Paper Cut Out Inner Animals 

I have long been an animal lover, and whenever I make art animals just seem to come forth. Sometimes I’m feeling birds, other times tigers and jaguars, other times dogs and horses. I try not to overthink it. 

As for paper, it’s a medium I go to when I want to mix up my art flow. It gets my brain thinking in a new way! I love that it can be quick n’ dirty with big shapes or meticulous if I’m adding detail. I love to have flexibility with compositions—a lot of times I’ll make multiple compositions out of the same or similar elements. Plus, it’s easy because it’s just paper, scissors, and glue - stuff that’s most likely around the house anyways. If you’re feeling extra sassy you can paint some paper like Matisse and get the color palette of your dreams with a little brushy texture to boot. 

Animals and paper come together nicely around the theme of inner animals. For me, paper helps me capture the abstract essence or symbol of the animal rather than something like drawing, which can quickly become a more scientific study. I find this to be a fun, intuitive, and loose exercise. I also like to finish by psychoanalyzing my animals and compositions, but that’s just me…

Gather Your Materials


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Shop Collage Supplies

Acrylic Paint Pack 

Japanese Scissors 

Retro Washi Tape 

Step 1: Brainstorm & Gather Reference Images 

Figure out what animal you’re feeling today. Maybe there’s an animal that’s always spoken to you, maybe you saw a cool critter on a hike last weekend that’s stuck in your mind, maybe your dog or cat is your eternal muse. If you’re unsure, take a moment, take a deep breath, go inward. Feel into what’s present. Are you calm? Angry? Tired? Nervous? These could take shape as a swan, a bull, a sloth, a lizard. Go with your gut. 

Bird is the word for me today. I love them, I’m constantly looking at them and seeking them out. I was fortunate to see a big ol’ hawk or eagle out in the world this morning, so that’s sticking with me. I’ve also been thinking about owls a lot lately, perhaps because I’ve been chewing on concepts of wisdom and intelligence. Anyway, because I know I want to do a few different species of the same animal, I found some images so I can make sure I get some different and interesting shapes. 

Don’t have an animal in mind? Don’t worry about it. It’ll come. Reference images are by no means necessary, and they can actually sometimes get in the way of the awesomely weird and “ugly” shapes that can emerge from just your mind! 

Step 2: Choose your background paper 

I’m working on 8.5 x 11” off-white cardstock, but go as big or as small as you like! Something sturdier will work better as the weight of the construction paper gets added on. 

Step 3: Paint your paper (optional) 

If you’ve decided to paint your paper, start with this step. Acrylic paint is preferable because it dries so quickly! Mix some interesting colors and go to town. Be sure to tape down some scratch paper to protect your work surface - it gets a little messy. I usually do 2 sheets per color to make sure I have plenty to work with. The paper I started with here is off-white cardstock (the same I’ll use for my background). 


Step 4: Cut away!

Dive right in. I usually start with the shapes I had in mind, and then just see what else comes out. Often the scraps from initial shapes create some cool new ideas, or there will be a space in a composition I want to fill so I’ll make something based on that. Don’t glue things down yet! 

Step 5: Try out some arrangements

Now you should have some interesting shapes. Play with some layouts! Find a story that speaks to you. I ended up with a lot of fun shapes so I decided to create two pieces. I like compositions with room to breathe, but that’s just me! 

Step 6: Get your glue on!

Once you figure out what your compositions are, glue those babies down! Add any details you like. I added some lil eyeballs and a couple more shapes to make it feel complete. 

Step 7: You’re done! Admire your work! 

Or in my case, psychoanalyze. HA. I notice dualities right away - a moon and a sunflower, a snake on the ground and a bird in the sky. I see now the owl looks like it’s coming to eat the snake. That’s interesting. The owls in both are confrontational - a direct gaze. I think the owl is strong and intense for me right now. It feels really comforting despite the fact that it’s a bit scary. The other animals feel more passive, delicate, fleeting. This is fun. I’m going to take my intense owl energy with me today. 

How did yours turn out? I would love to see your work and your symbological (not a word) reading! Send me stuff, tag me on instagram, or leave a comment below!

Ouroboros Pin

A snake, a circle, a cycle.

Winding River Bandana 

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By Claire Gallagher
Los Angeles based illustrator and designer. Her playful, folksy work explores the many shapes of life through people and animals.

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