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Bird Cameo – Paper Sculpture Sketch

Sculpture always brings with it a sense of agelessness, and also a sense of something that takes long hours, days and months to hew from the materials at hand. This is true, and can be even for paper sculpture. While there are deft scalpel knives to work with instead of heavy-handed chisels, putting things together in the third dimension, even with minor relief can take a lot of planing and patience.

After the very positive response to my experiment with the century themed paper sculpture, and over the past months of dabbling, I’ve considered making more large paper sculpture pieces which people could buy. Several had expressed interest and creating more work here is never a bad thing. To start out, however, I needed to get my rusty paper-crafting mental wheels turning and taking on an elaborate paper sculpture to execute can be exactly the wrong sort of de-motivator. So I decided to do something quick and this sketch of a relief paper bird cameo, along with a paper package, resulted.

Paper sculpture bird cameao resting inside a blue paper box

The paper sculpture

I started thinking about this, as is always a good idea, with some exploratory sketches. Just looked at some attractive bird images online and sketched them out very quickly in my combination note-book and sketch book. I used a regular ball-pen for this. A ball-pen can be great to force you to keep your visual observation clean and decisive. Once you make a line there’s no going back and so you pay more attention in making the right line.

Black ball-pen sketches of birds in a sketchbook

I think it’s a good idea to base a paper sculpture off a sketch rather than photographic material directly. It saves time and grief in the long run. By reducing things to a sketch, you reduce the shapes down to the essentials, and so avoid the temptation of cutting ever line of every feather into paper. A sketch helps you design and prioritise what needs to go into your final image.

Paper feathery shape being cut out of white paper with a craft knife

The main idea of this was to be quick, so I started with simply tracing basic shapes from one of sketches, making decisions as to what parts were important and what textures were necessary to recreate the impression of the bird. Shapes were roughly drawn with a pencil and cut out immediately to not over think things.

Pieces of the bird paper sculpture laid out on a cutting board

What I ended up with were a set of pieces of stylised bird. I cut out a base shape, a sort of silhouette for all the other pieces to rest on. The remaining part were largely to create surface texture and form. You can still see the pencil marks on the pieces in the picture. I knew cleaning those out would be too much work and destructive at times, so I traced the shapes in reverse. This way I could have the clean flip side of the shapes to work with in the final piece.

Pieces of the bird cameo being glued together and taking shape

Using a basic solvent-based glue, the pieces were assembled on the base shape. The trick was in pasting some of them flat and pasting just one end of some shapes, to allow them to arc over the surface and give the bird some weight and mass in the finished cameo.

Bird cameo paper sculpture in white paper on a blue paper panel

The packaging

I needed to also think of packaging for the final pieces I wanted to work on later, so I wanted to also test out some paper packaging, to make it both more appropriate and also more hand-crafted.

Flat plan for a paper box with interlocking cover, on blue paper

I started with a flat plan, based on some common designs I found. I measured and adjusted it down to the petite size of the bird I was working on.

Blue paper box folded into shape

After cutting out the flat, and creasing and scoring along all the edges, you can see how the curved box begins to take form and already looks like so much more than just a piece of coloured paper. The transformation of paper when made into a well structured three-dimensional object can be quite startling.

Finished blue paper box with interlocking flap covers

The final box turned out quite well for something put together so quickly, and I also made a small open box to act as a platform to mount the bird on. The cameo went on the blue-paper panel, which was made to fit well within the box, and my little paper sculpture sketch was done.

Bird paper sculpture with blue paper box in the background

This was a lot of fun to do. I am quite happy with the results and I really loved working on this at the speed that I did. I should very much consider doing such quick pieces more regularly. It trains you to take chances and go with your gut on several things. Over-thinking can be the greatest enemy of finishing pieces like these at times.

I hope this paper sculpture sketch is the first of many, and I hope it helps me with the more elaborate pieces I have planned. Those will be in proper frames, and should be along soon. Do follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more regular work-in-progress updates.