Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview with Jayme McGowan

The Magic Green Bike

As many of you know from conversations with me, from reading my blog, or from posts on the Cricut Circle, there are paper artists who absolutely enchant me with their creative genius and the way they make paper dance and delight.  Meet Jayme McGowan, an artist who creates magic with paper!

Flight By Kite

Her paper masterpieces are assembled from many, tiny hand-cut bits to create whimsical, marvelous stories.  Part of their charm is that she photographs them in such a way to take advantage of placement to get interesting spaces that create little worlds!

Oscar's Accidental Adventure

Check out her time lapse video of her process...

...in which she created her 2010 commercial for Treetop:

I recently contacted Jayme to see if she would grant me an interview that I could share here.  I wanted to learn from her work and I wanted to see if she could suggest anything to those of us who employ die cut shapes for our projects.  I love looking at Jayme's work-- the way characters seem to have weight, are fixed in the world she creates, and are affected by wind and nature.  I love the illusions she creates and hoped to gain some insight from her for my own projects.  She was gracious in granting me this interview and in allowing me to share her images with you!  I hope that you enjoy her responses; I thought they were pure treasure!

* * * * * *

Question:  I love the way that you gain dimension from both the camera lens and your placement of cut elements to create space (real and enhanced) in your scenes.  Do you consider depth of field as you are sketching your characters and scenes in the planning stage, or is that a bit of artistic magic that occurs spontaneously as you begin to place characters and props?

Jayme McGowan:  When I'm sketching out an idea, I'll do a rough mock-up of how I want to compose the image, trying to take depth of field into account.  I'll put more detail into the characters or objects that will be in the foreground because I know that those will be the most in focus.  But honestly, much of the final image is a result of chance.

When I've finished making the paper pieces and go to set them up in my paper theater (imagine a large diorama, about 18" square), I know that I will have to move things around after looking at it through the camera lens.  Sometimes I have to completely remove elements I spent hours making if it's just not working for the image.  It's not always easy to let the image evolve organically like this - it rarely ends up looking as I imagined it should originally - but I'm trying to learn to go with it.  

It's a crazy process - taking a 2D piece of paper, making it into something 3D and then photographing it to turn it back into something 2D.  It's just too hard to predict what the final outcome will be when I'm in the beginning planning stages.
Trapeze Twins
Question:  The idea of floating or being carried by the wind is something I have seen repeated in your works, especially those you denote as a 'personal project.'  Is there a special significance of this to you?

Jayme McGowan:  That theme comes from a reoccurring flying dream that I have.  I guess it's not flying exactly, 'being carried' as you put it, is exactly right.  In the dreams I'm just floating gently off the ground and up into the treetops as if gravity has ceased to exist.  They're my favorite dreams, really vivid and I always wake up thinking I must actually have this ability.

Plan Gone Awry

Question:  Where does your inspiration come from?

Jayme McGowan:  I'm horrible at answering this question because I never feel like I have a satisfying answer!  My inspiration is a product of everything that I experience - real life events and other people's stories via art, books, music, etc.  It's kind of counter intuitive, but one thing I do consistently, when I need inspiration, is go outside (usually to take my dog for a walk) because my best ideas always come to me when I'm not sitting down in my studio, trying to force it to happen.

I saw an episode of 30 Rock recently where Jack references something called "The Shower Principle".  He described it as the idea that the brain experiences moments of inspiration when it's distracted from the problem at hand.  I don't know if  "The Shower Principle" is really a thing - but I know the concept is absolutely true!

The Best Album Ever
Question:  Is the piece "The Best Album Ever" a self-portrait?  Your characters seem so personal.  Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?

Jayme McGowan:  Yes, more than any other piece that one is the most me.  Me in high school probably - it's been a long time since I lounged around listening to records all day.  My characters are very loosely based on real people.  For example, "Earl's Good Tuesday" was based on this elderly man I used to always see at the Post Office.  

