3D Paper Art by Daniel Sean Murphy

The following blog post was written by Daniel Sean Murphy:

My name is Daniel Sean Murphy and I create three-dimensional paper sets, installations & objects out of my studio in Brooklyn, NY.  

I’ve created paper sets for a large range of fashion, commercial and editorial clients including Dior, Nars, Target, J.Crew and Vogue.   When on a photo-shoot, or installing my work on location, I often get asked, “How did you start doing this?”  Although I’ve simplified my answer in general, the truth is, it was a long process with a lot of trial and error.  I studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC where I focused mainly on traditional drawing and painting.   As I churned out drawings and paintings, I found that I was still having a hard time finding my own voice within my work. 

I discovered Strathmore papers during my Freshman year at SVA when a drawing instructor assigned us to copy a painting at the Metropolitan Museum on a sheet of 30"x40" Strathmore 500 Series Bristol, 3ply.  I decided to use colored pencils, and create a copy of “Portrait of the Princesse de Broglie”, a painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. 

It was during the creation of this drawing that I realized how incredible Strathmore paper is.  I continued using the 500 Series throughout my time at school.  By Junior year, I began to experiment with cutting up drawings and reassembling them as objects.  That quickly led me to create a series of objects from paper - subsequently painted to possess the realistic qualities I was looking for (e.g. Monarch butterflies, apple peels, etc). 

Hand-painted with acrylic on cut pieces of 500 Series Strathmore Bristol paper

After graduation, I worked at several magazines where I interacted closely with set designers and began assisting them.  I quickly realized that I could adapt my paper sculpture works to a more commercial approach, leading me to my current full-time freelance career as a set designer.  I taught myself and experimented with many techniques, refining skills in manipulating paper that I didn’t even think were possible.  I constantly challenge myself to find new approaches to making works out of paper, adapting the material to how I imagine the end result. 

Regarding my process, I usually start with picture research to clearly understand the object or concept.  I then carefully select a range of papers that meet the criteria for the project, keeping in mind things like paper scale, weight, color density, etc. 

When it comes to sculpting from paper, some papers lend themselves better towards mimicking nature, while some work better for things that are machine made.  For example, while making a flower from paper, it works best to use a paper that easily bends & curls; however, if one were to make a model of a steel building, he would want a paper that has a sense of rigidity and weight. 

The Strathmore 500 Series Drawing is one of those rare papers that can do pretty much anything,  which is what makes it so incredibly unique and specialized.  After selecting my papers, I begin to construct the object.  If it’s something that requires a lot of internal support, I use foam-core to create an internal base for the piece.  For my flowers, I usually use a piece of armature wire as a base for the stem.  The rest of the sculpting process is a series of trial and error moves, adding piece by piece until the sculpture feels complete. 

Looking back, my greatest roadblock when drawing and painting was never understanding what a work needed, or most importantly, when it was “done”.  Through my experience with sculptural work, I have a strong connection with the object I’m making, lasting throughout the entire process of creating it.  This connection helps me better understand when something is finished and the careful balance of work has been achieved. 

See more from Daniel on his website and Instagram page, and enjoy more photos of his incredible pieces below.

Daniel's Website
nstagram: @danielseanmurphy

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