When two paper cutting artists in India noticed one beautiful elusive bird, a new project took flight.
Nayan Shrimali and Vaishali Chudasama began their artistic work together at the National Institute of Design in India. A few years ago they opened their own studio, NV Illustration, where they recently directed their energy entirely to making one mini paper cut bird every day for 365 days. In an interview, Nayan shared what motivated the two artists to create the smallest, most detailed birds possible.
What are your artistic backgrounds?
We did our higher studies in art and design. I (Nayan) am a furniture and interior designer, and Vaishali is a visual effects artist. We started our career as miniature model makers together and opened our studio, NV Illustration, on December 25, 2015. We make hand-painted paper cut artworks and dioramas inspired by nature around us.
What inspired you to create bird art?
We started birding in 2017. It was a rainy day, and a golden oriole flew past us. From that very day, our search for the oriole began, and it took us to many different places where we discovered other birds, such as drongos, stilts, cormorants, ducks, and many more. There are so many different species of birds living around us that people aren’t aware of. Through our art we want to share the beauty and significance of these birds with people. So we took up this challenge of making highly detailed birds as small and as realistic as possible.
We have dedicated this series to our little feathered friends as a gesture of thankfulness for their immense love and support in our lives. We also hope people will understand the significance of birds in their lives and help to save them. “The climate is changing, and we should also change now.”
We started our series on January 1, 2018, initially as a 30-day challenge, and got an amazing response. We could never get enough of birds. They became a part of our lives, so we decided to continue the series for the whole year.
How have your artistic skills developed along the way?
We have been making paper art since 2015, and it included many different art styles, but in 2018 we settled down with bird art. We have learned a lot of new things while making these little birdies, from making the finest cuts to making the perfect shades of their feathers. We also improved a lot on our photography skills. And mainly we learned about nature and its beings.
What are some of the steps involved in creating one paper cut bird?
Each artwork begins with a sketch on paper. After that, different layers are traced from the sketch on 200 GSM watercolor paper. Each layer is precisely hand-cut, and then they are ready for coloring. Each tiny layer is hand-painted with watercolors with utmost precision.
Finally all the layers are assembled to get a three-dimensional look for our tiny paper birds. Every single artwork takes from four to eight hours to complete, depending on the details of feathers and colors. Some of the tiniest paper birds measure only 1.8 centimeters in height, from head to tail.
That’s incredible! What are the greatest challenges and rewards of making your beautifully detailed miniature birds?
The biggest challenge is to finish an artwork in a day. Making a paper cut illustration has a lot of steps, and we need to work from early morning till sunset. We can’t work after, because we work completely in daylight to get the perfect shade.
The reward is seeing these little guys coming to life when we shoot and upload them on our page. The comments and people’s words are the biggest reward. We have made many new friends while working on our series.
That’s wonderful! What are your everyday inspirations?
We keep studying about birds through books and documentaries. We go bird watching every day and observe their behavior. From that we understand their anatomy and colors. And with the help of our research and reference images, we create a work of art.
What’s one truth you’ve learned as creators?
Never stop practicing and learning.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
We are planning to do an exhibition at the end of the year, and then we’ll continue our series and always keep on working for the benefit of birds and nature. Our main motivation is to create awareness among people, and if we’re able to make any change, then we are successful in our series.