Discover how this artist transforms trash into treasure.

Kunal Kundu shows his crumpled paper whale art from Wildlife on Paper.

Our inspiring guest blog today is from Kunal Kundu, an artist in Kolkata, India.

We asked Kunal how he developed his signature crumpled paper art style:

A few months shy of turning 40 a dreaded epiphany dawned upon me. I was working as a relatively successful artist for a decade and a half — but something was amiss. As an artist I still hadn’t developed a signature style, a personal voice. I needed to do something about it.

I decided to stop working for a bit and declutter my mind. One day while cleaning up the floor strewn with crumpled paper pieces my son had played with, I noticed something interesting. One of the pieces of paper looked like a dog’s head. And a ‘light bulb’ moment happened. I crumpled more paper and made the body, limbs and tail of the dog, took a photograph of it, and added a digital environment. I knew I wanted to make this art!

In that moment, it didn’t matter how the artwork turned out. The only thing that mattered was that I finally found something that was not a copy of another artist and was completely original. And the creative process was so highly satisfying I became addicted to it. I made one artwork after another, and to give these creations a semblance of series, I decided to make animals at risk around the world. My love for animals made this process all the more personal.

This style is unique and it had its pros and cons. I didn’t have any example or instruction to follow, but at the same time, I had absolute freedom to explore the way I wanted, and the latter made things an incredibly fun process. Even though almost all the animal sculptures didn’t look like the intended animal up to the point where I was mostly done, I knew when I finished, they’d look the way I saw in my head. The whole process took an immense amount of concentration and I usually worked from midnight until the early morning (not a healthy process, but no disturbance either).

I grew a habit of ‘listening’ to old Bengali (my mother tongue) yesteryear films on YouTube while I crumpled paper. Listening to those watched-to-death Bengali films soothed my nerves when I was crumpling paper into a whale shape and it kept looking like a rat!

When I finished my series, my agent Anna Olswanger submitted it to publishers – but the rejections kept coming. I thought the book had come to a dead end. Then finally the 50th submission to West Margin Press worked, and it translated to a book publishing deal!

Now, it’s just a few weeks away from the launch of my book. The two-and-a-half years of making this book have been quite a journey of self-introspection with a huge learning curve.  I’m grateful to all who have been a part of this journey. (And I still love crumpling my heart out from midnight to morning!)

–Kunal Kundu

Making a crumpled paper Orangutan.

Making a crumpled paper turtle.

Wildlife on Paper: Animals at Risk Around the Globe is available for
pre-order now. Follow Kunal on Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out the rest of our blogs for more interviews with our authors!