Are these not some of the most realistic-looking birds you’ve ever laid eyes on? Netherlands-based artist Johan Scherft has mastered the art of papercraft. At the young age of 14, he discovered the art form by accident when he started making paper bird models which were hand-colored using only colored pencils. “It appealed to me because it combines so many different techniques like working in three dimensions combined with drawing and painting,” he says.
His works caught the eye of the admissions board at The Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, where he ended up going and studying graphic design, free painting and drawing.
Today, Scherft works as a freelance artist creating oil paintings of animals and landscapes as well as papercraft models of frogs, fish and boats. His most eye-catching works, however, are the birds. Taking anywhere from two days to a full month to complete just one, he describes it as a complicated process that involves several steps.
“Although I use computer programs for the basic design, most of my work is done by hand. There’s a lot of trial and error involved before a model is satisfactory. Each species has its own distinctive shape, so I never use a standard design.
“Of course, it is impossible to capture every curve of the bird’s body in paper, compromises have to be made, or the model would have too many gluing tabs, making it too difficult to make. A lot of the realism is suggested with the paintwork. For this part, I take the most time. With very fine brushes, I try to achieve the most realistic effect in color and detail. I use watercolors or gouache paint. It’s always an exciting moment once the template has been painted to assemble the bird and see what the result is.
“I always do some adjusting and extra painting after a model is assembled. Sometimes models require a considerable amount of extra painting, like on the eyes or other important details.”
“I hope to capture some of the beauty and character of the birds,” Scherft states. “Perhaps others will gain an in interest in birds and wildlife, as well. People can now enjoy this beauty in their homes without owning a dead, stuffed one. Some of the birds are on my website for free so people can print them out and try making them for themselves.
“In September, a kit with four American birds will be published and will be for sale in bookstores in different countries. I find it exciting that my paper birds will be flying all over the world!”