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Positively Negative

August 15, 2013

Presently, I am finishing illustrations for a new picture book (click pics to enlarge):

HHf copy

I love working with cut paper—because of how it looks when finished, of course—but also because of the hurricane of paper scraps that fills my studio. I love a good mess.


This book is set in a city, and has a lot of humans playing musical instruments and dancing and whatnot. It has been particularly complex to construct. I must have gone through about a hundred x-acto blades and a ton of paper in the last two months. I don’t always get my shapes right the first time, so there are a lot of leftovers.

Its a good thing I’m not a hoarder, because each time I do a clean-up, I can’t help but get attached to the scraps. Sometimes when the negatives get stacked over one another they make world class abstract art.

Today I snapped a few digital pics before tossing out the trash:




Matisse, eat your heart out …


And now that my studio is “clean”, it’s time to get back to work.

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  1. Dave,

    Thanks for the great blog and inspiration. Is the paper cutting method something new that you’re doing? How does it compare to painting in terms of production time and your more traditional process of painting. For characters, I would think that cutting paper is awesome for saving time since you can recreate characters relatively quickly without redrawing/repainting every time?

    thanks again,

    • Hi John,

      The cut paper thing is a technique I’ve used for quite a few of my books… maybe it’s even my signature style. I stumbled upon it by accident when I was wicked poor, and wanted to pitch what turned out to be my first book (A Monkey Among Us).

      Cutting paper is more forgiving than painting—in that if I screw up the shape of a character or a gesture I can try again before I commit to it being on the page—but I wouldn’t say it saves much time in the end. Like anything there are pros and cons.

      Thanks for writing and for reading my blog!

      — dave

      p.s. You’ll find examples from Twenty-Six Pirates and Twenty-Six Princesses elsewhere in my blog; probably some of my best cut paper stuff.

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