Earl's Good Tuesday

He came there to check his PO Box but would leave empty handed.  I thought that he looked a little sad when he left and imagined that going to the Post Office was one of the highlights of his day.  I always wished that one day I would see him open his box and it would be overstuffed with mail - good mail like handwritten letters and postcards.

Aerial Adventures

Question:  I am particularly entranced by the way that you imply movement.  One of my very favorite works is "Aerial Adventures".  I love the way the short hair and dress are puffed and the illusion that they are moving through the wind as the girl parachutes down.  Do you have any tips for those of us who are amateur paper crafters in creating movement?

Jayme McGowan:  Sure - I suggest manipulating the paper using unconventional techniques.  Wrinkling, twisting, tearing, layering, anything to give it some dimension.  I've actually had some pleasant results from using too much glue and having it accidentally warp my paper.  For the skirt you mentioned, I just imagined  I was creating a sculpture instead of a flat picture.  When you have elements on different planes, it will catch light in interesting and unexpected ways.

Secret Concert
Question:  I saw your beautiful sketches on your February 17 blog post with the hare and the coyote.  Do you typically do a character study and then create the composition or does the composition come first in your mind?

Jayme McGowan:  For my personal projects, usually the characters will come to me first and then I will invent an environment for them.  I prefer to cut simpler forms freestyle - just through trial and error, letting the scene unfold through experimentation.  I can often get away with doing that for inanimate objects or say, a background of trees and clouds, but I have a harder time cutting people and animals without sketching them first.
When I'm on a commercial illustration assignment, I definitely have to start with the entire composition meticulously planned out, because a client needs to know exactly what to expect.  It's less spontaneous that way but I do get final work completed quicker with that level of planning.

Question:  I know you studied painting.  I read that you used paper cutting as a method to occupy your hands when you were quitting smoking.  What is it about paper has made it and kept it your preferred medium?

Jayme McGowan:  So many things.  First off, paper is cheap and plentiful.  Also, I love the tactile experience of working with paper.  Mostly, I love the scale.  In art school we had to work on huge canvases which just isn't sustainable when you have to start storing them in your own home!  I've always had a thing for miniature arts and crafts - I think there is something magical about having to get up really close to inspect the tiny details.  Of course you can work large with paper.  Plus, I like being forced to work small, it makes me unable to be the perfectionist that's always trying to take over!  When you hand-cut something tiny, it's not going to be perfect and that makes it interesting to me.  Also, with paper as opposed to painting, it's much harder to revise.  Cutting something is final- basically you have to trash it and start over or let it be.  It gives me a clearer sense of when a piece is "done".  

Outlaws in the Attic

Question:  Part of your magic is the level of detail.  This makes your works so much fun to look at!  I have noticed that you also gain from implied detail based on your choices of palette and pattern.  Do you have any advice on choosing colors and patterns for those of us who use die cuts?

Jayme McGowan:  When I'm picking out paper at the store, I go for ones with a little texture or pattern that I can imagine mimicking the surface of trees, fur, hair, etc. in my piece.  I think that small, simple patterns are best.  I don't want the paper itself to be recognizable as belonging to a certain designer.  When someone can look at my work and say, "Hey, I recognize that paper!  I just bought that K&Company pad at Michael's yesterday," it takes that magic away.
I also like to include some old or handmade papers to give the piece something special.  As beautiful as many of the patterned scrapbooking papers are, I mostly try to make my own patterns - that's one reason why you see a lot of striped shirts in my work - it's the easiest pattern to make!

Ruler of the Wild Things
Question:  I adore your use of hand-drawn facial features and other details!  I have often received questions and concerns from crafters who don't feel comfortable doing this.  I think hand-work is even more important for those of us who use machine-created cuts.  Can you offer any words of wisdom on the value of hand-drawn features?

