We had the pleasure of corresponding with artist Lee Pennington, AKA Eelus, about his process behind the mind-blowing paper-cut artwork that we’ve been admiring over here at Threadless HQ. Below, Eelus goes into depth about his background, creative process, working with Death Waltz Records, and his sources of inspiration. Enjoy!
My name is Lee Pennington, but I make art under the name Eelus. I’m from a small town called Wigan in the north of the UK. After ending a career in ‘new media design’ after leaving university with a degree in graphic design, I’ve since crafted myself a new path in the strange world of art.
I’ve spent the last 10 years cutting and painting stencils in my studio, in galleries, and on the street all across the world, and have had a jolly old time in the process. I also release a lot of limited edition screen-printed posters, a process and medium that I think I’ll always find exciting and will be involved in.
More recently, my focus has moved away from stencils and I’m now putting the majority of my time into establishing myself as a paper-cut artist. I create images from hand cutting smalls holes into single sheets of paper, or by layering many many separate pieces of painted paper together to create more of a 3-D effect that has a lot of depth.
About the process:
Everything starts with an idea. It may not always be my idea, sometimes I’ll take someone else’s idea and take it to a new place and turn it into something of my own. My 3-D paper pieces evolve over a number of stages. The early stages involve a lot of drawing. Once I’m happy with the pencil work I’ll scan it in and then trace everything in Adobe Illustrator. I’ll give every single piece a unique code so that once everything is printed and cut, I know where it’s all meant to go. Some of my pieces have over 100 pieces of paper, so this allows me to remember where everything is meant to be. After giving everything a code, I’ll then dismantle the vector version of my drawing and print all the separate elements onto sheets of acid free paper. I’m using a Fabriano at the moment, and will use different weights for different pieces depending on where they’ll be placed. So for example, if I know a certain piece will be at the back and will end up having quite a lot of other bits attached, I’ll use a thicker stock to help support everything.
Once everything is printed, I’ll hand cut everything with a Swann Morton scalpel using a 10A blade. As soon as the blade loses it’s lovely razor sharpness, I’ll swap it for a new one. Once everything is cut, I’ll place all the paper together and see how everything is looking. This helps me get my head around the next stage, which is the painting. I use spray paint and paint everything in a large fume extractor which is located in a different, much colder part of he building where my studio is. I’ll start with the bottom layers and work my way up, sometimes going back and re-doing pieces if they’re not fitting well.
Once everything is dried, I go back to my nice warm room, sit my a** down, stick on a podcast and start assembling everything. I use various types of acid-free adhesives, the most important parts are these sticky foam squares that I’l buy in different sizes and depths. If I want something to have a subtle effect, I’ll attach it using a 1mm deep square, if I want something more dramatic that will cast more shadow, I’ll use a 3mm, or will stick a number of 2 or 3mm square together. That’s pretty much it for that particular style of work, which I’ll be exploring much more from now on.
I became involved with DWR as Spencer, the rotting brains behind the company, has bought work from me in the past and so we would email now and then about various horror related weirdness. After he set up the company, he very kindly asked if I’d be up for designing the artwork for their first Hammer Horror soundtrack release, which would be Twins of Evil. I spat my goblet of goat’s blood all over my keyboard and said yes immediately.
I like to take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. My main loves are films and books, especially when they fall into the categories of sci-fi and horror. I grew up surrounding myself with work from Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and HR Giger, and I’m still madly in love with all three. But all kinds of art inspires me. A lot of classical and contemporary, in all kinds of different mediums. I adopted a dog just over a year ago, which has forced me to take a lot more walks and that gives me some good time to think. I also meditate once or twice a day to help my mind get some clarity and to help keep me calm and focused. I think it definitely helps me ‘catch the big fish’ as David Lynch, a big advocate of meditation wrote about in his book on meditation and creativity ‘Catching the Big Fish’.
I like comics. I creep around online. I’m a bit of a nature lover and find the natural world incredible. I’m fascinated by the microcosm and macrocosm. I’m intrigued by multiple dimensions. I believe the current understanding of the history of Earth is wrong and I day dream about extra-terrestrial intelligence. I’m convinced Bigfoot exists but I don’t think the Queen is a reptile. I own some fragments of meteorites which I hold in my hand and stare at until my mind starts to ache knowing that their age could be countless and they’ve travelled across the gulf of space. I also find it impossible to look at a penguin without smiling.
A HUGE thanks to Eelus for taking the time to let us in on all of his little secrets. Check out more of his artwork right here!