Paper, Naturally: 48 Gorgeous Works of Paper Art

From organic-looking installations that seem to have sprung from the forest or the sea to incredibly intricate scenes that can take months to complete, these stunning works of nature-themed paper art from 14 artists defy the disposable, ephemeral qualities of the material. Master paper artists slice, fold, bend and glue paper of all colors and textures into sculptures, collages and illustrations that variously elevate paper beyond its origins or take it back to its natural roots. See 56 more works by 14 additional artists at WebUrbanist.

Colorful Scenes by Helen Musselwhite

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“Each piece combines the hand cutting, folding and scoring of a wide range of papers and card that are further worked on to create patterned and textured surfaces,” says artist Helen Musselwhite of her creative cut-paper collages.  “They are then used to build scenes in box frames which are often complex and consist of many layers. This process means that each item of work is truly individual with no two pieces the same.Influenced by the natural world each piece is manipulated to become an intriguing place, a glimpse into another world of fiction and fairytale.”

Birds and Horse by Anna-Wili Highfield

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Sydney, Australia-based artist Anna-Wii Highfield creates these beautiful paper sculptures of animals from archival cotton paper which is then painted and sewn together. The artist, the daughter of puppeteers, works mostly by commission, sending her animal figures all over the world.

Black and White Birds by Christina Empedocles

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A former geologist, artist Christina Empedocles clearly feels an affinity to nature, as evidenced by the many plant and wildlife motifs in her work. Empedocles draws highly realistic images onto paper with wax pencil and then cuts and folds the paper into a mix of sculpture and collage.

3D Animals and Flowers by Jo Lynn Alcorn

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Quirky and fun, Jo Lynn Alcorn’s three-dimensional paper collages spring forth from the artist’s treasured collection of beautiful papers in all prints and colors. “I do a pencil and marker sketch, which I scan digitally, and then rework within Illustrator and Photoshop as needed. I have a background as a graphic designer, which is very useful, as I often work closely with art directors and photographers to ‘imbed’ products such as jewelry or fashion items within my pictures. My artwork and the products are shot separately, then brought together digitally by the photographic retoucher.”

Intricate Cut-Outs by Emma Van Leest

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Astonishingly detailed and cut by what one can only imagine must be the steadiest of hands, these paper scenes by Emma Van Leest reveal seemingly endless details the more you stare. A single piece could take the artist up to two months to complete, and it’s easy to see why: they’re all hand-cut, using archival paper and an Xacto knife.

In an interview with The Design Files, Van Leest said of her chosen medium, “It’s such an ephemeral, everyday material that we all use. We scribble on it, scrunch it up, throw it out.  It’s lightweight and accessible which means that you don’t think of creating something so delicate and painstaking as a papercut with it.  It’s exciting to create something of beauty and interest out of it.”

Vivid Illustrations by Kate Slater

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Don’t you want to just fall into Kate Slater’s lush, colorful paper world? The British illustrator creates these adorable scenes for children’s books, editorials, advertisements and pleasure, working in both flat collage and relief collages made with cut paper and wire.

Fresh Florals by Eloise Corr Danch

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New York City artist Eloise Corr Danch creates stunning paper flowers, garlands and even a full-sized dress. Her clients include Anthropologie, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, with incredible displays in the pages of magazines, in retail shop windows and in galleries.

Trees from Trash by Yuken Teruya

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Japanese artist Yuken Teruya cuts the most delicate of trees out of everyday throwaway objects like toilet paper rolls and fast food bags. While the work calls attention to the role that such materials play in our lives, they’re also beautiful, a quality that the artist hopes viewers won’t take for granted. “I feel that my work shouldn’t only have the function of conveying the artist’s message. My works have a right to simply be beautiful or offer any kind of attraction.”

Pop-Ups by Lizzie Thomas

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Paper artist Lizzie Thomas of Brighton, UK creates these charming wooden books with hand-cut paper pop-ups inside.  “My work is an exploration of narrative, myth and metaphor. I am particularly interested in the use of symbol in fairytale and folklore and also write my own stories. I take inspiration from the use of wood and paper in Japanese spiritual life. I use 2D to create 3D by introducing layering and movement into materials.”

3D Paper Sculpture by Jeff Nishinaka

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“Paper to me is a living breathing thing that has a life of its own,” says renowned artist Jeff Nishinaka, whose work often appears in high-profile advertisements and galleries. “I just try to redirect that energy into something that feels animated and alive.” Take one look at his incredible, often life-sized paper sculptures, and you’ll agree that he succeeds on this front. Nishinaka crafts all kinds of scenes and objects from paper, but those that portray nature seem to be a heartfelt tribute to the very trees that provided his favorite artistic medium.

Playful Illustrations by Saelee Oh

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Korean-American artist Saelee Oh crafts these playful, childlike cut-paper illustrations that explore themes like utopia, female empowerment, nature and animal symbolism. “I think about lace and delicacy and fragility,” she says. “I like the flatness of paper and all of its subtle textures and properties. I love paper. I want to make a paper burrito and eat it everyday. I love the different smells of paper too. The process of paper cutting is also more of a meditative exercise for me than painting or drawing with graphite or ink.”

Translucent Sculpture by Polly Verity

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Edinburgh, Scotland-based artist Polly Verity makes these surreal sculptures of animals and mythological figures from wire and paper. Her work ranges from miniature to life-size figures as well as an array of paper costumes including masks and shoes.

The Paper Garden by Jade Pegler

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From afar, you might not even notice that there was anything ‘unnatural’ about these art installations by Jade Pegler. Her organic paper creations seem as if they really could have sprung from stumps and dead leaves. These temporary installations bring paper back to its natural environment, where its life first began.

Coral Reefs by Amy Eisenfeld Genser

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Vast, mysterious ocean ecosystems in Caribbean blues and the dark, purple-black hues of the deepest seas are represented vividly by rolled and painted paper, mounted to canvas by artist Amy Eisenfeld Genser. “I often look to the natural world for inspiration. I am fascinated by the flow of water, the organization of beehives, and the organic irregularity of plants, flowers, rock formations, barnacles, moss, and seaweed.”

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