Entrancing Paper Cut Scenes of Daily Life

As an ardent fan of summer, it's no wonder the colorful paper cut scenes created by Harumi Nakatani appealed to me immediately. Her work often features warm and sunny California beach days... it's a joy to scroll through her entire Instagram feed. Sarah King of Apple Seed Paper Cuts steered me to Harumi's art, and I've since learned that they are fast friends and feel lucky to now know both of these talented paper artists!

paper cut girl wearing swimsuit and holding an ice cream cone

Not only are Harumi's paper cuts beautifully composed and executed with smoothly cut curves and sharp angles, but each descriptive scene is a reflection of a personal life experience, made even more enjoyable by a caption that tells a story. She apologizes for her English, but it is perfectly understandable and charming in its own way.

 paper cut scene of a girl kneeling on suitcase to close it

For example, this is how she described her arrival on Instagram:

I know Instagram is all about pictures and there are very few people who read captions.
But I keep writing where my inspiration comes from.
People enjoy my art, love it!
People connect to my story, fantastic!  
People enjoy both of them, it means the world to me!
detail of paper cut scene of girl kneeling on suitcase to close it

After graduating from university in Japan, Harumi came to the U.S. for extended study and lived with a host father who was a political illustrator. Because she spoke very little English, she felt isolated and found it difficult to make friends. Her American dad recognized her stress level and suggested she take art classes.

paper cut scene of a girl picking lemons from a tree

Unfortunately, her host father passed away unexpectedly in 2014, and she explained to me that her Instagram user name "aimh0823" means "always in my heart." 0823 (August 23) was her host father's birthday. What a kind tribute to him.

paper cut scene of a girl walking in the woods with her dog

In one art class that focused on design, students used Color-aid paper... Harumi has been using it ever since. The name was new to me... a bit of Googling and I learned that Color-aid is often required in university color theory courses due to the high quality of the sets... and yes, it is always sold in sets; the full one has 314 colors! Water-resistant and wrinkle-proof, the sheets are colored on one side only. Remarkably, they can be cleaned with a lint-free cloth dampened with water and soap can be used for greasy stains.

paper cut scene of a young woman sitting on a surfboard in the ocean in front of Royal Hawaiian hotel

Paper and pen for sketching scenes, along with Color-aid paper, craft knife, cutting mat, and rubber cement are Harumi's typical paper cutting supplies.

pencil sketches on paper sheets

Why is she drawn to working with paper?

paper cut scene of a young woman reading in the bath

While I was taking a painting class, the professor told me, "Harumi, you know how to draw, but you don't know how to make shadows." I told him, "Then I use color papers" (which I don't have to mix or blend colors to make depth or shadows). Now, I think more about why paper? I think everyone can start whenever they feel "I want to try!" We don't have to buy canvases, brushes, paints... we just need scissors and papers. Also, I realized it is actually challenging to create shadows and depth with papers!

paper cut scene of young women on couch watching the Oscars on TV

Harumi prefers to show her work in casual settings such as beachfront coffee shops rather than galleries, and actually, at this time is not interested in selling. One day I would love to see her illustrate books of her own (or someone else's) stories, but for now she says paper cutting is strictly a hobby.

paper cutting of a girl eating a slice of watermelon

Follow along with Harumi Nakatani on Instagram.

All Things Paper is an AWIN (Etsy) affiliate.
Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. Wow, her work is incredible! I love the skin and hair particularly. So happy you featured her. Thank you!

  2. I think so too, Lisa! She truly shades with paper.


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