Paper art is a medium that is wide-ranging, often involving many techniques. Artists who work in paper arts might employ methods such as cutting, folding, layering, curving, bending, stitching, and so forth. David’s contemporary work uses cutting as the primary technique employed, but there is much more to the process of paper cutting than the name implies, which I quickly discovered as I toured David’s NE Portland home and studio.
As I was shown around his home, I learned that not only is he an artist, but he is also a collector of art. David has works from his early years in Chicago and New York, to newer pieces he’s appropriated since moving to the Pacific Northwest. His appreciation of art extends beyond paper art to include painting, photography, and even sculpture. It’s when he shares the work of other talented paper artists. His passion for the process and ultimate outcome brings a wide grin to his face.
Upon heading to his studio which is a beautiful converted garage with a skylight, window and glass rolling door - his sweet dog Poppi comes to greet me. Rarely do you see David without Poppi at heel. His time with her is clearly a source of inspiration for his art, as the piece “Dog Park” exemplifies.
There is more to paper cutting than what you might think. While sitting in the evening, David will work on “one-liners”, as he called them, where he sketches images by moving a pen along paper without stopping, joining the starting and ending point of the line together, then shading in the solid area created by that one line. This is a template for possible future work. Alternatively, when he has a custom design requiring the joining of many subjects or a more elaborate subject in mind, such as the “Dog Park” he will use Adobe Fresco on his iPad. This gives him the ability to join many disparate people, objects or words together. While not every design he creates results in a finished work, spending 2-4 hours each night creating designs provides him with a vast pool to pull from whenever he feels inspired to produce a new artwork.
His work ranges in subject from the personal of daily life, to political themes, to the natural world, and more. On occasion, his designs are custom work of people, pets, or even events; more about custom work can be located on his website under “commission”. Ultimately, when asked what his style is he states that he is an “eclecticist” and that “we only have one life to live and we try to do as much as we can.” It is this approach that creates a body of work that is accessible to everyone. No matter what you are interested in, you are bound to find a piece that speaks to you and your lived experience.
It wasn’t until around 2010 that David began paper-cutting. While at Powell’s Books, he saw and bought a book on paper cutting. His early pieces used a colored, handmade paper background with a black-cut design on top, leaving the negative space to take on the color of the paper behind (See Image, above). Over time, the handmade and colored paper fell into disuse, as he created a new approach to adding color and shading to his layers. This adds brilliance, as it relies on the reflective value of color added to the backside of his cutting onto a white background.
Prior to beginning, David adds colored paper to the backside of the black paper he will cut. He then transfers his design onto the backside, where the colored paper is glued, as his guide for the blade. His blade then meticulously follows the lines of the design to create the cutting and is prepared for mounting onto the white background. Mounting typically uses clear plastic “stilts”, which are small cylinder pegs (See Image, below). These stilts are glued to the backside of the cut design and then finally to the white background. If the cutting were directly connected to the white background, the color that is attached to the backside of the black cutting would not be visible.
It is the stilts that keep the cutting raised from the white background, allowing the illumination of the backside color through ambient light that produces the color used in his pieces (See Image, Below). You can see a time lapse video of his process on his website. The finished piece is typically framed in a shadowbox frame, which holds the entire piece as a single, finished work of art. Viewed from a distance, the color or colors used on the backside of the black cutting bring life and movement to the cutting’s image.
With a wide range of knowledge and experience creating, one thing is clear: we cannot wait to see what he dives into next!
An array of past and current work can be viewed on David’s website. David is currently open to commissioned work. He has completed custom pieces to commemorate large events, pets, friends or family, and other themes. You can contact David about a commissioned piece on his website.
David is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Follow along to keep up to date.