Totoro with San Francisco scene
A friend of mine in San Francisco commissioned me to make a papercut for her home, with just one guideline: that it be Totoro themed.
I quickly decided that to personalize it, I wanted to incorporate an SF theme as well, and it only made sense that a Totoro in that part of the world would naturally gravitate to the leafy redwood forests just across the bay.
The last piece of the puzzle was combining the two themes, and after some experimenting, I had the idea to use the empty space of Totoro's large belly to depict the San Francisco skyline as viewed from the Marin headlands, with ferns and redwoods framing the scene.
While most of my papercuts only have 2 layers (the actual papercut, plus a single piece of backing paper), this one required 3: I cut holes in the white backing layer for Totoro's pupils, whiskers, nose, and mouth, and placed a black layer underneath to complete these facial features.
Since I really liked the contrast of the main gray layer against the black background, I cut a freeform, abstract shape from the black paper; then, I mounted it in a way that protruded out from behind Totoro in multiple spots, sharpening the edges in those spots, adding a soft fluidity to an otherwise sharply detailed cutting, and finishing off the piece.