At first glance, the birds mounted in Dutch artist Johan Scherft's shadow boxes look like taxidermied animals. Only the most trained eye can tell that these incredibly detailed creatures are actually made from paper, gouache, and watercolor. The birds are handcrafted and painted with ultra-fine brushes and extreme precision, and they take anywhere from two days to a full month to complete.
Scherft started making his papercraft birds at 14 and coloring the models with colored pencil. His works earned him admission to the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague where he studied painting, graphic design, and drawing. Almost 30 years later, Scherft still uses his sculpting and painting techniques to create a menagerie of animals that are amazingly accurate and lifelike. Enjoying combining two-dimensional painting with three-dimensional construction, he begins by using a computer to lay out the basic structure. After a lot of trial and error to obtain the unique shape for the species, he assembles the template. The most time-consuming step lies in the decoration where Scherft uses fine brushes to recreate every feather and feature of the body.
“I hope to capture some of the beauty and character of the birds,” he says. “Perhaps others will gain an interest in birds and wildlife, as well. People can now enjoy this beauty in their homes without owning a dead, stuffed one. Some of the birds are on my website for free so people can print them out and try making them for themselves.”
Scherft will be introducing a kit in September that features four American birds for sale in bookstores around the world. For a little inspiration for your own projects, check out his solar-powered hummingbird.