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An Interview with Mar Cerda


As a collage and paper arts enthusiast, I am absolutely obsessed with the alternate worlds Mar Cerdá creates with paper. Taking inspiration from film and architecture, her works are intrinsically paradoxical: they feel so concrete, so complete, so transportive that when you look at them you feel as though you're inside of her carefully-constructed universe, yet the medium of paper that she uses also makes her art delicate, ephemeral, almost impermanent, like the entire microcosm could be blown away with a harsh wind. In a word they are precious, and I don't mean precious in the way that people describe Facebook posts about dogs and babies, I mean precious in the most severe form of the word, how you would describe those rare treasures that feel both fleeting and everlasting.


Even though her dioramas are, of course, stagnant, unlike other paper crafts I've seen, they feel so lively. Maybe it's the fact that she's often recreating scenes from my favorite movies (like The Royal Tenenbaums, Labyrinth, and Moonrise Kingdom) so I can easily imagine them in motion. But I think it has more to do with her lively color palettes, the detailed expressions she paints on the characters' faces, and her intricate and layered backgrounds. I imagine these paper works having rich lives of their own--- coming to life the moment that I look away, a private magic I'm not lucky enough to know.


But I am lucky enough to view Mar's art, and that glimpse into her fragile, heavenly world is not something that I take lightly. It delights me to no end when I see that she's posted more of her work on Instagram, and looking back at her older work as I write this piece fills me with ecstasy. I hope I can one day have the privilege of owning one of her pieces, but until then, I am satisfied with these brief peeks into a paper world where anything is possible.


What work are you most proud of?

I don't know if I have one piece I'm most proud of. I guess one of the pieces that I'm more fond of is the Darjeeling Limited piece cause it was the first time I collaborate with a gallery (Spoke Art Gallery) and it was a game changer in my career.


Who are your inspirations?

It would be difficult for me to say who my inspirations are, as I get inspiration from a lot of places. I like to see other artists' work and process but I like to be inspired outside the art world too, for instance in travels, in my own cities, with decor, films, and recently with experiences and people in my life.


What was your first paper illustration of?

My very first paper illustrator was a tiny circus I made inside a match box just for fun. You could grab the little circus characters and play with them.


Why did you choose the medium of paper illustration?

I'm not sure if I chose the paper or the paper chose me, hahaha. My first illustration work was for a children's book and I knew nothing about illustration. At first I tried to do the images with watercolor in 2D but I hadn't learned enough technique back then and I didn't like the result. So I found a way to highlight my strengths and hide my lack of technique through 3D work, as I had studied cinema and set decor. Then, the paper was a great material as it is very easy to work with, but you have endless possibilities with it. I've been working for years now with paper and I feel I still have things to learn from it!

Can you describe your creative process?

My creative process can be described as a rollercoaster of emotions. In terms of practicality, I usually don't do sketches unless it is necessary (because I'm working with a client and I need to show him/her what my idea is, for example). I feel that the illustration has its own life and will appear to me slowly at its own pace. That's why I don't feel the need to do a sketch, because I know it won't look anything at the end result. I usually make a tiny, tiny doodle if I need to remember where the main elements will go, and then I start to draw all the pieces on white paper. I cut first and then I paint, finally I glue it all together. When I glue all the parts, I look again at the composition and decide if I want to make any changes, add or remove something or put it on another way that I didn't think of at first. That's why I feel the piece has its own life and I don't know how it will look until the end.


What’s been the most transformative experience of your life?

One of my most tranformative experiences in my career was years ago when I decided to stop working on children's books here in Spain so I could try to work for galleries and newspapers in the USA with a NY agent. It was a very scary change at first, some months without work and a lot of fears, but then it was totally worth it! And the most tranformative experience in my life was two years ago when my mum died suddenly, and that was the beginning of major change and other losses on my life. It has been a couple of difficult years where I have learned a lot, and that changed the way I see the world and my art.

How has your work changed over time? My work and technique has improved over the years. The two experiences that I have commented on above changed my work as well. First, I stopped painting 2D watercolors for children's books here in Spain so I could focus more on my 3D pieces. That was what I really wanted to do. And the second experience, my mum's death, changed the themes that I like to draw and paint. It's something that I am still experimenting with, and I'm finding a new voice in my art.