3.6 Small

The purpose of this exercise was to create work using folded paper in order to gain an understanding of working at small scale so that any lessons or areas of interest can be explored more fully in later exercises and assignments.

Key words from the brief:

  • Develop a set of characters in 3D form using paper folding
  • Use traditional origami techniques to develop your characters, or you could investigate more contemporary paper toys
  • Record and reflect on your results in your learning log

Creative risks

  1. Using paper/paper folding – this is a creative risk because it’s not a technique I’ve used before
  2. Derive the characters from 2.1 Multi-dimensional thinking – this is a creative risk because it’s not a process I’ve used before


After the intense experience of painting a mural for 3.4 Big, I felt like I needed a moment of reflection to gather my thoughts and organise my thinking so that all my current ideas and experimentation could be aligned with the remaining coursework.

A mindmap reflecting on current ideas and how these might be incorporated into the remaining exercises and assignments

This clarified my thinking and I decided to base my three characters on the automatic drawing I produced for 2.1 Multi-dimensional thinking, and a subsequent further automatic drawing that I produced for myself to further explore the technique.

Automatic drawing
Automatic drawing created as part of 2.1 Multi-dimensional thinking – A1-sized
Automatic drawing with cat
Another automatic drawing that formed the basis for several of the characters – A1 sized

I used my sketchbook to brainstorm ideas further:

Two pages of sketchbook thumbnailing ideas – A2 sized

My conclusion was that as well as using the automatic drawings as the basis for my characters I’d create three images, each using a variation on the paper cutout approach.

These were:

  1. Paper silhouettes – using Illustrator/Photoshop to organise the layers. I wanted to test this approach because it occurred to me that this layered 2D modelling could be animated and, if successful might form the basis of my approach to Assignment 3 – Movement.
  2. Paper line art cutouts – composited digitally
  3. Paper line art cutouts photographed under studio lights. This is technique I’d experimented with before in Responding to a brief for the exercise 4.12 Paper circus.

This means the way I was approaching the exercise was to test different creative/technical techniques that I could use in Assignment 3.

Image 1 – Paper silhouettes

The animal characters in the first illustration were inspired by the three animals in the bottom right-hand corner of the second automatic drawing. I decided that I was going to use them as the characters in the third image and that I could extend the theme into the first image. Rather than cats and dogs in a backstreet I decided to use foxes sniffing around overflowing dustbins.

The character sketches were made from imagination whereas some of the background layers were drawn from reference. All were drawn fairly rapidly with not much consideration for making an accurate copy.

Image 2 process02
Layers drawn in ink. Reference used for the bins because these needed to be recognisable.

The line art was scanned and then used as reference in Illustrator to create a series of shapes that were composited together in Photoshop.

Image 2 process01
Three characters and the first two background layers. At this point I was starting to experiment with colour and composition.

The final artwork was simply constructed using the Illustrator layers, with the subtlety coming from the composition, balancing colour and the addition and manipulation of Photoshop effects to give the illusion of moonlight.

Image 2 INSTAGRAM copy
Image 1 – Foxes and bins

What is exciting about this image is that the layers could all be animated in Adobe After Effects as either a scene or as individual elements.

Image 2 – line-art cutouts (digital)

The second image was made as a variation of the first. The digital compositing was the same techniques, but in this image, rather than using paper silhouettes, the cutouts consisted of line art.

Image 1 making02
Desk space set for fast drawing of graphic elements with automatic drawing reference on the wall and sketchbook

The character illustrations were created very rapidly, two or three minutes each.

Image 1 making01
Rapid bamboo pen ink drawings drying

The final images were composited in Photoshop. The subjects were taken from the automatic drawing and I tried to keep that free flowing thinking in the final compositions.

Image 1 Version 1
Image 2, version 1
Image 1 Version 2
Image 2, version 2

Image 3 – line-art cutouts (analogue)

My starting point for this image was the second automatic drawing.

Automatic drawing with cat zoomed
Close-up showing the three animal characters that were the starting point for this illustration

I really liked the three animal characters in the corner of the image and though they would be fun to develop.

