I can’t get over how delicate and lovely these images are from Elly Mackay, the artist behind theaterclouds. They glow like warm memories of childhood, viewed through a magical peephole.
Elly is part craftsperson, part theatre-designer, and part photographer. She has been fascinated with tunnel books (books with consecutive cut-out pages that you expand to create a three-dimensional scene), Victorian paper-theatre and zoetropes ever since she can remember, and as a teen began making dioramas with moving parts and selling them at a gallery in Toronto. After completing school, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Art from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (where she met her husband), and now works from her home studio in Owen Sound, Canada. There, she weaves her magic with ink, paper and light, within the miniature wooden theatre her woodworker husband made for her.
“My creative process usually begins with an idea and title; the image follows close behind. I have a big whiteboard in my studio and I play with themes — weather, creatures, botany, etc. I do really loose drawings there, and I keep them up for a while to see what comes from them.
“I begin an illustration by sketching. I then build the layers. For the most part, I use ink on Yupo paper, a plastic paper. It has strength, and no grain. It catches the light quite beautifully too. Spraying it with different oils, alcohol, and rolling over inked areas creates unusual surfaces.
“When everything is in place I set up the lighting. Different filters, direction and type of lighting create different atmospheres. I also use the opacity/transparency of the Yupo paper to create shadowed areas or areas that beam with light. Sometimes I get multiple images from the same scene with quite different moods. It is also nice being able to alter just one aspect of an illustration.
“I have a fluid process. With layers to create the setting, individual characters, lighting, filters, camera lenses and settings, there is lots of play that goes into getting my images and sometimes interesting surprises.”
Lately, she has been turning her attention to writing and illustrating books, and to date has illustrated two books, as well as writing and illustrating three of her own books – If You Hold a Seed, Shadow Chasers, and Butterfly Park, and . I highly recommend you watch the video about Elly’s process and thoughts about her book, If You Hold a Seed.