This perturbed woman was originally holding a piece of her art in a 1950s magazine. She looked half mad so I couldn’t wait to put something else in her hands. I might have the same look on my face if I found myself holding a Siamese Fighting Fish! (The sleek bathroom comes from Architectural Digest.)
It may sound strange, but I have found over many years there is actually a technique to cutting things out. I’ll admit I find it a zen sort of therapy, so it may take on more meaning to me than to most folks. But, here are some “scissor tips,” if you will:
1. Extract the image – Try to visually remove the image from its surrounds. You may be looking at a black stallion on a darkened beach. But imagine a crisp outline around him with a contrasting background and it could change everything.
2. Cut what you see – It may be tempting to cut corners, literally. But try to be true to the image and follow the outline. Every crinkle in the pants, every tuft of hair will add believability and realism to your final piece.
3. Cut on the inside – Try to be true to the outline, but if you have to err, err on the inside of the image. Even a fingernail trace left shadowing the image can be distracting.
4. Edit – And sometimes you have to ignore Tip #2. If you want to use a blurry image or something with fine whiskers that are impossible to keep intact, just cut them off. Don’t lose an image altogether just because part of it is unusable. Keep an open mind about how you could incorporate it. Sometimes restrictions force ideas.
5. Cut ahead of yourself – Instead of focusing on exactly where your scissors are meeting the paper, keep your eyes on the tip of your scissors. Like driving a car, where you are about to go is where you need to steer.
6. If you like it, cut it out- Sometimes (ok, most of the time) I have no idea where I plan to use an image while I’m cutting it out. I just know I like it. Sort of like shopping for a wardrobe, if you buy things you like, they tend to go together. You’ll gather a crazy pile of haphazard images, but something will jive. Also, cutting is sort of like doodling to me. When I don’t know what I want to do next, I cut.
7. Removing the insides – I’ve found the best way to remove an area that is surrounded by paper is to stab it in the middle and trim out toward the edges.
8. When removing paper, pull to the back – If you have a piece of paper that is dangling and needs to be taken off it may leave a tiny rough spot. If you pull to the back of what you are cutting this appearance will be minimized.
9. Move the paper not the scissors – Hold what you are cutting with your thumb and forefinger and let it rotate smoothly as you cut. If you move it rather than the scissors you will get easier motion. for detailed, intricate cutting.
10. Finally, tools: I use Gingher embroidery scissors for almost everything as well as a new find for me, the EK retractable knife for intricate, delicate work.
I have an idea for a high-rise apartment that has all sorts of characters in residence. In trying to figure out a way to “sketch it out” I started magneting cut-outs to a giant oil spill pan. I’m using Mighty Mini Magnets that practically disappear and leave a clear visible image. This is the collagist’s answer to sketching. I’m sure to move things around multiple times before committing to a final layout. In fact, the biggest danger of having this much flexibility is that I’ll NEVER settle on anything.
My love of the graphic continues. Black and red is such a classic and easy color combination.
While cutting out these finches I realized why Darwin may have been attracted to them. They have a very pleasing shape to them. No hawkish bills. Their beaks resolve neatly at a arching tip. Their simplicity exudes a certain innocence (perhaps that’s why I felt the need to pair them with graffiti – to temper their purity.)
This was partly inspired by my friend’s story about the Garden of Eden, but I didn’t have the draft with me for reference so I riffed a little. A flaming footed earth seems to be descending on this poor guy. I like that he’s far from an adonis. Just a bad day, I’d say. (The far left edge is more photo cropped than in reality. The collage shows the complete feet rather than being cut off.)