, so I can turn my brain off a bit and just enjoy the process.
This is definitely the longest step but it’s also the one I most enjoy (I mean heck, I’m the one that decided to cut everything out by hand!)
How long does a piece normally take to make?
Honestly, it varies SO much I can’t give a solid answer, but I expect any larger custom illustrations to take anywhere between 50-100 hours of just the cutting and gluing, if not more, with the full illustration process taking between 3-6 weeks.
What kind of paper do you use?
My go-to is good old Bristol paper that is painted to create that natural, textural look with the strokes of the paint. I also sometimes use watercolor paper and washes for a softer look.
Lastly, I have always loved handmade papers and have a huge variety on hand at all times. So if I want a specific pattern or texture I can’t get otherwise, I’ll sometimes go through this stock and come across the perfect fit.
What tools do you use?
When drawing I do rely on Adobe Photoshop to get everything sorted out properly. When cutting I use an X-acto knife and swear by my #11M blades. And for the gluing I use a white glue by Lineco – it’s PH neutral and acid free so won’t yellow the papers over time.
How do you frame your pieces?
Luckily, I have found a local woodwork, David Wiley, who I rely on exclusively for all my framing needs. I tell him the size I need, the depth I’ll want, and can even pick the wood and finish. After the frame is made, I bring it and the finished piece to a local frame shop to add the glass and fit. I also use Museum Glass in all of my custom frames to really show the art off as much as possible!