Christina Song Perfects Cut-Paper Illustration

Christina Song uses cut-paper illustration to make art.


Song often picks up thrown away paper to incorporate into her art projects and illustrations.

Photo by Pat Mazzera


Each character and object in Christina Song’s art consists of tiny pieces of intricately cut paper. A self-tagged “paper hoarder,” Song prides herself on having an eye for interesting papers with stand-out textures and colors that become the building blocks of her playful illustrations.

The Oakland-based artist’s commissioned work appears in magazines and on book covers. Recently her colorful local maps featuring Alameda, Oakland, and San Francisco have gained a following. The 11-by-17 city maps have become popular sellers at Books Inc. in Alameda, Marion and Rose’s Workshop in Old Oakland, Rockridge Home in Oakland, and the San Francisco International Airport.

Song weaves together whimsical portrayals of easily recognizable points of interest, such as the wrought iron fence entrance (each swirl a single piece of painstakingly cut paper) of Lincoln Park and the USS Hornet in Alameda and the Grand Lake Theatre sign and the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland to visually depict the cities’ unique neighborhood characteristics for the maps.

She also fashions scenarios of animal alphabets, underwater nature, and a midnight forest scene. Each piece conveys a fanciful, magic-like scene incorporating a three-dimensional effect that is hard to achieve with flat illustrations.

Walking down the street for Song rarely involves getting directly from point A to point B. She often spots interesting texture from a store’s discarded box on the sidewalk, using thrown-away corrugated cardboard for, say, a tree trunk. Or she may pick up a tossed away metallic swatch, incorporating that into a bridge span or car body. For commissioned projects, she said coming up with a scene that tells a story and finding the right paper to echo the tone can be the most challenging and fun aspects of the job. Ultimately, her layered shapes are arranged in an artful, almost melodic way, enticing viewers to carefully study its intricacy while formulating the story in their heads.

Song collected handmade papers as a child and naturally started layering her papers in a collage-like way to “cover up the mistakes.” But it wasn’t until her senior year at the College of Design in Pasadena that she delved into working with various papers. Since then, she has worked as a greeting card designer and copywriter in New York City and now as a freelance artist in Oakland, which she cherishes for its breathtaking nature and historical architecture. For her honeymoon, Song and her husband traveled internationally for additional inspiration, camping throughout Iceland’s backcountry and visiting quaint European towns and large metropolitan cities.

“My inspirations definitely come from my surroundings,” Song said.

See more of Christina Song’s work at, where all ofher prints are on sale through June. Enter the promo code OakMag25

Song often picks up thrown away paper to incorporate into her art projects and illustrations.

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