How I Turn Tiny Pieces Of Paper Into Ancient Egyptians


It's been awhile since I really talked about my process here on the blog, so I think that means it's time! This will only be a glimpse into part of the process because, frankly, I'm terrible at remembering to take photos while I work. I'll plan and plan for it, but once the tools come out all of those plans take a quick vacation and don't come back until just a couple minutes after it's too late. 

Fortunately I remembered to take more photos than usual while working on my upcoming book, Thutmose IV (the last in the series)! I'm especially excited to share them, because I did things a little bit differently this time and it makes the process so much more fun to photograph.

Cut paper pieces for Thutmose Illustration

For this story I'm relying much more on the cut paper than I have in the past. I often cut out only the major shapes, and add details like jewelry, hair or clothing with paint later. But this time I decided to take the paper as far as I could. 

It has meant a lot more time spent cutting a gluing than usual, but I think it will save me time painting later. 

Collaged illustration of Pharaoh Thutmose IV

The time saved isn't the reason I'm working this way though, it's a stylistic choice. While I'm trying to stay true to myself in this book, I'm also allowing my work to be very heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian painting. That means lots of flat colors and shapes.

Rows of ancient Egyptian style collage cut outs

I also glued lots of these pieces together before attaching them to the final board. Rather than gluing the body to the board, then gluing the clothing on top, all of a figure's tissue paper pieces were glued together and then all pieces were attached to the final board. That meant that I had lots of fun figures to arrange and play with before committing to the final piece.

Flat lay of ancient Egyptian inspired figures

Cut paper figures of Pharaoh Thutmose IV and brothers

Close up of ancient Egyptian inspired flat lay

In addition to the fun arranging opportunities, it also helped me keep all those tiny paper pieces straight. It's so easy for a little silhouette of hair to fly off the table because I breathed a little too hard, so the sooner the pieces are attached, the better!

Pharaoh Thutmose IV and his brothers illustrated with cut paper

Why not just glue them all down to the board right away though? Well, I like to overlap my paper pieces almost as if I was working three dimensionally. Sometimes that means that some pieces need to go in front of others in one spot, but wrap around behind in other spots. I've glued down pieces too soon more times than I'd like to admit!

Sphinx jumps out of sand over Thutmose

You can see some good examples of the overlap in the above photo. Thutmose's hair needs to go on top of his face, but behind his shoulder. The necklace needs to go on top of his chest, but behind the arm that is closest to us. Even the leaping sphinx's feet have splashes of sand behind and in front of them. All those layers can get a bit overwhelming!

Ancient Egyptian inspired flat lay of cut paper figures

My husband likes to occasionally make fun of my enjoyment of tedious things. I think it's because he looks at projects like this, with hundreds of tiny pieces of delicate paper all layered up, and thinks it looks terribly boring. But I love the meditative quality of cutting out shapes and turning them into something recognizable. And, hopefully, sometime beautiful.

Thutmose IV is coming soon! You can click here to sign up for my newsletter and be the first to know when it launches.

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