I looked back at lessons learned from 4.12 Paper circus particularly around the challenges I faced working under studio lighting.

Studio pic02
Working with 2D cutouts under very basic studio lighting

I also looked back to3.11 Flick book and animated gifs because I felt the background illustration worked really well and had the kind of feel I wanted to achieve.

Scene 1 being painted
Scene 1 background being painted – 2 x A2 joined t give a wide panorama aspect ratio

I did some rapid thumbnailing to test composition.


It was through the thumbnails that I got the idea of having the dog character cocking his leg up and pissing over a lamp post or car wheel. This made me smile and gave the image an extra narrative quality.

Based on lessons from the paper circus project, I was conscious that I should try and keep the idea really simple and reduce the number of elements. An ideal scenario would be to shoot the models in natural light if that was at all possible.

I did a very quick test that limited the number of characters and visual elements and gave me some idea of the relative scale of the background and foreground elements.

Image 3 process03
Testing a landscape format

I created a backdrop for the model shoot using a 1970s reference photograph of a street in Millwall working on A1 heavy cartridge paper.

In order to keep the spontiety in the drawing of the characters I took several attempts at each using a variety of different drawing materials. Each drawing took less that 5-minutes.

Dog sketches laid out on floor

I selected the two that I liked the best and scanned them, first into Illustrator to get a clean clear outline, and then into Photoshop to add flat colour.

I printed these out in colour and mounted them on 5mm foam board.

Dog cutouts on foamboard
Models mounted on foam board with the backdrop tacked to the wall behind

For the studio shoot I rearranged a loft room into a makeshift photographic studio. I share three lights and tripods with my daughter, so I set these up.

I had intentionally left the final base artwork (what the models would stand on), until the end because I wasn’t sure of the scale of what was required.

Studio lighting

I took 12 x photographs that explore different composition and framing, and to some extent experiment with depth of field.

I selected two images as the final work:

Image 3_01 INSTAGRAM
London dog pissing up a lampost – image 01
Image 3_02 INSTAGRAM
London dogs – image 02


What did you find most challenging?

Image three creating and photographing physical models was the most challenging because controlling the components was more difficult. For example, when using a digital format such as Photoshop, deciding on the relative scale of the foreground and background elements is easy. It’s just a case of rescaling and restacking layers to find a result that works. With physical models there’s much less flexibility and so more care needs to be taken in terms of planning and prototyping.

Additionally, there is a technical challenge of lighting a model shoot and using a camera effectively.

One of the big limitations I found was the relatively small size of the backdrop. It really should have been twice the width. I found this severely constrained the framing and format of the image and prevented me from more fully exploiting the models in different configurations.

Is this a technique that you have worked with before?

For image 1 and image 2 this exercise was using a new technique, although it was using a tool that I’m very comfortable with.

I worked with paper models in 4.12 Paper circus, and faced similar technical challenges.

Would you attempt this again and if so would you change your approach?

I am intending to use and develop the process in Assignment 3 – Movement. I’m excited by the idea of using Adobe After Effects to animate different layers, and this will be a completely new experience for me.

When I do this again I’ll make sure everything is planned in detail upfront.

Which approach do you think works best and why?

I think image 3 probably best meets the brief. Making physical objects somehow creates stronger narrative. Maybe the backdrop gives the characters more of a sense of place and time.

I think the digital approach has a lot of potential because of the opportunities to animate individual layers. It would also be interesting to try using stop frame animation with the physical models, although that sounds like more of a major assignment because it would involve a steep learning curve.

Creative risks reflection

I set myself two creative risks at the start of the exercise.

Using paper/paper folding – this is a creative risk because it’s not a technique I’ve used before

During the course of the exercise I changed my approach to become more digital in nature. This was still a creative risk because it was not a technique that I’d used before.

Derive the characters from 2.1 Multi-dimensional thinking – this is a creative risk because it’s not a process I’ve used before

This creative risk paid off. I’m really pleased with the direction in which the characters took because using these process-based methods are enabling me to produce unexpected results, and I find this exciting.

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