Geertje Aalders (2/5)

Papercut artist Geertje Aalders makes such beautiful stuff. Using a knife she cuts the most wonderful scenes from paper, often with animals and flowers taking center stage. Luckily, she does this for Flow quite often. In this guest blog she tells us all about herself, her life, and her work.

Hi, it’s me again. Last week I introduced myself and this week I’d like to tell you about how I work. My days are filled with creating stuff. Paper things, painted things, pen and ink drawings. I spend a lot of time exploring things, finding special stuff and coming up with solutions. I work from home. Because I recently moved there’s nothing on the walls yet, unlike my previous atelier. I still need to find a place for all my paper dolls, domino cards, vintage advertising cards and deceased insects.

There are upsides and downsides to working from home. The great thing is that you can work whenever you want – in the middle of the night if necessary – and you’re in a comfortable place to think about stuff. The downside is that you are really working all the time. Before I start a new project – I like to finish my projects one by one, rather than work on different ones simultaneously – I tidy up my office and I put all my books in their proper places. Next I gather everything I need for my new project and I can get started. This has become an important ritual for me.

I start with what I like to call ‘preliminary investigation’: I completely get to the bottom of an animal, a season, a nature resort, a theme or a folk tale. I collect all available data and pictures from books, the internet and outdoors and I make some early sketches. Here are some results from all the investigating I did before I started my papercut for the Dutch Flow Let’s Go Outside special.

This is more or less how this illustration was created. I got the assignment to bring an old picture used in schools titled ‘Water and meadow birds’ by Marinus de Koekkoek up to date by applying papercut. I studied the water plants and the birds in the picture. Did these varieties still exist? Were there new, 21st century varieties that I should include? And which ones of these plants and animals would make interesting papercuts? Flow’s Astrid invited me and Annelinde, from Studio 100%, to come along to the Oostvaardersplassen, a nature reserve. So we could get inspired for this project. We went to see troating deer. But there was so much more to see. And those hundreds of images of everything you’ve seen plant themselves inside your mind just so they can pop up at the most unexpected moments.

I wanted my papercut to show that the Netherlands is just as beautiful now as it was almost hundred years ago, but that it has changed. For instance, these days we have cranes here. I explored how I could cut out flying cranes so they’d make a sedge. And as a subtle reference to industrialization I hid some transmission towers in the papercut. I made lists of all the flora and fauna I wanted to use in the illustration. And looked for examples. After that I made some global sketches. And then I packed up all my stuff and left for this house in the woods belonging to friends in the Ardennes to make the actual illustration. I do that on very rare occasions.

After I drew the final composition on the right papercut-paper and checked all the lines I started to cut. I use a small penknife and loose sheets. For fiddly work like this I change my knife every fifteen minutes! Working from left to right and cutting out small pieces at first and working towards larger pieces: more and more appears.


This papercut (measuring 30 x 42 cms) is the end result. It was sent out as a poster.

Next week I’ll show you a few more projects.

Thanks! Bye!