Artist Calvin Nicholls manipulates ordinary sheets of paper into incredible relief sculptures using standard carving tools. He finds inspiration for his paper art in the diversity of wildlife and uses his honed skills to replicate feathers, fur, and fins with masterful precision. “They all present their unique challenges and rewards while showcasing the possibilities of paper as a medium,” Nicholls tells My Modern Met. “I was struck by the latent properties hiding in a simple sheet of paper as we explored grain direction, structural limits, scoring and folding during a lab in art school.”
Since then, the artist has dedicated his creative practice to transforming paper into highly detailed sculptures that look like anything but the material. To create this illusion, Nicholls must pay close attention to how the light will interact with the paper. “Beginning with careful dissection of the planes in the subject, patterns are drawn and constructed to establish the basic form,” he explains. “While working under dedicated lighting, attention is paid to how light plays across these surfaces drifting from highlight to shadow in delicate transitions. The surface detail is drawn next and mapped out to preserve the flow and accuracy while transitioning from a flat drawing to the three-dimensional low-relief base form.” The paper he uses for his animal art is of archival quality and ranges in thickness and finishes depending on the embossing and scoring techniques needed.
After creating paper sculptures for almost 40 years, Nicholls' portfolio includes a wide range of relief sculptures—from large lions to small birds and beyond. He says, “Large sculptures of six feet in length and ones as small as a few inches bring the same joy as the paper is formed and light is harnessed.”
Paper artist Calvin Nicholls creates incredible low relief sculptures of animals by manipulating paper with different tools.
He is able to replicate the texture of fur, scales, and feathers through different paper cutting and folding techniques.
Watch this video for more insight into Nicholls' process:
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