People tend to pooh-pooh me when I tell them that my cut paper collages are really easy enough that a monkey can do them, and now here's the proof. Here is the entire step by step process I went through to make a 3-D cut paper collage for my daughter's birthday. I don't know the exact amount of time it took to complete. I constructed it over three nights, working variable amounts of time at each step, and taking a few breaks. The total time was probably between six and nine hours.
I knew what I was going to do for the collage and didn't really make a preliminary sketch. Instead I made a series of very rough thumbnails which broke the 3-D construction down layer by layer. The centimeter marks were the depths that the layers would be laid at beginning from the bottom most background layer.
Here is the flat far background base layer of the collage. The rough jagged section of the lightest green element on the left side as well as the join area were left unrefined as I knew that these portions of the background would be covered up by scucceeding levels placed over it.
This is the reverse side of the next layer; the one that would sit about half a centimeter above the background. To achieve this elevation I covered the back with risers of that depth. These were essentially cut from scrap bits or card stock folded in three sections; one to attach to the background, one to attach to the piece itself, and one raise it to its required depth.
Here's a slightly better look at the paper risers.
Glue was then applied to the risers and this layer was glued in place to the background.
The same thing was done to the next layer. The only difference was that some of the risers needed to be compensated so that the entire level was raised to the same height. The portions of the trees which rose above the underlayer needed to be raised the full one centimeter from the background layer, while the portions, such as the grass were only raised half a centimeter above the underlying layer.
Again, here are what the risers look like.
The horses were all made first. I always start with the construction of the figures before I do the backgrounds. I didn't do much in the way of sketching here. I looked at photographs of running horses and mentally broke them down into a simpler, slightly stylized version of running horses and simply began cutting. The half-horses were to place along the edge of the image.
The horses were given some slight dimensionality by a bit of folding and giving their legs on the side furthest from the viewer a treatment similar to the risers. This would all be pretty moot in the finished piece because of the tall grass they are running through.
The middle layer with the two trees is now set in place (without gluing) to determine the placement of the back row of horses.
The back row of horse is glued in place. They were glued directly onto the background layer they are running across. A couple slight risers were used to add a bit of separation between some of the horses, otherwise they were attached directly to one another.
The middle layer with the two trees is now glued in place and the top layer of horses was then glued directly over this layer and back row of horses. The horses are staggered enough that it gives the feeling of their being more than just two rows of horses, and suggesting more of a herd.
Risers are now attached to the reverse of the top layer of the collage.
The top layer is then glued in place.
I ended up not liking the tree on the right. I thought it made the piece feel too busy and claustrophobic, so I removed it, and added a couple more clouds, slightly elevated from the background to add a little depth. The finished piece is now a bit imbalanced and two heavy on the left side, but preferable to the way it looked with the two tree forms in the foreground. This goes to show why the initial sketch, the step I skipped for this collage, is so important. If I were to do this one again, I'd probably have the horses running out of the trees rather than into them, or used a different type of landscape altogether.
Now you know enough to go out and make some 3-D cut paper collages of your own.