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Paper Quilling Artist Creates “Ultra Realistic” Animal Portraits

Paper Quilling Animals

Paper quilling is largely considered a decorative art, but artist Amy Crain proves that realism is possible with the right materials and technique. Her amazing paper quilled animals feature a cuddly cat and a pair of precious pups that have subtle changes in the coloring of their fur as well as the direction of their hairs. At a glance, the three-dimensional portraits almost look like photographs. The results will make you do a double-take!

Crain was introduced to paper quilling about eight years ago and has always looked beyond what seems possible at the time. “I recall my first piece being inspired by a printed gift bag,” she tells My Modern Met. “What started as an attempt to replicate a simple paisley pattern turned into an elaborate tree by the time I was finished.”

Art often imitates life, and Crain was inspired by her dogs to tackle an unconventional series of portraits using an approach called combing. “I was in the process of planning a whimsical portrait of a cat for a friend when I realized that because of the colors and texture of the cat’s fur, I wasn’t going to be able to create a portrait for her in that particular style,” Crain recollects. “That is when I ventured into the technique I used for the Maine coon cat piece. My sister has dubbed it ‘ultra-realistic’ quilling.”

The incredible details in every portrait represent a time-consuming process. “To create the fur, 1/8″ wide strips of paper are cut into tiny segments, curled slightly and then glued together to form the individual pieces of fur and eyelashes of the cat,” Crain explains. “The whiskers are 1/16″ wide (some thinner) strips of paper tapered at the ends to a point. The eyes are formed using slightly longer pieces of 1/8″ wide paper of varying colors which are curved to form the irises and pupils.”

The dimensions of the cat portrait are 6.5 square inches, and Crain estimates that it took up to 180 hours to finish. “This particular piece was a bit more intricate than my previous pieces in this style, but all of the pieces using this technique are approximately the same size as anything much larger would take years to complete!”

Artist Amy Crain uses paper quilling to create “ultra-realistic” portraits of animals like this cat.

Paper Quilling Animals

She estimates that it took her about 180 hours to complete.

Paper Quilling Animals

The paper quilling artist also crafted a couple of adorable dogs.

Paper Quilling Art by Amy CrainPaper Quilling Art by Amy CrainAmy Crain: Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Amy Crain.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.

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