Behind the Book - Cut paper collage illustrations

Children often ask me how I illustrate my books. I tell them that I use cut-paper collage as my medium because the materials are often readily available in an early elementary classroom. Since the materials are typically accessible to students, I feel it makes the art more familiar and  "doable" for them to replicate. My friend Deborah Ousley Kadair Thomas, who illustrated some of my books, said that she too likes using cut-paper collage because it is so familiar to students. As a Montessori teacher, she knows what students like. 

I am not that good at drawing, but to my surprise when I first attempted collage, I was somewhat good at cutting and tearing paper and gluing them in layers to create illustrations. Like most things, the more you practice, the better you get. I am still learning, but I thoroughly enjoy collage. While I am working, time flies. I forget to eat!

I also like collage because of the 3-D appearance of the art on the printed page. When I read my books to students, children often touch the pages of my books to see if they can feel the dimensions. They are curious as to how something 3-D (or 2-D) can be flat in the book. I tell them about how my photographer friend Thom Bennett lights the artwork on a table and then photographs each page with his camera. His camera is connected to his computer where the images are transferred via email to my publishers for printing.  The way Thom photographs the art allows for a few shadows where the layers of paper rise and fall. This shadowing allows the eye to see the dimensions even though the printed pages of the book are flat. 

For the last two days, I have been illustrating a new book, and have included a photo of the mess. It is fun to be ankle deep in cut paper while working on a project. I hope you enjoy the photo. 

Time to cut up some more!