Jayme McGowan:  Go for it!  I completely agree that it's an important aspect of creating your own, unique style.  I think my hand-drawn faces are what really give my pieces character and draw the viewer in.  I use a graphite pencil, colored pencils and ink for my facial features.  I used to use more black ink but I've transitioned to extra fine tip pens (Sakura's Micron pens are great for this).  My faces are rarely anatomically perfect, but my hope is that their wonkiness makes them charming.  :)

* * * * * * 

And here's a fun thing:  if you are interested in having a bit of Jayme McGowan's creativity in your home, she has an Etsy store!  She sells original pieces, whimsical prints, and she even has a DIY kit to make a Balloon Adventure Shadowbox!

My daughter, Piper, a Roald Dahl  fanatic, fell in love with the book Matilda.  This was a print I recently ordered for her room!  It features Jayme McGowan's interpretation of the flying book scene and is part of the Paper Dahl collection.  For a special treat, check out Jayme's blog for lots of magic from this collection!

Thank you for checking out my blog today -- I am so excited about this blog post and I very much hope that you enjoyed it too!  Thank you to Jayme McGowan for your insights and ideas and for allowing me to share them here with my fellow paper crafters and friends!  Please visit Jayme's website and blog to see all of her delightful works -- so many more than I have shared here!

Click to links below to check out..


Michelle said...

What an incredible interview. I can see Nadia how she inspires your work. your pieces are attentive to details and personable too. Great insightful questions. Thanks for sharing this interview with your fellow blog readers. Have a great day!


Threadbear said...

Nadia, thank you so much for the wonderful interview -- Jayme is so talented and is definitely an inspiration. I especially found interesting her remark about the paper -- that she doesn't want it to be recognizable as to a certain designer or company. I can definitely see where that would "take the magic away". I love Earl's Good Tuesday and the story behind it.


Linda Kaiser said...

Nadia, what an amazing post! I love her work and your interview was very insightful. Thanks so much for sharing this talent with us and taking the time to post your interview. I just sent you an email and would like to feature a link to your post on my Fab Five Friday!


KOLA Designs said...

What a great interview!! Thanks so much for letting us into the mind of another great artist!! Such amazing work and I hadn't ever seen any of it before!!

Francine said...

Thank you so much for sharing your interview with us. I am in AWE of Jayme's work and I can see how she provides you with much inspiration.

Debbie O'Neal said...

fabulous interview Nadia...you asked the same questions that I would have ...her work is amazing but your work is just as wonderful too !

Sis Patterson said...

Wow - I am totally motivated now! It has been too long since I really thought about all of the questions you asked and Jayme answered. Great feature - love the question on facial features - I really need to start working on that aspect. And the more details closer - yay, real practical application for that one.
Can't wait to see what you have up next!

Amie Kiger (Kigz) said...

Thank you so much for introducing me to this inspiring artist! Her creations are simply amazing. I would not even know where to begin!

Gail said...

very nice

Gina piazza said...

What a wonderful interview......

Scrappin with the bug said...

Great job. I love the interview and the inpiration you shared. This was a great interview. Thanks again for doing this.

I totally can totally see where you get most of your inpriation from.

Melissa said...

So interesting Nadia! Thanks for sharing this wonder ART with us.

eunice said...

OMGosh, Nadia! Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview with us. Jayme's work is amazing and I see how she has been such an inspiration to your own incredible work. Wow...just WOW!

cdm317 said...

Great interview! I see where your inspiration comes from.

MelodyR aka Ry&MysMom said...

Amazing work - and so inspiring! Thanks for sharing, Nadia!

HeARTworks said...

Thank you for introducing me to this amazing artist! Have never heard of her before! There's obviously a lot more I can learn from your blog! I'll be folowing with bloglovin' Blessings! Patsy from

Donna said...

Thank you for the info on this artist. She is amazing! I only hope that one day I am half as talented as she is. I am a new subscriber and I'm looking forward to all the amazing things you will share.

Got2BCrafting said...

Wow.. what a very insightful and interesting interview!! I can see how you have been inspired by Jayme, she is amazing! :)

Jennifer DeDonato said...

I'm a paper artist and I just love Jayme's work. She is so original and unique. Great interview!


But wait! There's more! Click 'older posts' above!

But wait!  There's more!  Click 'older posts' above!