News Animals These Life-Like Paper Sculptures Document an Artist's Exploration of Nature These realistic paper artworks invite us to examine nature in an unobtrusive way. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated July 9, 2021 07:42PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Diana Beltran Herrera Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive As an art medium, paper seems like such a simple and banal thing to use; most people will know it as a surface that one draws or paint on. But once one really starts to work with paper—and I mean really work with it by folding, twisting, cutting, laser-zapping it, or even building entire structures with it—then that's when the magic of paper begins to become apparent. Currently based out of Bristol, England, Colombian-born artist Diana Beltrán Herrera is yet another creator who is exploring the enchantment of paper, by creating incredibly life-like sculptures of animals and plants—all meticulously made with paper. Diana Beltran Herrera As Beltrán Herrera tells Treehugger, her journey with paper began when her mother got her a book on origami when she was 7 years old. While the young Beltrán Herrera struggled to fold origami, she eventually found her stride with the material later on in life, after she had graduated from university and was looking for an inexpensive material to test out creative ideas with. Soon everything came together, she explains: "On a trip to Finland I fell in love with the local nature, and felt the need to document those experiences somehow, so I started making some animals by using simple strips of paper. I guess this is where it started officially." Diana Beltran Herrera In the years since that happy convergence of experiences and ideas, Beltrán Herrera says she has developed a particular process for finding, developing, and executing her ideas, whether that's for personal projects or commissions: "My work is divided in two: on one side I have my research, it is where I test and play with paper. [..] This part of my work is more abstract and gets organized and categorized. I have an archive and I am adding new ideas constantly. I keep books, sketchbooks, samples, structures and formal developments here. On the other side I have my commercial practice where I apply all my research. [..] This is why having an inventory of my ideas comes handy, as I get to develop products without stressing out too much. I love to discover new techniques and ways of using paper, and I am always interested in bringing new ideas into my work." Diana Beltran Herrera Often, Beltrán Herrera gets her ideas from everyday life, and she will use paper as a way to explore the more detailed nuances of textures, colors, and forms. Sometimes it's an exotic bird or interesting plant she may have observed in person or from a biology book; other times it might be insects or the alimentary elements of nutrition that her children are currently fascinated with. Diana Beltran Herrera She will often do her bird sculptures life-size, scoring or cutting them with various tools, gluing them together, and using hidden supports like extra paper or wire structures if needed. Diana Beltran Herrera Whatever idea it may be, Beltrán Herrera finds that paper is an unobtrusive way to investigate nature and to share those discoveries with others, without harming it. She says that: "With time I have understood paper not just as a material, but as a medium that contains and registers information, so to me using paper is great because I am documenting my thoughts and ideas in a three-dimensional way. It is using paper for the same purpose, but from a different perspective." Diana Beltran Herrera For Beltrán Herrera, her art practice is a way to also reconnect herself and others with the wonders of the natural world: "I love nature. I spend a lot of time looking at it because it happens in such a collaborative way, and it takes a huge effort from all the creatures to create a successful place that benefits them all. I feel very sad at how distant we are with it all, and I know it's because we don't know enough, and we also get very distracted with the artificial world and consumerism. This is why I focus on nature and trying to offer a refreshing visual of it, to engage and share what I learn in my day-to-day experiences." Diana Beltran Herrera Beltrán Herrera is currently working on a solo exhibition for the Singapore Children's Museum in 2022 and is working with clients in Europe and big names like Disney to create advertising pieces for new products, installations, books, and more. To see more of her work, visit Diana Beltrán Herrera.