I think it’s time for a post that looks in the other direction from what has come before in terms of the finished illustrated product. As such, I’m turning to Marshall Alexander’s paper toy creations, which demonstrate exceptional creativity, design fun and design flair.
Based in The Netherlands, Marshall has worked as a videogame programmer before switching to graphic design and illustration. He discovered paper toy design after reading a tutorial in Computer Arts magazine:
‘It explained how to create papertoys, which included a sample model by design studio FWIS. I checked them out and discovered they had a whole series called Readymech’s. I was instantly hooked to these characters and wanted to give it a try myself. So I created my own Readymech based model called NANA, which got a lot of positive reactions. That motivated me to try a few more and I became addicted’.
I asked Marshall about the tools he uses and the process he goes through in creating his three dimensional characters:
‘My projects normally go through different stages. The first stage consists of the initial idea and a lot of sketches. I keep a sketchbook that I use to write down ideas, make little sketches and rough template try-outs. When I’m happy with an idea I move to the next stage in which I start collecting reference material (i.e. lots of googling).
In the meantime I also start working on the blank template. When this is finished I build the initial template to check if I didn’t make any mistakes. Often it needs a few tweaks or changes to make sure it all fits together. After that I start illustrating the model and add instructions and other elements to the template. In the final stage I construct the final model, photograph it and put the PDF online or deliver the model to the client. I usually work on different models at the same time, which can all be in different stages. Deadlines and inspirational moods determine what I work on at a specific moment’.
‘My specialty is one-piece papertoys, that are not constructed by gluing several parts together, but by folding a single piece of cut-out paper into the 3D model. It a self-imposed restriction to make designing the models a bit more challenging and fun, but it also forces me to explore the boundaries of what you can do with paper. And I also thinks it adds this little extra element of surprise for the person that builds the model.
With regards to material and tools, I always work in Illustrator, so almost all my models are vector-based. For construction of the models, I use a regular exacto knife, a metal ruler, cutting mat and paper glue. for printing I use an ink jet printer with some extra heavy stock (180 grams) to make the models a bit sturdier. That’s basically all. No fancy materials, so anybody that would like to give it a try themselves, go for it!’
© Marshall Alexander, 2009
‘Audience participation! Paper models create this great interaction between you and your audience that usually does not happen when you release a regular 2D illustration. In order to really appreciate a piece you have to build it yourself and therefore become part of the creation process. It’s a very tactile experience and also adds this sense of wonder when you see this flat piece of paper come to life as a 3D shape. There’s a very active online community of papertoy designers, builders and customizers that is refreshingly accessible to everyone. The fact that most models are available for free has kept the community relatively free from commercialisation and all it’s nasty side effects. It’s not about the money, but about the art, craft or whatever you want call it’.
What are you working on at the moment?
‘Too many things at the same time, which means each one of them unfortunately progresses very slowly. I’ve just finished a model that will accompany a book release in June. I will start working on a new model soon for an online shop that sells horror and gothic merchandise, which is a pretty cool project. Besides that I’m also working on the fourth series of Foldskool Heroes, a template I created to pay tribute to some the heroes and things of my youth. And to top it all, I’m participating in a group exhibition here in The Netherlands which celebrates the release of Matt Hawkins’ Urban Paper book , for which I contributed a model’.
Great stuff Marshall!
Follow MoonApe on Twitter for more updates, as I have some more great illustrators coming up…