Artist Interviews 2023

By Julia Siedenburg

Paperboyo is an artist that is not afraid to see the world with different eyes and transform what is around him. He is known and celebrated for creating paper cut-outs and positioning them just right. He travels around constantly searching for the perfect places and landmarks. He is a master of altering beloved places like the Statue of Liberty and gives it a fun twist. He can turn any landscape and building into a true masterpiece. His pieces are not only entertaining art lovers like ourselves, but it is also used to advertise for big companies such as Dyson, Renault, and Adobe, to name a few. I am so happy that this amazing creator agreed to be part of this issue to tell us more about his ideas and inspiration because these images always bring a smile to my face and I hope it does the same to you, dear readers.

First off, what sparked the idea to start creating your fun paper cut-outs?

Back when I was in my mid twenties I was really interested in stop-motion animation. The fact that it was so rough around the edges and imperfect made the art form so accessible as you could see the craft that went into making it & it felt like something I could do without a studio and a crew. Alongside the stop-motion I was also interested in taking photos of London, and after realising my photos of London were pretty similar to everyone else's I decided I wanted to do something different. By chance I noticed some silhouetted cut-outs leftover from one of my stop-motions on my desk so I picked them up and took some photos of them in-situ when I next took my camera out. The results weren't great but it was that shoot that made me realise I could use something as simple as paper cut-outs to embellish these London scenes which had become so familiar to me.

Which artists do you look up to and why?

Christoph Niemann was a big influence at the time, when I started following his work he was doing a series of illustrations based around household objects which really inspired me, as an untrained photographer, that there were no rules you had to follow and that you could be irreverent with creativity. I'm sure I was probably in some way inspired by Banksy too, not that I closely followed his work but he is such a part of our culture and his playfulness and rule-breaking will have resonated with my young imagination.

You do it all: you draw, shoot and edit. Can you describe your work process in more detail, from getting the idea to finding the right location and getting to the finished product?

It all starts with a lot of research- finding those quirky pieces of architecture or landscapes and figuring out what can be added to completely transform it. I wouldn't say I have a formula but there is a lot of just being playful and doodling ideas until you find one that doesn't totally suck. I then try to make it not suck and if I get an excited feeling in my gut then I know it's a concept I really want to go and shoot. That passion and excitement is the fuel that's kept me doing this as long as I have, there's no way I would be able to have sustained it this long unless I got excited about going out and creating these scenes.

If you would need to choose, which of your pieces is your favorite and why?

There's one I shot in Switzerland of a black and white apartment building outside Basel, it's not a landmark but it's fairly well known among architects as it's an unusual design. I added a cut-out of the upper half of a dalmatian dog which just fit perfectly and it's probably the best example I use to explain what I do.

How long does it take for you to find the right location and distance to create the perfect image?

There's a lot of research done at my desk at home on street view which usually means when I arrive at a location I have a bit of a plan and know where I'm going to stand and how I'm going to shoot it. There's a bit of editing I do which provides a level of flexibility, but ultimately I design the stencils to work from a certain angle so I have to commit to a vantage point once I choose it in the research phase.

Storytelling is essential for any artist and you are a master at creating whole new fantastical worlds with your paper cut-outs. What would you tell a young artist that does not know what is important when it comes to telling a good story?

I really enjoy all art forms where you can tell who made it as they have a signature style, sound, look etc. I think any artwork where you sense the artist's personality really resonates with me, and for me my style was to add some humour, wit or surprise to common scenes. For anyone who's new to any art form, I'd say when you start out it's perfectly okay to imitate the artists you like for a while until you find your own style which will be driven by the parts of the process you enjoy, and dropping the parts of the process you don't enjoy. Throughout the whole process though make sure you chase the things that you find curious and get excited by. If you do that I'm sure that the storytelling and personality will come through naturally.

You have worked with big brands such as Motorola, Dyson, and Renault only to name a few. What was the first big job you got and what brand would you love to collaborate with?

I remember Lonely Planet DMing me early on when my Instagram started doing well and I thought it was a prank. They didn't have a lot of budget at all but the fact they were keen to work with me gave me so much confidence and made me start to realise there was value in what I do for brands. I'm incredibly lucky to have worked with all sorts of brands since then, but my dream would be to create content for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing.

I was not naturally good at art at school, infact I couldn't paint at all so the way we were taught art meant if you couldn't paint then you weren't an artist. It took me a long time to understand that art was a bigger world than just painting. Fortunately I had a family life that totally allowed me the time to try new things, to experiment and to fail. In some ways I wish I'd found photography much sooner, but at the same time if it wasn't for chasing and trying all the things I tried in my teens and early twenties then I don't think it would have culminated in what I do now.

With your work, you have transformed places all around the world. Any place in particular that especially inspired you?

I'm always so blown away by the Canadian landscape on the times I've been lucky enough to visit there with my camera. It's genuinely the most beautiful country I've been to and the people are so warm too. I'm usually more known for my urban and architectural work, but it's the Canadian landscapes that have really stood out for me.

What are your plans for the future?

I've been doing this for close to seven years now and I still love it, but I'd love to feel the same curiosity I chased in the early days of this and so I am looking to see where else I can take this. It;s also quite a solo endeavour so it would be exciting to work as part of a team on an ambitious creative project.

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