Thomas Allen’s Playful Paper Cutouts Spring from Vintage Books and Color Swatches


#Thomas Allen

February 4, 2024

Jackie Andres

A young boy and girl look upward, pointing at what would be the sky. The two figures emerge three-dimensionally from a book page.

“Bearings.” All images © Thomas Allen, shared with permission

Meticulous incisions and methodical folding allow scenes to arise from aged books and color swatches in Thomas Allen’s paper cutouts. Having loved pop-up books and shoebox dioramas since childhood, the artist cultivates a passion for “manufactured realities.”

“The vintage paperback work happened by complete accident,” Allen shares. “I was cutting into a pulp novel one afternoon with the intent of removing the illustration completely when I noticed that if I left some areas attached, folded the parts carefully, and looked at them from a single vantage point so that everything aligned, they created the illusion of 3D pop-ups. Everything snowballed from there.”

By photocopying pages he intends to use, the Coloma-based artist can make test cutouts of potential compositions before moving on to the final product. He then photographs each iteration while considering light and angle.

Allen spends the rest of his time as a township clerk and public lecturer and is looking forward to working with Joseph Bellows Gallery in the coming months. You can find more work and updates on his website and follow him on Instagram.


A small boy leaning against a tree branch stands in front of a textbook diagram of an eclipse.


A group of young children low to the ground look at something together. The figures emerge three-dimensionally from a book page.


A cowboy falls backward, breaking a wooden railing. The figure and railing emerge three-dimensionally from a book cover.


A paper cutout of a man bowling emerging from a book



Left: a vintage book titled, "10 Secrets of Bowling." Right: a man picking up a bowling ball.

Detail of “Unyielding”

A paper cutout of a man bowling emerging from a book

Detail of “Unrelenting”

A paper cutout of a man bowling emerging from a book


Two men talking, cut from a paper color swatch


Test cutouts

Test cutouts in Allen’s studio

#Thomas Allen


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