Riveting Layered Paper Portraits by Shelley Castillo

Remarkable layered paper portraits by Shelley Castillo Garcia that I spotted on Instagram recently led me to thinking about Paul Overton, aka Dudecraft. While his site is long gone, I clearly remember him from my early days of blogging. Paul had a thoughtful way with words that inspired me to be a better blogger as he went about his self-made task of featuring only the best and coolest things that could be found online.

layered cut paper woman in shades of gray, bust with profile view

Occasionally Paul would feature his own art, including paper cut portraits. His were different than Shelley's - my intention is not to draw comparisons - but seeing her work reminded me of the effectiveness in layering tone on tone to create depth and expression, and she is doing it brilliantly.

bust of woman looking sideways in layered shades of gray paper

Shelley told me that she has been honing this style of art for about two years. "I had a huge interest in Art History as a student and dabbled in pen and ink work until stumbling into this style. Once I discovered paper as a medium I knew I'd found my niche."

Her portraits have caught on quickly in California's central valley where she lives and works as an accountant at a fine arts and history museum, the Haggin Museum in Stockton. Shelley's work was exhibited this past March and June at the Mexican Heritage Center and Gallery and with the Stockton Art League. 

four layered gray paper women resembling marble busts and a skull

While it's fascinating to zoom in and study Shelley's grey ladies, as she calls them, to see just how many layers are cut and glued, I find them especially appealing when viewed from a distance. The shading takes on a sculptural quality, as if you're looking at marble... marble that could suddenly change position as smoothly as a living statue street artist.

paper art exhibit of layered paper portraits in the midst of being hung on gallery wall

Shelley has replied to IG questions that she uses 130lb watercolor paper and Bristol board. Foam tape raises the many layers and generates shadows. Sometimes she will paint paper rather than finding suitable shades of pre-made cardstock.

cut and layered paper portrait of woman's face with one hand holding cigarette, composed of black and gray tones

Here you can watch a quick version of her layering process.

painted layered paper on plexiglas portrait of a young woman's crying face

This last example of Shelley's art is also a layered paper portrait, inspired by Roy Lichtenstein. It features hand painted paper that she cut and layered on Plexiglas.

Follow along with Shelley Castillo's latest work on Instagram. She accepts limited commissions; reach her via email at shelleycastillo@ymail.com

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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