Hello paper lovers! We have been wanting to do this for quite some time now and what better way to ring in the new year than with some of the resolutions that you had for yourself?! One of those resolutions is to start interviewing our beloved artists so you, our viewers, can have a more in depth look into the artists lives that we know — and don’t know — to see what makes them tick and other various questions that may pique our interest.
The artist that is being featured for our very first interview on Strictlypaper hails from the Netherlands and honestly no words, or at least my words, can describe his incredible talents as a painter and paper crafter. He meticulously paints these realistic and life sized animals and upon completing the craft they look as though they would fit seamlessly into nature. Without further adieu I present Johan Scherft.
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?
In my profession as visual artist I create both paintings and spacial work. For the spacial work I make use of paper. I design mainly cardboard models of animals, especially birds.
What interests me in designing with cardboard models is working within both realms on a three dimensional plane. I have studied painting and graphics at the art academy, but creating paper models has always been a major part of my work.
When did you begin working with paper?
The first model I made was a model of a flying bird, a Merlin, designed by the Englishman Malcolm Topp. This was the beginning of my own exploration in designing paper cardboard models. I started making my own designs when I was about 14 years old.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I was planning to make other types of animals, not only birds. I am now working on a series of colorful monkey faces, but it needs more time and thought.
Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
From 19 to 22 january my latest models will be exposed at an art fair called Real Is Me 12 in Amsterdam where realistic art is shown.
If you could collaborate with anyone in this world, dead or alive, who would it be?
I know a Dutch artist, Saskia van dijk, who makes livesize insects from thin paper and thread and wool. It would be a nice combination with my paper birds, also because of the scientific approach we share in making these animals and that I never make insects. I don’t really feel the urge to collaborate with anyone in making a piece of art. It’s too personal. However sometimes I do have assitance in the cutting out of the testmodels I make.
What did you want to be when you grew up, and are you surprised where you ended up?
When I was a kid I was always drawing. I started with drawing comics. Later my interest changed to painting and designing. It’s no surprise to me that I became an artist.
What is your source of inspiration?
Nature has always been my source of inspiration. I like to go out bird-watching and watch and observe animals. Birds I find nice to make out of paper, because of their varied colours and shapes. A mammal is more difficult, they have fur which is difficult to suggest with the paper. Recently I decided to make something different, so I made a realistic paper vampire-bat. I thought it would make a good contrast with the more friendly and cuddly birds. And I have made a series of deepsea-creatures. There are not many photograph’s of the animals living in the deep, so I let my imagination run free. Some of the animals I gave a light, using optic fibre.
In my work also people are important. Mostly in the paintings I make, but also sometimes in my paper art. People I always expose in a humble and vulnerable role. For instance I have created a ‘boat with refugees’ out of paper. For this project I used origami and crumbling paper techniques for creating the people on the boat.
Seen from up close the ‘refugees’ are no more then pieces of crumbled paper, but from a distance the illusion of miserable people, wearing worn out clothes, is suggested.
What tools do you use?
I use thin acid-free paper, scissors and paper glue. The paintwork of the models is done with watercolor and gouache. I consider my models to be three-dimensional paintings. A template of a model is painted before it is assembled, which is a lot easier than painting the model afterwards. Also I can scan the templates in case I decide to make one or more copies of the original in the future. The assembled models I touch up considerably after they are put together. When a model is completed I frame them behind glass to protect them.
Also I have made etched templates. These are very detailed but show less color then the painted models.
What are you most proud of?
I am always most proud of the latest work I finished. This is now a paper scops-owl, soon to be featured on my website.
What else would you like to share with our viewers?
Because I have scanned and further edited some of the templates I have given other people also the opportunity to make my models. On my site I offer a number of templates, as a free download. In this way my work is spread. I find it nice that people around the world make my paper art. I hope in that way I can share my love for animals and nature a bit!
Thank you so much Johan for sharing your work with us. I’m sure our readers will be astounded when they see your work. Below I have included a video where Johan shows how he makes the Kingfisher (the first bird at the top of the post).