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Sarah Wong
Underwater

cut paper
24″ x 18″

Behance Portfolio
USA

Casey Roonan, Comics Artist & Cartoonist

Casey Roonan
Teaching Assistant
Cartoonist & Comics Artist

Artist Statement
“This piece explores light, shadow, and composition through seven layers of cut paper, and a series of lights in a back chamber. The aquatic scene of ocean life meeting a city originates from a vivid, recurring dream that I wanted to reproduce. I was comfortable with typical drawing as illustration, and was compelled to render my underwater dreamscape with materials suiting the intangibility of its depth and immersion–light and space, with 2D planes. As an illustration major at the Maryland Institute College of Art,  the process of building up a final image fleshed by layers of paper, light, and shadow was as thrilling as it was challenging to my present skill sets.”

Video Transcript
“I am blown away by the ambition of this piece. From the very intricate composition to the detailed renderings of all the objects within it and of course, your choice of the material itself.

I’m not sure that I would have have expected cut paper to evoke mystery so successfully, but I think because you are using lighting so well, there are these great areas where the light sort of shows through the paper in a translucent way, then creates this sort of warmth and then other areas, where it’s the paper is very opaque and sort of impenetrable and that really conveys the sort of slippery, vivid quality that dreams have.

I would say that you could push that atmosphere even further in regards to your silhouettes which, right now, read so clearly and that’s such a strong element of this piece. that I wish there are areas where that was more ambiguous.

Jellyfish in the foreground have such refined beautiful details, for example, but they also have the potential to be a little more abstract like the buildings in the background. With such a compelling piece, you have a ton of possibilities.”

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6 responses on "Sarah Wong"

  1. Oh. My. God. As someone who has done paper cutting art before (and knows the pain one goes through with the smaller details), I am astounded by this piece. The craftsmanship, especially of the highly detailed organic forms, is very impressive. My favorite part is definitely the way you utilized the layers of paper and light to create depth through the whole piece. Each consecutive layer of the paper pulls me deeper and deeper towards the light, as though they’re pulling me deeper into your dream.

    The intricate cutouts and composition excite me, and when I saw that Indonesian Puppet Theater (Wayang) is listed under related artists, I got even more excited. Because when I saw your piece, my first thought was that it evokes a similar sense of mystery and fantasy that Wayang does. I think it might be interesting if you look into shadow puppetry and take this idea further by experimenting with movement in the piece. I’d be curious to see how the changing relationship between silhouette, light and shadow might influence the dynamism and vividness of the dream you are trying to depict. Overall, this is a lovely, lovely piece and I really enjoyed it!

  2. Wow! This work is so captivating! I admire not only the amazing craftsman ship, but the great sense of imagination that this piece has. I especially love when you get to see the entire piece from far away; the sense of depth created by both the forms and the lighting feels like you’ve created a real, magical world I can explore! I’m in love with the subtle color variation in this piece, which I think adds more to the dream like quality and mystery of the subject matter. I agree with Deepti in that I think it would be great to experiment with different colors of light. I also think it would be interesting to experiment with different colors of paper in future paper-cut projects. I think that it would be interesting to see not only how the light filters through colored paper, but also how the resulting color will reflect off other colored papers in the piece. Experimenting more with color (either in lights or paper) can also give you the chance to experiment more with different moods and atmospheres you could create, which I think would be fascinating. Overall, this is an amazing piece, and thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. This piece is spot-on in so many ways — your lighting simultaneously captures the unearthly quality of the sea creatures, while also perfectly imitating the glow of a city, which makes for some eye-catching drama! Something you could play with more is differing between the different materials in your piece. Right now, the skyscrapers and the creatures feel equally concrete, and if you were to experiment with different types of paper, like tissue or rice paper, you might be able to make the sea creatures appear even more ethereal and translucent, which would be a great contrast to the solidness of the city.

    I’d also love to see the creatures and city interact more! Right now, they feel a little separate, almost like the creatures are around the city rather than in it. If you maybe had some tentacles weaving between buildings, or had some jellyfish seen through the windows, I think it would integrate the different parts of the piece even better. This is a beautiful, engaging piece, and you should definitely be proud of it!

  4. Wowowowowow! This artwork is like a visual playground! I can totally fall into your world, and I’d love to just stay there forever. Immediately your work makes me think of illustrator and bookmaker Emma McCabe who does paper cutout work in layers like this for unconventional popup books. I also think of Ed Pien, an installation artist from Canada who creates incredibly intricate cutout installations. Your color and lighting is totally spot on. I think I wouldn’t mind seeing more variation in the types of shapes and dispersion of your cutouts. The organic textures in the very front and the very back are so beautiful, but the angular cutouts get repetitive and regular in a way that sometimes seems like filler. Mingling the two types of cuts would be lovely. Oooh, also now that I think about it, Dustin Yellin has several pieces of similar content, except he uses layers of collage in glass cross sections to create a 3D effect. Definitely check him out! Lovely work!

  5. This piece is absolutely exquisite Sarah! The craftsmanship is impeccable, the variety of shapes is beautifully designed, and the use of the lighting makes this piece incredibly vibrant and exciting. Love the specificity of the sea creatures, I can tell you did your research and took the initiative to get solid reference photos.

    Looking ahead I’d be curious to see what type of visual effects you could achieve with translucent materials. A frosted plastic sheet like Dura-Lar could create some really exciting results in conjunction with the lighting effects. You could mix up the surfaces so that you have some opaque paper, and then some translucent surfaces, could be terrific!

  6. This is such a stunning piece! You clearly have a lot of technical skill as an illustrator and working with cut paper, as shown through this piece. The final product is so cinematic in its composition and lighting!

    The fact that lighting plays such a huge role in this piece is super exciting. I mean, look at the difference between what the piece looked like before it was lit, and after! I’m curious as to what you used to light the final product. It would be really cool to play around with different colored bulbs or gels. The yellows, pinks, and purples all contribute to the overall success of this piece, and I would love to see you continue to push how lighting plays a role in the end-product. Multiple light sources could allow you to blend colors, or be really aggressive with one! Lots of cool possibilities!

    Really wonderful work!

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