Experiments in negative space: Papercutting


I grew up in a house full of exciting craft projects, thanks to my ridiculously talented mother. From marbling paper to making Christmas decorations, there was always some activity to partake in. Of course half the time my sister and I would sit dumbfounded watching Amma and wonder where she found the energy, patience and motivation to sit for hours on end working away painstakingly.

I guess that’s why using only traditional illustration material like paints, pencils and crayons always felt incomplete to me. I craved making something with my hands — cutting, folding, pasting…

I have so much respect and awe for what you can create just from paper. Amma has made everything from paper bags and boxes to photo frames with it. So I began to think about how I could illustrate with paper alone. With some cutting tools, today I finally decided to try my hand at some paper cutting.



It was an interesting challenge because it’s inversely proportional to the way you draw. You don’t cut the lines that create the subject, but use negative space instead. As I continued, it slowly became clearer how and what to cut. Drawing people will be even harder, but I started with what I was feeling nostalgic about — coconut trees :)

No surprises that my little experiment doesn’t rival Amma’s level of perfection, but suspended in that meditative space I felt like I was sharing in her playful and powerful acts of creation.
Thank you for the magic, Amma.


  1. Ramya

    I am a huge fan of playing with negative space. It can be so effective when used correctly! This experiment is no different.

    And now we know who to credit for the talent we see on this blog. :)

    PS: I love how this blog is evolving! Great going!

    • Gayathri

      Absolutely. I haven’t played with negative space much, but there is so much room to use it really dramatically.

      Aww, stop. You’re making my mom, and me, blush 😉

      Thanks so much. It’s equally lovely to have encouraging and involved readers!


  1. Experiments in papercutting – II | The Picture Book Lab - [...] P.S If you’re curious about how the first papercutting experiment went, go here. [...]

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