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Illustration School Graduate Celebrated for Paper Sculptures

Marisa Ware, an MFA alumna of the Academy’s School of Illustration, is gaining acclaim for her deeply realized and meticulously executed artworks in paper.

“Halcyon Song,” paper sculpture by Maris Ware

Close Observation, Rewarded

An intricate, pierced frame. Mystical floral creepers. A long, reptilian tail. A gleaming white bird with wings spread.

“Halcyon Song,” detail, paper sculpture by Maris Ware
“Halcyon Song,” detail, paper sculpture by Maris Ware
Detail, paper sculpture by Maris Ware. There are occupational hazards for paper sculptors.
Tools of the trade and frame

A closer look at this golden-eyed swan reveals that it’s a delicately carved paper sculpture. Titled “Halcyon Song,” the piece is one of three paper sculptures for which Ware was recognized in the 26th volume of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.

“Metamorphosis,” paper sculpture by Marisa Ware

Another sculptural piece, titled “Metamorphosis,” features an intricately designed ram skull. “Coleoptera” contains three white beetles that appear to be real.

Her audience marvels at the effort and precision that went into creating the works.

“I enjoy paper sculpture for the very hands-on approach it requires,” says Ware. “It’s a tactile medium that allows me to feel like a kid playing with glue and paper. Yet simultaneously it requires a tremendous amount of patience and determination.

“Every new sculpture is like a puzzle I have to solve. It often takes two or three attempts to figure out how to make a new element in a sculpture.”

Evoking ‘Surprise & Curiosity’

Ware got her illustration degree in 2015. She knows that paper sculpture is a lesser-known medium. When people see one of her pieces, they aren’t immediately sure of what they’re seeing. “I often get asked if it is a bone carving or a marble sculpture,” she says. “When I tell people it’s made entirely out of paper, I love watching the look of surprise and curiosity on their faces.”

“Moonshadow,” paper sculpture by Marisa Ware

Ware was a finalist in the 2019 Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize for a paper sculpture piece titled “Moonshadow,” which featured a bobcat skull resting on foliage against a dark background.

The magazine had previously shared some of her work on its social media page. The attention motivated Ware to apply to the contest. She says she’s receiving positive feedback from her audience on Instagram and her website. “It’s been very encouraging. Honestly, to be listed among all these other artists I have looked up to, and whose work I respect and admire, is a big honor. It was definitely a surprise for me. I am super grateful to be included.”

Sculpting A New Career Path at the Academy

Prior to attending the Academy, Ware had never taken an art class. Her undergraduate degree is in journalism. “This whole endeavor of being a professional artist, or even being an artist at all, is still pretty new to me,” she says. “So, to be gaining some attention and affirmation from the industry is very exciting. I didn’t know about light, or shadow, or color theory or anything. I got so much out of my education, particularly working with these paper sculptures.”

Marisa Ware, MFA alumna of Academy of Art University’s School of Illustration

School Director’s Keen Eye Spots Talent, Provides Support

It was School of Illustration Director Chuck Pyle who initially took notice of Marisa Ware‘s work. He suggested she take a Paper Sculpture Class taught by former Academy instructor Jeff Nishinaka.

Pyle says he is a big fan of Ware’s work, and, more importantly, her work ethic. “She has the grinder spirit,” he says. “She will just grind away at something until it’s right and will push through her goal relentlessly until she gets past it, and make it be the best thing and a little better even than that.”

Says Nishinaka, “She was focused and challenged herself to create a very difficult piece. All of her effort went into learning how to make an amazing paper sculpture. I’m very happy and proud of Marisa’s achievements. She deserves the recognition she’s getting for her paper sculptures. They are very fine and intricate and show a high level of craftsmanship.”

Beyond Paper Sculpture: Artisty for Kids

Extending her artistic accomplishments, Ware has also written and illustrated her first children’s book, Where’s Buddha? It’s aimed at younger children.

Cover illustration for Ware’s children’s book, “Where’s Buddha?”
Illustration from “Where’s Buddha?”

“It’s a brightly illustrated book that goes all over the world and to lots of different ecosystems and animals,” explains Ware. “It’s not overtly spiritual or religious, but it does have the character of the Buddha, and it shows how the Buddha—which is our own kindness and mindfulness—can be found anywhere and everywhere.”

Original article by Caroline Andrade of Academy Art U News,

Photos courtesy of Marisa Ware

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