Paper and Wood artist, Zack Mclaughlin

Paper and Wood artist, Zack Mclaughlin


♪ [music] ♪ My name is Zack McLaughlin.
I make paper sculptures, mainly birds, but always nature inspired,
using any materials I can find, really. A more detailed description of why I do
it, I guess, would be to look at animals in nature and break them apart,
if you like. So flat pattern, draw them out then recreate them in
my own way from the ground up. So I’ll use materials like wood or clay or
wire for the body sculptures and then using paper usually for the textures,
for the hair, for the feathers, I’ll build them up to be more realistic,
and then last, we paint them and create… I don’t know. It’s kind of like taxidermy
but not. So, yeah, it’s ethical taxidermy maybe. That’s what I do. So I’ve always
been into art, always liked drawing, creating. I think my earliest art was
always drawing cartoons, but also, I do remember the little Warhammer figurines,
the little lead soldiers, dragons, orcs, I actually loved painting those.
I spent hours and hours a day just fiddly little painting. I got so many of them.
I have a massive collection of them. I actually loved doing that,
so I guess my attention to detail and the love for art and painting really came from
doing that and then I expanded it into drawing weird, fantastical things.
And school opened up more avenues for trying out different ways of
making things and doing things. It’s always been there,
it’s just I didn’t know where to direct it until later in life, I guess.
When I first came into making sculptures, it was all by accident, very organic.
So the way I did it, I was doing my own children’s book idea,
little boy in it who gets held captive and he creates his own escape by making a
paper bird lantern out of old books and whittle sticks. And I went about
illustrating a story and I could not get it to look right, to look real,
this paper bird lantern he made. So I took three months out of the story to
make a very large scale model of it. And through doing that, I came to love
the process of creating things in 3-D and I figured out paper was itself very
well to the texture of feathers. And then the wood element came in after
that, actually, because the lantern was a hollow thing. I wanted to make something a
bit more robust. And I was trying to think commercially as well how I could recreate
something for someone to buy that would last, not something that’s flimsy,
throw away. So I just kept experimenting with clay, with wire, with wood for under,
sort of, structure for the skeleton of these things, adding things
like eyeballs out of acrylic and whatever materials I could find,
whatever seemed to work, for each individual bit, like the
legs or the eyes or the beaks I’d use through experimentation and I got it
right. And then the feathers would cover it all up. So whatever’s underneath,
the mess that’s underneath there, you wouldn’t see any of it if it was
covered up by all this detailed feathering.
And then the painting again covers that up again. So that’s where the
illustration came back into it. Right now, I’m working on a few different pieces.
I’ve got some behind. I’ve actually got… So there’s a hummingbird
I’m working on. It’s a little gold, green, blue hummingbird. Also,
a black-faced grassquit. It’s coming in. It’s a bit more complete than the
hummingbird. Just got to paint that one up and that’s on its branch. And also,
an owl, which is in the very early stages. Absolutely no paper at all on that. So
those three. But the big one at the moment is a large glass dome with 10
hummingbirds on the branch inside. I’m just doing the design for that and the
next stage is to start making it, which is going to take about a
month. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth sunk into that one, to begin it.
So this is my book of drawings I do for the birds. So there are quite
a few designs in here now. It’s built up over time, but as you can see,
it’s full of the layouts I do. So this is one for a barn owl wing.
And this is how I make sure I get every shape for it for the right, for each bird.
It’s kind of like drawing my own blueprints for every single feather,
on every wing, on every tail, as well. This is a sparrowhawk. This guy,
as you can see, the underside of the top side of the wings. And then how
many of each feather I need, and it’s all color coded.
It’s all very anal, but it’s the way I like to be. Got a kingfisher,
Gouldian finch. This one I actually made…this is the one I made for
David Attenborough actually, which is quite amazing.
Didn’t really feel real until I saw the photos come back with him holding it
and really enjoyed playing with it, which is really cool. An amazing feeling.
Yeah, so then…just, it’s weird. I don’t really think about it,
but when I do, it’s quite amazing. He’s one of my heroes.
I think he’s a lot of people’s heroes, actually, a legend, isn’t he?
Blank pages but I do some have more on the back of other wire pieces and it’s
forever growing, this book, which I quite like as well, I mean, all
the drawings and the blueprints on up. It’s cool. So a typical day for me,
probably get into the studio about between 9:00 and 10:00 in the
morning depending on how I get here. Whether I go to the gym or not,
which usually I don’t. I’m a bit lazy. I get here, have my coffee. Always
have my coffee in the morning. And then usually a couple hours
emailing, procrastinate online, sorting out what I’m going to do that day.
And then I finally get into work just before lunch, usually.
Depends on the project. So, if it’s say, making a bird, I’ll just literally get
straight into either cutting the paper or making the body or drawing the blueprints.
Whichever thing I’ve got to do. I tend to stick to one thing a day
because I find it hard to spread myself across too many things.
I put as many hours as I can into that, just zone out. I usually work quite
late, like 9:00 some nights. Yeah, eat when I can,
drink when I can between that when I come out of my meditative state. But, yeah,
usually get a few hours in every day. I get inspiration from a lot of places,
but I usually get it without realizing. It’s kind of…it’s always the natural
world. I’m rarely, I’m rarely drawn to man made stuff. Hardly ever actually.
It’s always natural patterns or color or light. I love light in nature. Yeah,
it’s always animals mainly. Just colors, the variety, the beauty of them.
I always want to try and do it justice by copying it, if that’s the word.
Apart from the paper and wood stuff, I do a bit of illustration here and there,
children’s books. I do my own paintings. I do some clay work, some wire work.
And I actually do tutorials on wire models and stuff I make, so it’s like the
skeletons, the bare bones. If you like, I think I’ve got a couple here. So sort of
like this little rabbit. I don’t know if you can see it very well, little rabbit
there, because they’re quite nice, easy, quick things to make and that was a kind
of an easier way for me to make things faster. It’s always about time for
me. Things are very time consuming. So I was trying to make it work viably
and money wise and all of that. Yeah, but mainly it’s paper wood stuff.
That’s my main job, which is quite weird. So when I decided this is what I want to
do for full-time, it wasn’t really a decision actually, it was more…
it was all accidental, more very organic. So I went from children’s books,
which I did for six years from university, organically into this by making
my own prop for my own book. And then it kind of triggered something
that I wanted to play with more. So expand to more of the paper and the
wood. And then I went on to Esty and started selling a few bits on there.
And as I just started to sell, it kind of generated more social media
interest which then lead to more sales. It’s all very organic.
So then that took over from the illustration side. I still do bits of
illustration here and there, but the paper and wood sculptures are my
main income now, which I never have thought would’ve happened,
I never even saw it coming. But it very organically went
down that route, which I quite like. But then I can still go back and forth,
dabble between the two, which is nice. ♪ [music] ♪

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