Hi to the Painting and Drawing Intermediate course – others may be interested in this too. You have been given some information on this project but I have a few more names for you to research and some further advice. In the handout you will see that artists from many different nationalities created artwork using cut-paper. We are looking at artists working mainly with silhouettes in this project – in other words one colour on white or vice versa.

Paper cutting seems to have been particularly popular in Germany, where it was known as Scherenschnitte or ‘scissor snips’. Artists like Wilhelm Muller, Lotte Gutzlaff and Eva Schonberg worked with paper creating beautiful silhouettes.

This intricate countryside scene is by Wilhelm Muller from 1850 and the woman in a hat by Eva Schonberg. Many of her paper cuts were produced in the 1920s in Berlin. It’s incredible how she cut such fine lines.

Paul Konewka was working in the 1800s creating silhouettes of scenes from Shakespearean plays. Felix Schmidt and John Mansell were also creating silhouettes in the 19th century.

One of my favourite paper cut artists, who was working in the 20th century is Erich Proksch. He was born in 1910 in what is now the Czech Republic. He studied in Prague between the two world wars, serving as a soldier in Russia in WW2, afterwards working as a teacher. He fled to West Germany in 1954 with his wife and 3 children and found another teaching position. He was exceptionally gifted at paper-cutting as well as painting watercolours and working as a pianist and choir leader. In 1999 he gave his grandson images of his paper cuts so that he could scan them and ‘hand them over to the internet’. They show magical scenes, both whimsical and nightmarish.

Noah’s Ark by Tim Arnold from 1996 shows a clever use of black and white to create the scene. As with all paper-cuts you have to decide which bit to leave and which bit to cut away to explain the scene. Tim Arnold manages to get so much detail into this image by switching from ‘black’ to ‘white’ in a very skilled and thoughtful way.

In the handout I mention artists working with cut paper today – Rob Ryan, Peter Callesen and Helen Musselwhite. There are many more. Another artist who I have just discovered is Thomas Witte. He is based in Brooklyn and captures the everyday world, urban scenes, people going about their daily tasks. He works with white paper which is then shown against a darker ground. He is inspired by his grandfather’s photos, some from the 60s and 70s and creates large scale pieces that look photographic rather than illustrative.

All the pieces that I have shown here are very detailed and intricate, maybe taking many hours to cut out, either with scissors or a knife. You don’t have to produce a piece on such a large scale. Some silhouette’s are fairly small and just as effective.

You can make your cut paper piece with scissors or use a scalpel or swivel knife. If cutting with a knife you will need to use a cutting mat. I reverse my image and then draw it on the back of the paper. Working from the back you don’t have any pencil marks to rub out afterwards. You could draw your image on tracing paper and cut straight through the tracing paper and the black or coloured paper. It can be harder cutting through two thicknesses of paper though. Be careful when cutting with a knife – keep your other hand well out of the way.

Finally this is one of my paper-cuts, based on a drawing from my Outside In series. Like the ink drawings in the series it shows an interior as if viewed through a window which is reflecting the scene outside.