Ordinary paper becomes extraordinary art through the hands of Jill Dubin—a style of art that is easily emulated by children and can inspire some wonderful classroom activities.
In both the brand new Over in Australia and in Over in the Arctic, Jill turns to her collection of interesting paper to create illustrations that are enchanting, somewhat stylized, and a whole lot of fun. Of course, her paper collection isn’t just culled from shopping bags and newsprint. Sometimes the “paper” is actually fabric.
“I developed my cut paper technique because I really like to work with textures,” she explains. “I slowly found more and more really interesting paper and found that with them I could create textures that I couldn’t with paints.” She also discovered that working with cut paper was a bit like putting a puzzle together with lots of little pieces. One distinctive advantage is that “if it doesn’t work, I pull out some other paper.”
After carefully researching her subject, Jill makes a detailed drawing of each illustration. Using a copy of the drawing as a pattern, she then cuts the pieces she needs. The background is a variety of textures and each animal being portrayed is a collection of a variety of textures and shapes. Jill then spreads a very thin layer of glue to assemble everything. Sometimes she uses a toothpick to hold down small pieces. When it is all together, she puts the whole illustration between two sheets of acetate and presses it together under heavy books s so it will lie flat. Sometimes she finishes with colored pencils or pastels to add details, shading, and emphasis. Then it is ready to be sent to the printer!
“Doing this is such fun,” she says. Working with paper can easily be adapted for classroom activities, as she explains in the “Tips from the Illustrator” page in both Over in Australia and Over in the Arctic. In the Arctic book she gives instructions on how to make paper snowflakes. In the Australia book she gives lots of suggestions.
Jill says: “You can create your own animal collages of Australian animals, or animals in your neighborhood, or your own pet. Also flowers are good subjects for collages, such as the flannel flower from Australia that I used as background around the text. Look around you and collect paper that appeals to you. You can use strips from a brown paper bag to make long grass like the wallabies are hopping through. Another part of the bag can be cut out for fur, such as that of the wombat.
“Try using a crayon, colored pencil, pastel or chalk to make shading on the body and details like spots, stripes and faces. Crinkled crepe paper or colored tissue paper would make great water, like for the splashing platypus. See how the brolgas are wading through cellophane water with sandpaper as their beach. You can find patterns using newspapers, old magazines, wrapping paper or greeting cards. Look for details within the designs that you find interesting. Use your imagination, make it your own—and have fun.”
Jill has a collection of thousands of kinds of paper. “Sometimes my studio becomes a mess of paper!” she says. Nevertheless, she keeps her paper supply organized by a rainbow of colors. And further organized by whether it is a solid color or a pattern.