Eiko Ojala discusses digital papercut techniques

Digital papercut illustration is a style that's grown in popularity over the past few years: applying an authenticity of light, shadow and texture to digital compositions.

These artworks appear to built from cut paper but are created using the likes of Photoshop – though sometimes incorporating elements created from 'real' paper and then photographed or scanned. They often blend in illustrated or photographic elements in a way that would be impossible – or at least very time-consuming – using 'true' papercut techniques, and of course – as with all digital forms – they're easier to alter as you go or in reaction to client responses.

One of leading practitioners of this form is 30-year-old Estonian illustrator Eiko Ojala. We spent some time with him to discuss his approach to his artworks, which apply the digital papercut style to forms from landscapes of grand scale to portraits. We also wanted to find out about his piece Vertical landscapes, which has been shared much around Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks – which surprisingly is just a test piece for another project.

DA: How did you get into illustration?

EO: "I've been involved with drawing and design from early age. My father was a architect and I assume he gave me the courage to be illustrator."

DA: How did you first come up with your approach to creating papercut-style landscape pieces?

EO: "I lived in Australia and New-Zealand. There were times when I had a lot of free time and I started experimenting with different styles. When I found
my papercut style, I realised this is [the style for me], because the process itself gives me so much pleasure.

"I'm also nature guide and I think most of my inspiration comes from there."

DA: What do you like most about creating this style of artwork?

EO: "I like to [create with] light and shadow. Every illustration I make is kind of a study of those. Somebody once said that i draw with light."

DA: How do decide what to create digitally and what you use paper for?

EO: "I like to do most of it digitally. I only use real paper to create the really difficult shadows.

DA: How has your work in this style evolved?

EO: "With every illustration I try something new: some new perspective or light – and I think it evolves from there.

DA: What clients have you created pieces for?

EO: "The NY Times, V&A museum and Harvard Business Review. I also work with some local newspapers and book publishers."

Details from Vertical Landscape

DA: What did you want to create with the Vertical Landscape piece?

EO: "I always admired Japanese zen paintings. There is something unfinished in them. Also I wanted to experiment creating a landscape on narrow portrait format. I have a commission to do a city skyline and I wanted to make it portrait format. Vertical Landscape is kind of a test.

DA: Tell us about your composition of the piece.

EO: "It's all about flow. One thing leads to other and so on. I wanted to

Details from Vertical Landscape

DA: What's next?

EO: "I will keep studying light and shadows but I don't really know where it will take me."

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