Rich McCor is a London-based artist better known as @paperboyo, who creates art using paper cut-outs, his camera and interesting architecture. In 2016, he quit his job at the BBC and focussed on @paperboyo full time. Since then, his unique style of intricate cut outs has seen him amass almost half a million followers. We spoke to Rich about where his obsession with paper cut out started, how he overcomes creative blocks, and his collaboration with Will Smith.
How would you describe your art style?
I still haven’t found a really succinct way of describing it. I think the phrase that I use now is something along the lines of “false perspective photography combined with travel and a sense of humour.” But even that doesn’t really explain what it is, so normally when I’m asked at parties or whatever, I normally just find that it’s easier to pull out of my phone and show people because I’m yet to find a way to really describe it.
How did Paperboyo come about? What was your first cut out?
It was a mixture of being really interested in traditional papercraft and all sorts of paper artists. That was something I got into in my early 20s and that kind of went to one side. Then when I was in my later 20s, this was about in 2014 or 2015, then I was taking photos in London and putting them on Instagram and I kind of felt like I was taking the same sort of photos as everyone else. In London there are certain places where everyone stands to get the best photo of Big Ben or the tower, and I felt like I was doing the same as everyone else so I just wanted to find a way to do something different. So then I went back to papercraft stuff and I played with a few iterations of a cut-out against a landmark. I tried a few different things. But when I played around with holding up a black silhouette cut out and that cut out interacted with the background in some way, it really felt like I hadn’t seen that done before in that way. So I really enjoyed that. And my first one was the wristwatch with Big Ben in 2015.
Have you tried other artistic mediums? Why cut-outs?
I’ve always been interested in papercraft and I’ve done stop motion animations and sort of made things out of cardboard and paper as a hobby, but I never really persevered. It was just sort of a weekend hobby. And the cut-outs I really enjoyed because there was a simplicity to them, and there was something quite nice about combining the digital and the analogue – the analogue being the paper and the digital being the photography.
What’s the process of creating artwork for Paperboyo?
It’s loads of research, basically. It’s a lot of finding buildings, landmarks and landscapes whenever I’m travelling. If I’m going to a certain destination, for example, Hong Kong, I will spend a week or so beforehand researching Hong Kong locations through Instagram, Flick or even Google street map view. I’ll go looking for architecture or vantage points that look a bit interesting. Then I put together a bunch of ideas, make cut-outs of the ones I like and then I’ll travel to the location. I always try and come up with more ideas than I need because inevitably there’s always a bunch of ideas that don’t work when I get there, you know? They look better in my head, but when I try to take the photo it doesn’t work.
Do you start with a location or a paper cut-out idea?
Most of the time I start with a background, but sometimes I have an idea for a cut-out, and I try to find a building that it suits – but retrofitting an idea doesn’t always work. I have ideas that I want to try and find buildings for but I won’t force it. I’d rather just wait until I can find the building.
What materials do you use?
I use various thicknesses of black card. Normally I use 240gsm, which is a slightly thin card. I use that the most because it’s likely to withstand a gust of wind if I’m out and about. But it’s also not too thick so I can get good details.
What’s been the best feedback you’ve received on your art?
I’m always amazed when brands that I really like want to work with me. But I think the best feedback is when I’m out taking a photo and someone comes over and looks a bit confused and asks what I’m up to, and I show them and it either goes one of two ways. I either get a really nice reaction where people go, “That’s really cool, that’s really creative”. But sometimes, when I show them what I’m doing, they just don’t get it, or they’re confused by it and just sort of smile and walk away. There’s something about real-world reactions that I really like, it’s more fun than seeing a like on Instagram.
What inspires you to be creative?
Paperboyo is a hobby that got out of control. There wasn’t anything I was trying to do it. I just sort of naively did it on the weekends as a hobby and then it got out of control. Although the relationship changes when the hobby becomes a job, because you lean on it for income, but during lockdown at the moment while I’ve obviously not been working or travelling, I’ve still been doing it around the house and it’s reminded me that I still really love it.
Do you ever get in creative ruts? How do you push through?
Yes, all the time. You just have to persevere. You also have to trust yourself that you can come up with 20 terrible ideas but then you’ll come up with one idea that works. It’s all about perseverance. Take a break from it, but not too long. Don’t stop and don’t wait for an idea. It’s about making ideas until eventually you get an idea that feels like a good one.
What’s your favourite artwork you’ve done so far?
It always changes, but I do really like the Dalmatian dog one I did in Switzerland, because one, I really like dogs, and two, it’s just a really unusual building. And since I saw the building, I knew I could come up with something, but I wasn’t sure what. I really persevered until I came up with that idea.
Has your style evolved over time?
I started off with just silhouettes and I’ve moved on to stencils, and I’ve also done animation and stop motion. There’s been an evolution for sure, and I’m always thinking about how to keep evolving. It’s a tricky one because you’ve got to keep the balance of keeping your signature style but also keeping it surprising.
Tell us about your collaboration with Will Smith...
It was for his film Gemini Man. Obviously it was really fun working with Will Smith, but it was really fun working with a person in the frame who was interacting with the cut outs. I think working more with people might be my next evolution.
Follow @paperboyo on Instagram.