An Organic Process from Scraps to Polished Images with Angela Rio

Leaving room for her materials to guide the direction of her work is an important part of the creative process for paper sculptor, Angela Rio. She talks to us about the emphasis she puts on recycling scraps and offcuts into her designs and the way in which the pieces organically evolve into the final image.

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While she does work from initial sketches and ideas, the way in which Angela works sounds very natural, making design decisions as they come up rather than setting herself on one specific path.

She tells us more about this as well as the particular tools and technical equipment she uses to finish up with such polished final illustrations.

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I work with paper to balance form, tactility, and color in an image. My process relies heavily on being resourceful with scrap materials made of anything from paper, wood, cardboard, plexiglass, transparency film, or styrofoam.

The scale of the piece is determined once I find a few pieces that work with my sketch, then I can start cutting shapes with scissors or an x-acto blade to build my small paper sculptures. This is when experimentation plays an important role. Depending on the material, I’ll either use paint or pens to embellish the pieces with a geometric pattern or facial expression. 

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Everything starts being constructed on my messy desk, finding stability with a hot glue gun, wire, and masking tape, until it’s ready to be photographed on my clean desk.

I try to keep a variety of large colored paper that I tape against the wall as a backdrop. The perspective of my shot depends on the sketch, so there’s always a period of readjusting paper pieces, lights, and umbrella defusers to find the predetermined angle and focal point.

Once I’ve found the sweet spot, I’ll shoot with my Canon Rebel T3. Then for curiosity’s sake, I’ll shoot with the lights hitting a different angle.

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I bring all of my photos onto my desktop to get a closer look, searching for the perfect shot that’s in focus with the most dynamic lighting. Then I’ll take the liberty to photoshop any excess glue or scratches out of the image.

Depending on the art direction, I might edit in some type treatments or extra background space to make room for copy. Finally, when the brightness and tone is where I want it, I can call it complete!

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It may seem like a lot of time and energy for one illustration but it feels like play. There’s so much opportunity to get your mind off of things and forget about your surroundings.

I used to be an acrylic painter but after a bicycle accident I needed to find a way to make art that didn’t rely on just one hand and a brush. This process asks for experimentation with all of my body and all of my scraps.

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© Angela Rio, 2016

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