Paolo Del Toro’s way with wood

Wales

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I fell in love with Paolo Del Toro’s work.  He’s based in Wales, and in addition to being an illustrator, he’s a woodworker – he creates these beautiful wooden boxes in the shape of heads (check out that last one with the teeth!) His illustrations are filled with all sorts of lovely textures and of colors of bygone eras. He has an amazing range of style too, and his blog is a testament to his talents. He’s one to watch out for, mark my words.

Artist interview: Sarah Dennis

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I was attracted at once to Sarah Dennis’ paper-cutting work when she sent me an email – and so I invited her to talk a little bit more about her process! I enjoy seeing how others interpret their style in various ways, especially if that means going for your strengths instead of measuring yourself against other people’s standards – like what Sarah has done.

Name: Sarah Dennis
Location: Bristol, United Kingdom
LinksWebsite | BlogShop

Tell us a little more about yourself!

Well, I have red hair and I feel like the red fox is my spirit animal! I  love orange, green and turquoise and seeing these colours together makes  me just so happy. If you were to take a peek into my wardrobe you would  find only these colours in different combinations. I feel like I can  speak fluent french but in truth I can’t speak a word, I just like to  pretend. I also like eating, cycling and dancing!

Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what  is your daily schedule like?

I live in Bristol and I love it here! I have just bought my first house  with my boyfriend Tom, so it looks like I’ll be sticking around these  parts. I moved in just the other day, so my daily routine is a little  unsettled. In the flat where we used to live, I worked from home. I had  turned the downstairs dining room into a studio, which was great, it was  a nice big space with loads of light. Tom also worked at home some days  so I didn’t get cabin fever too badly. Our new home is quite old and in  need of some serious love, and I keep getting distracted sanding  floorboards and digging up the garden, so I’m currently on the look out  for a studio in Bristol. It will be really nice working around other  artists again. Bristol is the perfect place to be a freelance  illustrator, there are lots of artist studios and support networks with  lots of opportunities to collaborate with other people in the community.

 

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Are you a full-time illustrator? How did you begin finding work/commissions?

I am. It was initially quite hard to find enough work but in the last  few years I’ve been managing to get by on my illustrations, which is  great. For the first few years I had a part time job as well, but I  never felt like I was fully applying myself as an artist, so I got my  portfolio up to scratch and decided to dedicate all my time to making it  work. I put a great deal of effort into sending out postcards, writing  emails and connecting with as many people as I possibly could. Slowly  the commissions started to come in and it all snowballed from there. It  was a great feeling to be finally working on projects that I had dreamt  about while at university. I still have the occasional quiet patch, it’s  the nature of being freelance but it always passes and it gives me  valuable time to set myself personal projects and work on my artwork.

Your portfolio is filled with paper cuts as your medium of choice – what  led you to it, as opposed to other medias?

I have never been great at working with paint, I would always end up  with more of it on my hands and on the floor than I would on the paper.  I’m capable of making quite a mess so I like working with a materials  that won’t drip or spill. The good thing about paper is you can make a  mess but it doesn’t stain the carpet! And the result is very neat which  I like. When I was at university I did more collage based work, I used to  collect envelopes, wallpaper samples, old books or whatever I could find  and would make my illustrations either digitally or by hand. It was  after I saw a great exhibition at the Bristol Museum on oriental  artwork, where I discovered Chinese paper cutting, my head exploded with  inspiration. After this, I started adding more and more detail to my  work and using a paper cutting technique within my art and illustrations.

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What’s your favourite project so far?

Last year I was lucky enough to publish my first children’s book  ‘Cinderella’. This book is like no other I’d seen before. I designed the  book so that between each double page spread is a delicate paper-cut  page which interacts and cast shadows over the background illustrations.  It has always been an ambition to publish a children’s book and I was so  thrilled to be able to combine my illustration’s with my paper cutting  skill. Its was very satisfying to hold the final book and to see it in  shops.

Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

I do, although for my more detailed artwork I normally develop ideas on larger bits of paper to get the sense of scale right. But the sketch book for me is about about keeping a personal doodle diary and sketching  down ideas that emerge at random times.

 

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What or who inspires you?

I love nature, sometimes just watching a documentary will inspire me to  create a new piece. I’m really interested in the natural patterns that  emerge in nature: from the fractals in Romanesco broccoli to the  flocking of birds and fish. I also love to think a lot about the  incredible journeys that creatures make to survive. I have recently  discovered an artist, philosopher and professor called Enest Heckel. In  the 19th century he discovered and named thousands of new species. He  has hundreds of detailed illustration of marine creatures. I have  recently bought a selection of books all about his work, the detail,  composition and alien nature of some of these creatures just blows me  away. His work has inspired me to take an even deeper journey into the  ocean.

What keeps you motivated?

I have done a few different jobs in the past, and I know that working freelance as an artist and illustrator is what I want to continue to do.  I believe the harder you work on what you love the more likely you are  to land your dream project and have success in your career. I also read  a lot of design blogs and talk to other artists, friends and family who  help me keep focused and motivated.

What’s your favourite tool?

The scalpel, can’t live with out it.

 

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Where do you see yourself within the next few years?

I see myself in my new home, hopefully not surrounded by boxes but in a  lovely space that I have created to live in. I hope to a have a new  studio space thats large enough for me to start making large paper  sculptures. I have recently started running paper cutting workshops and  would love to have my own space where I can run classes and even have a  space that other artists can use to teach their own workshops. I hope to  be working on new and challenging illustration project’s as well as  having my own shop on my website, not just selling prints, but lamp  shades, cushions and cards.

What will be your dream project or collaboration?

I have starting planning a project where I work on a larger scale on a  theme of jellyfish and light. My dream is to develop these ideas as part  of an artist residency in Japan, I love paper and have begun a journey  into finding the perfect paper to work with. I’m really interested in  Japanese washi paper, I would love to learn the process of making my  own. I feel that making the paper from scratch and knowing more about  the material and its history would really benefit my practice and feed  my knowledge of working with paper and progressing as an artist.

 

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Tell us something random about yourself!

One of my favourite creatures is a kakapo, its a flightless bird which  almost looks like a cross between a parrot and an owl. Its only defence  mechanism from predators is to stand still pretending its invisible.  Unfortunately this tactic has not worked out very well for the poor  kakapos and they are almost extinct. I adore them, I have made myself a  kakapo plush toy which sits in my room and looks after all my things.

Thanks so much Sarah!

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