Artist: Melinda Fabian

Paper sculpture is artist Melinda Fabian‘s creative focus. We spoke with her about developing a body of work, and the rewards of her studio practice.


Maryland Blue Crab, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


ABI:  What is your background as an artist?

MF:  Art has always been a big part of my life. As a child we always did lots of arts and craft projects at my house — making things for fun or as gifts for relatives. I took some art classes, even some taught by my sister, and I was hooked. I went to Kutztown University in Pennsylvania where I received my BFA in Communication Design.


Big Iguana, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


In my senior year at Kutztown, I did an internship with freelance illustrator Tom Hallman. That was the first time I understood what a freelance illustrator was or did. I learned the basic business of illustrating, which led me to start freelancing on my own for publications such as Sesame Street Magazine, Pockets magazine, children’s activity books, art licensing, and Christian publications, for 35 years.


Paper Gourd, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


I’ve always been interested in family-friendly artwork that uplifts people, so I designed a line of Can You Find?® hidden object greeting cards. I created hundreds of Can You Find?® designs and produced them on greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles and other items.


Giraffe, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


ABI:  How did you begin making 3D paper sculptures?

MF:  In 2012 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Illustrating requires meeting tight deadlines, which became difficult to manage while going through treatment. I decided to take some time off from illustrating.


Art Supplies, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


During my recovery, I explored new options for my art. I wanted to come up with something new and exciting — to reinvent myself and my art. I experimented to see what I could create if I combined my love of paper with my love of illustration. As a result, I developed brightly colored, painted 3D paper sculpture illustrations to give them the illusion of being real. The 3D illustrations are both challenging and exhilarating to create.


Squirrel, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


I love taking a simple sheet of paper, cutting, folding, bending, and forming it into unique shapes and creating life-like objects. I find most of my inspiration from nature and you will see that influences many of my pieces. Much of the work is tedious and takes many hours, however I get lost in the creation — I enjoy it that much. I have gotten great feedback from the gallery shows where I display them. The really rewarding part is that when I’m finished, the reaction from those who see my work can’t believe it’s just paper. That’s how I know a piece is successful.


Paper Shells, paper sculpture by Melinda Fabian


ABI:  What is the next step for you?

MF:  For my next step, I am headed back to illustrating for the publishing and licensing world, this time using 3D paper sculptures as my medium. Now that I’ve perfected the process of creating my paper sculpture illustrations, I know the 3D elements will pop on a 2D page in a distinctive way, adding another dimension to published illustrations.

As I move forward, I have also realized how different the art market has become since I entered the freelance world — digital tools and social media have really changed the game.Sprinkling Can, paper sculpture by Melinda FabiaThough it’s been a process to get here, I am working to not only hone a new repertoire of marketing skills, but I am hoping to bring something unique to the world of publication with my designs. I am excited to be heading back to where my career started — the freelance illustration world — and I can’t wait to share these eye-catching designs with a fresh audience.

I am excited to see what comes next.


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